Janis Mars Wunderlich is a contemporary ceramic master. She was born in Akron, Ohio and received her BFA from Brigham Young University and an MFA from The Ohio State University. She teaches Ceramics and Design at Ashland University. Wunderlich will spend this summer in Dresden, Germany on a residency studying modern and historic techniques of porcelain figurine manufacturing at the Meissen Factory in Meissen, Germany. She is also a Boston-qualifying marathon runner. She was profiled in a documentary Who Does She Think She Is? and The New York Times said of her, “Janis Wunderlich, on the other hand, seems cheerfully adept at managing five children, a husband and a successful career as a sculptor.” Wunderlich lives in Ohio.
How would you describe your art and your style? My last name ‘Wunderlich’ in German means wonderful in a rare, strange, or odd way. This is how I describe my art; I am trying to capture the beauty, joy, and corresponding strangeness and difficulties of everyday life. I find so many contrasts and dichotomies in family relationships and the seemingly insignificant events of daily living… Just like God tells us: Giving us the bitter so we can recognize the sweet. I am trying to share my very personal narrative in a way that will resonate on a universal level.
You grew up and live in Ohio. I grew up across the river in Kentucky. How has this Midwest upbringing shaped your art? How did it shape your faith? We were the only Mormons in our community. My brothers and I were the only Mormons at school. We were known as THE Mormon Family. We were an anomaly, oddballs… mysterious and in a category all to ourselves. I grew up accustomed to the notion of being completely different from everyone else. I think my eccentric, individual artistic style grew from this upbringing.
You once said, “Being a mother is a deep part of why I have joy.” Explain. I married and began a family when I was very young. This movement from being a child into become a mother happened so quickly and had a huge impact on my identity. Nurturing children became my duty, but more importantly, my entire purpose; providing an indescribable sense of joy. It built me up and exhausted me at the same time (see what I mean about contrasts?!). Now, as my children are growing up and becoming independent, I find my transitioning roles more fluid and mysterious, and I am forced to look deeply into myself to redefine who I am.