jennifer wankoff at the wheel

Jennifer Wankoff

Teaching Artist - Past

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved making things. I spent hours in my parent’s basement on the workbench, my engineer Dad helping me construct projects of wood, model cars, leather, beads, even build a darkroom. Today, all grown up and with a child of my own, the basement studio is my favorite room of the house.

A trip to Israel in 1997 where I learned pottery from one of Kibbutz Kfar Hanasi’s founders was what led me to become a potter. Along with our ceramics lessons Renee taught Hebrew terms and infused the class with Jewish traditions and history. On the Kibbutz I also worked in a plant nursery and beautiful fields overlooking the Golan Heights. I then apprenticed a Jerusalem based artist in porcelain sculptural Judaica and worked with new Ethiopian immigrants who are known for their colorful embroidered biblical scenes as well as sculptural ceramics and Judaica. Israel immersed me in a diverse Jewish cultural world of folk art and introduced me to the Israeli’s deep connection with their land and agriculture.

My current pots are wheel thrown, often faceted with a wire, and then bellied out from the inside creating movement inspired by nature’s ubiquitous spiral. The sections then become a guide for patterned glaze decorating or as a background for imagery. Of particular inspiration to my glazing is Persian patterning on pottery, and historic marriage contracts (Ketubah) and paper cuts. I also represent images such as the wheat sheaf; one of Israel’s cherished seven species of fruits and grains as described in the Torah.

Designing pottery that can be used and appreciated daily in the home is my passion but it has been especially rewarding and challenging to make Judaica ritual pieces to be used weekly for Shabbat and throughout the year for holidays. I enjoy crafting objects that reflect my love of Jewish culture and honor the earth and its beauty. Whether drinking a simple cup of coffee from my mug or saying prayers over candles with my candlesticks, I hope my pottery brings its owners a moment of beauty and appreciation for the ritual for many years.