JANŽA DOLINŠEK: »There’s freedom in clay.«


“I don’t know if I should call myself a ceramist or a designer,” ponders Janža Dolinšek as she lifts one leg up to rest her foot on the edge of the chair she’s sitting on across from me in Hana Karim’s studio. Back in June when I met with the two girls for their interview they were still working together in that bright creative space – now, Janža is venturing out on her own and is about to open a studio bearing her own name on Križevniška street in the heart of Ljubljana. She’s come a long way since that first workshop she’d attended at Hana’s and an even longer way since her time at college where she’d studied visual communications. It was there that she first came in touch with clay as part of a project she had to do for a class – and the feel of it has stayed with her ever since.

“After I’d left my job in a very corporate environment, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. So I attended one of Hana’s workshops – I’d been looking for a place where I could create with clay under a mentorship of someone more experienced in that field. I knew of Hana and her work; she’d just opened her own atelier and had just started out with those workshops, so I signed up.” Afterwards they’d struck up a conversation sitting on the steps in front of Hana’s atelier and connected immediately. “I’d left a comment on her Instagram after that and Hana too was in a really interesting phase of her life at that time. She was looking for an apprentice and she’d messaged me if I’d be interested.” Janža laughs at the memory of how it all began, saying “it was just your typical Sunday afternoon. I was making pancakes at home and I told her ‘listen, if I could, I’d come over right now but my dinner’s gonna burn.’” So Janža came to Hana’s atelier on a Monday morning and immediately started out as her apprentice. “I gave her a rolling pin and some clay and she had to roll out ten plates and was ecstatic about it.” Hana remembers.

Even though they’re both ceramists and are in a way each other’s competition, the two remained friends throughout their time working together, even after Janža had stopped being Hana’s apprentice and started creating her own line, titled JNŽ ceramics. “I think it’s more than obvious that we’re on two completely separate paths. Hana’s aesthetics is really close to me, but it wouldn’t make any sense for me to create things that are like hers. She’s a colourist – and as much as I love colours, I just don’t really express myself through them. I think it’s really good that we came together as two artists with completely different styles. Hana’s like a ray of sunshine – I learned so much from her and even though I could’ve easily felt inferior to her she never once made me feel that way. If anything, she only ever lifted me up.”

Why clay and why ceramics? “There’s a certain amount of freedom in clay. It’s amazing because you take this mass of what’s essentially mud and it’s up to you to give it shape and colour and size and purpose. There’s so much manoeuvre space to create which is so refreshing to me since that was what I’d been lacking all this time when creating from behind the computer. I need something I can hold on to, some sort of tactility. That’s not to say that graphic design isn’t cool – I love it and you can create so much with it, I’m a big supported of prints! But it’s just not for me. I try to be what I create and create only the things that I believe in and can stand behind. I just find that I express myself better through clay.”

Summer of 2018 had been a busy one for Janža. She’d spent her days with Hana, creating her own line in her company in her atelier, had her very own stand at Odprta Kuhna and attended Sejem mladih ustvarjalcev (‘Fair of young creatives’) at Urbano Dejanje festival in Ljubljana. In September she’d found an empty space on Križevniška street 2 in Ljubljana – even though it was in a pretty bad shape, Janža could see through the cracks and realized it had soul and the potential to become the perfect little creative nest.

“I rented it out – it was like jumping off a cliff and diving headfirst into the deep. We started the renovations and I’m so grateful for my boyfriend, my brother and all my friends for helping out. I’m especially thankful to my family for all their support – I couldn’t have taken this big life-changing leap without them. Or I could have, but it would have been so much harder. And I keep repeating this but I’m forever grateful for and thankful to Hana – after all, all of this is ‘her fault’.”

The space will serve as a working studio and won’t be a shop for now, but it will be open for visitor’s at least once a week. Janža hopes to organize and hold workshops of her own in her atelier, maybe an exhibition, some events and one of the rooms will serve as a creative space for two of her friends who are fashion designers. “I think it’s great that we’ll combine different forms of art under one roof and I’m genuinely looking forward to it even though I’m a little bit nervous – I’m so used to having my mentor and friend by my side. But I know that Hana’s always with me, one way or another.”

“I think being an artist there’s this inner instinct that we all have, a need to create; you don’t necessarily always want to do it and would rather shut it out and lay down on a beach somewhere and not think about anything. But you can’t shut it out. You can’t turn it off, the need to create is constant. It’s not just a decision you make overnight. And it might be horrible at times when you run into an artist’s block but many times it’s also wonderful. It’s an adventure.”

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Photos: Janža and Jošst Dolinšek


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