Jeni Hansen Gard grew up in a small bed and breakfast in Grand Haven, Michigan. She has an integrative art practice that focuses on using the ceramic vessel as a catalyst for bringing people together, often asking participants to reconsider their relationship to food and each other. Using this combination of craft and engagement as an avenue to pursue her research interest in ethnobotany (the human plant relationship), she is working to challenge our current food system and instead help build an equitable and sustainable future. Her community-focused approach to ceramics and education led her to become a founding member of the Socially Engaged Craft Collective, a craft and social practice organization. She received her MFA from Ohio State University and MA in Art Education from the University of Florida. Jeni was the recipient of the MJ Wood DO GOOD residency at Red Lodge Clay Center and recently completed residencies at the Archie Bray Foundation, Guldagergaard International Ceramic Research Center in Skælskør, Denmark, Denison University, and Wesleyan College. Currently, she taking a foray into the land of textiles.
Distilled to its most basic form, my work is about our relationship to food. This relationship is formed through our network with food and through our points of access—for example, the supermarket, farmers market, or maybe a home garden.
I began my work as a vessel maker and now define myself as an experience maker with vessel in hand. I see myself as a facilitator working in the space between people and the food they consume.
I am interested in the connection between food and our bodies. I use the ceramic vessel as a basis to explore this connection. My research addresses questions about our food system. Where our food comes from? What we eat? Why we eat what we eat? How cooking and preparing food affects our food choices? What is the role of the table as a place of gathering and shared meals?
I make functional objects intended for use in everyday life. I design the vessel to exist first as a transmitter and later as an artifact. I orchestrate the parameters surrounding their use through civic projects focused on several aspects of growing, cooking, eating, and sharing food.
My work focuses on the moment of human interaction, the touch, and the intimate connection. I am interested in the interrelationship that forms between people, through the vessel in the presence of food consumed.