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Meet Smithsonian Craft Show Ceramicist Jake Johnson

Three’s the magic number. Left: Jake Johnson’s bud vases come in different colors and are small enough to fit on a window sill and look stunning in a group. Right: The artist’s love of whimsy comes through with his trio of spotted vases. 



By Janet Kelly

FOR THE  WAYNESBORO, Virginia-based ceramicist Jake Johnson, it was love at first sight for clay. He embraces the squishy, soft and malleable material to make his nature-inspired pieces.

“I spend a lot of time in the woods, hiking, looking for mushrooms, and finding plenty of other things along the way. The variety and diversity of life that I encounter finds its way into my work,” says Johnson.

“I try to make works that engage users visually and tactfully, while also fulfilling a purpose. I think that feeling of animation and energy has remained constant, and it is this which I view as the defining characteristic of what I produce,” notes Johnson.

Tea tastes better in Johnson’s thoughtfully designed (a “catch” on the lid to prevent it from tipping off) and  lively  porcelain clay pots.  


But the man who says making things with his hands makes him feel more grounded does like to go off script to do “arty pieces” —a vase not meant to hold flowers or unusually shaped pitchers that he doesn’t have to think about whether they will pour right.

Vibrant and colorful, Johnson’s pieces can brighten up even the darkest corners of your home. What’s more, his ceramics may even charm you into thinking that they’re off partying while you’re not looking.

As much as he’d love to be part of a live Smithsonian Craft Show –“nothing beats an in-person experience,” where visitors could actually see and touch his work, this year’s virtual one is a “pretty close second for Covid times.”

The virtual show, “Celebrating American Artistry,” begins October 23 at 9am and runs through October 31 at 10pm. For more information and details, go to the event’s website.

Sponsored by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee (SWC), the Craft Show is a sale of the finest contemporary craft and design, handcrafted in America. Artists are selected from a competitive pool of applicants by a panel of jurors. Proceeds support grants to the Smithsonian for innovative education, outreach and research projects.

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