About Jeff Blandford

Biography

My name is Jeff Blandford and I’m a West Michigan artist who has been actively making work in the area for 20 years.  Working primarily as a potter, I also blow glass and work with various different materials of interest. Having grown up in Holland, Michigan, I completed my BFA in Studio Art from Michigan State University in 2007.  

Much of my work is centered around my interests in color, design, an appreciation for mid-century-modernism, and science. The pottery wheel is my main tool, a spinning flat surface that I use to shape clay with my hands. I create all of my work on my family’s 5-acre farm just south of Saugatuck, using primitive barn settings as my laboratory for creating art. 

 

Jeff Blandford
As a child I grew up around art and there was often discussion of artists like Charles and Ray Eames, famed furniture designers from the mid-century-modern movement. Herman Miller’s headquarters are in my hometown, and at a young age I was introduced to the work and ideology of these design icons.  Isamu Noguchi, Frank Gehry, the Eames, George Nelson… all worked with clean lines and various materials to create their works. Much of which was organic, smooth, complicated- yet simple. I believe it was these experiences as a kid that lit my curiosity on fire.    Several years ago, I had an epiphany. I knew that if I wasn’t an artist, I would be in the sciences. Earth science and material science. Looking beyond design, I wondered how I could make my work, more…. “My work.” I decided it was time to listen to my own advice that I tell new art students:
“Follow Your Curiosities.”

It was that thinking that helped me to realize my entire farm is on top of clay. I dug, processed, and tested the clay. I now sometimes use locally dug “backyard clay” in works. I bought a big telescope many years ago. All alone late at night looking at the moon, I thought, “Clay could do that.”    My moon pots were born. I was watching a documentary on ocean life and bioluminescence; I then spent the hours after it ended doing research into non-living materials that glow in the dark. A year later, I had figured out my formula for my glow-in-the-dark blown glass.  

It is these curiosities and tinkering’s that keep me and my work evolving. By using such a variety of materials, temperatures, and process, my work varies greatly from more traditional vases to hyper-modernism, to installation work. 

1984

Born

1984

1991

Experimenting with clay

Playing with Fimo clay became a favorite after school activity.   I taught myself how to carefully cover emptied eggshells with colorful clay.  Looking back, it was one heck of an exercise in developing the gentle touch needed for clay.

1991

1992

Experimenting with fire

My Grandmother gave me a big magnifying glass as a gift.  I quickly learned how to make fire.  This led to my first time stomping out a fire in flip flops.

1992

1992

Crayon Boats

Shortly after discovering the powers of my new magnifying glass, I found myself experimenting with art for the first time. I took a box of crayons and removed the paper labels of each color. I would use the magnifying glass and the sunshine’s heat to weld crayons together on their edges. I made boats. Crayon Boats. Welded with their own melted wax, even at that age I thought they were only good if they were functional and floated in my filled-up bathroom sink.

Melted crayons to form a crayon boat

1992

1992

2nd Grade

In 2nd grade I patiently waited after art class to ask my teacher a question.  I wasn’t a natural at drawing, but I asked her if I could buy one of the woodless pencils from class.  She smiled and sold me one for 25 cents.  I was excited because it was a chunk of graphite, which looked like a real artists’ tool.  It looked like metal but wasn’t.  It was my first time being struck by an unusual material.  I was curious.

Woodless Pencils

1992

1993

Experimenting with colors & designs

Creepy Crawlers were made and baked in my little toy oven.  Experimenting with colors and designs, I sold the rubber bugs on the playground for after-school candy money. 

1993

1996

Young entrepreneur

An avid hemp necklace maker, I turned my school locker into a little store.  Between classes I would sell them for $7 each, since at the store they were $9.   This worked well for a while, until the teachers saw how many I was selling and shut me down. They said that it wasn’t the best use of time between classes. I politely disagreed.  They smiled and shook their heads.   

1996

2001

Pottery wheel

My first experience on the pottery wheel.  My high school art teacher said, “We have these old pottery wheels but I don’t know how to use them very well.  Feel free to stay after school and try it.”   That sentence changed my life.   I was a soccer player and had 20 minutes to burn each day before practice.  My first piece flew off of the pottery wheel and stuck to the wall.  I looked around for witnesses and called it a day.  

2001

2002

First piece sold

First piece sold to the mother of a good friend.  I can remember this piece with so much detail.  I sold it for $10. 

2002

2002

First gallery representation

A local gallery agreed to take a look at what I had made, I excitedly brought 6 works.  He asked me to leave all 6 ceramic pieces in the gallery.  I couldn’t believe it, I was on cloud nine.  

2002

2003

Graduation

Graduated High School, purchased rusty old kiln for $500.  Didn’t know if it would turn on.  

2003

2003

First studio

Rented a small studio space on Blue Star Highway.  The mostly empty 125+-year-old building became my first studio/gallery. I also did my first art fair. 

2003

2003

College

Began my art studies at Michigan State University. 

2003

2003

Assistant Studio Technician

Hired by the Art Department at MSU as an Assistant Studio Technician, I got keys to the art department my Freshman year.  This allowed me ceramics studio access 24/7.
 
2003

2004

Commission

Commissioned by family friend and Herman Miller CEO to design work for his office. 

2004

2004

Summer fairs

Summer art fairs in Chicago begin.  Did several years of summer shows.

2004

2004

Large scale

Adventures in Giant work. 6 foot tall vases and a 400 pound bowl.

2004

2004

Teaching

Began co-teaching a pottery workshop at the Ox-Bow School of Art and Residencies.

2004

2004

Glass blowing

First time blowing glass. 

Jeff Blandford's first blown glass piece

2004

2005

Professional Demonstrations

Started traveling and doing demonstrations professionally, promoting art products for companies. 

2005

2007

First Gallery

First Downtown Saugatuck gallery of my own.  

2007

2008

Detroit Institute of Art’s Museum

I threw pots in the marble lobby of the Detroit Institute of Art’s Museum.   It was fun and funny to get to make work in the fancy marble lobby, but my favorite part was knowing that my works were being made near works by world-famous artists like Diego Rivera.  

2008

2010

Spinning Molten Glass

My first time spin-casting with friends.  Using centrifugal force, the pottery wheel is used to spin molten glass into the shape of a bowl.  
 
2010

2012

Working with Kellogg

A couple projects with the Kellogg Company.  Producing a couple hundred bowls that were given to dieticians at trade shows. 
 
2012

2014

Backyard Clay

Started experimenting with clay that I found in my garden.  My first pots were made with, “Backyard Clay.”
 
 
 
 
 
2014

2016

Became an Art Therapist

I began a role as an Art Therapist in a local Juvenile Detention facility.  The students made work while learning about art and perseverance.  When enough works were made, we had an event and sold them.  The money went back to our program and studio supplies.  One of my favorites of all art experiences.  
 
 
2016

2016

First Major Museum Exhibition

“A Modern Curiosity” opens at the Saginaw Art Museum after 2 years of planning.  My first major museum exhibition.   Featuring nearly a dozen installation spaces of my work, the show exhibited hundreds of works that were clay and glass.  
 
 
 
2016

2018

A Modernist in the Colony

“A Modernist in the Colony” opens in NYC.   The Morris-Jumel Mansion is the oldest house in Manhattan, formerly the home of George Washington.  This 1765 mansion was redecorated by my works, giving it an unusually clean and modern look.  I recreated period vessels that looked just a little too clean, and a little too modern, almost as if… a modernist had snuck into the colony.  Among many fun facts, Lin Manuel Miranda wrote part of Hamilton here, while in the study.  This is the exact room, and exact chair that Lin Manuel used to write.    For my exhibition we placed a vase of mine there to represent Lin Manuel and the layers of history in the mansion.
 
 
 
2018

2021

Private Glass Studio

Private Glass Studio fired up for the first time.
 
2021

Artist Statement

My intent is to produce art accessible to all types of audiences, using clay and glass as my vehicles for exercising the elements of design.  Using contemporary and simple forms I attempt to allure an audience by employing an easy aesthetic to understand.  Design is now front and center stage with most of the materials in our lives.  From computers to furniture, technology is now at a point where function does not have to be sacrificed or compromised for aesthetic pleasure.  

In my work I experiment with differing levels of function, always increasing an object’s usability whenever possible.  When an item made for aesthetic pleasure can be used in the less formal way of everyday life, I believe this strengthens the work.   

In today’s chaotic society I find it necessary for myself to find time each day to exist in an environment of order and unification.  By producing cohesive bodies of work, I try to explore different combinations of elements and color in which bring a sense of energy, harmony, and bold existence to a space which holds my art.  Having a passion for interior design, I produce work that elevates the awareness of the aesthetic in each space. Because colors and forms can have a physical effect on us, I believe quality design can change the atmosphere and experience of a person who is engaged in it.

By making art which is colorful and modern I enjoy reaching out to an audience that can appreciate the aesthetic with no formal knowledge in the field of art.  

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