Virgina A. Groot Foundation

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Janis Wunderlich
1996 2nd Place recipient

Lives and works in Ohio


Born in Akron, OH in 1970, Janis Mars Wunderlich received her BFA from Brigham Young University in Utah and MFA from Ohio State University.

Her ceramic sculptures have been in numerous national and international exhibitions, including 3 solo exhibitions in the past year. She has held workshops and lectures at many museums and universities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Janis has been the recipient of several awards and grants, including multiple fellowships from The Ohio Arts Council and The Greater Columbus Arts Council.

Janis and her husband Philip have five children. She is a full-time artist and mother.


My imagery captures the exhaustion and exhilaration of life as both a creative artist and busy parent. My children inspire me with both their imaginative minds and animal-like energy. As I nurture and care for them, they continually feed my thoughts with their “fairytale-like” quirkiness.

But parenting is physically and emotionally demanding! The cleaning, cooking, chores, and laundry never end. The tantrums, messy diapers, and adolescent “sassiness” are emotionally draining. The babies are always clinging to me, hanging onto my arms and legs. Sometimes I look like a playground! But I love it!

My recent work explores the idea of “accessorizing” with children. Sometimes I feel as though my wardrobe consists of kids from head to toe. Instead of “artsy” or fancy accessories and jewelry, I have children hanging from my ears, neck, and arms! In a sense, the mother figure seems hidden or lost behind all the clingy creatures. But in reality, she is strengthened, clothed, and made beautiful by them. They give her layers, textures, identity.

Children’s literature is a big influence in my work, from Peter Rabbit and Curious George to the Wild Things and Grimm Fairy Tales.. (My kids LOVE stories!). Mother Goose has especially influenced me in recent works. I love the bizarre poetry about men who go to sea in a bowl, cows jumping over the moon, or dishes running away with spoons! These stories, much like my sculptures, are filled with animalistic creatures who provoke the mind to look beyond reality into the realm of the imagination.

I feel a natural connection to the animal kingdom, (mostly because my children often behave like naughty little animals!) but also because of the inherent nurturing and protective instincts that I possess as a mother. My imagery often has animalistic qualities, making my sculptures reference humanity in all its diversities.

I am amazed at how my parental experiences—the good and frustrating—fuel my imagination. I view my sculptural works much like journal entries that document my personal journeys. I often create work laden with complex dualities, showing both the suffering and joys of life.

My sculptures are handbuilt using thin, slab-like coils of clay. The glaze surfaces are built up by multifiring layers of underglaze, slips, and overglaze.

Motherhood fills my mind and life with such incredible images and experiences. The challenge for me is to keep my sanity and sense of humor as I balance my time between all the fun and craziness of parenthood and art-making. It’s been an amazing journey so far!


Four-time winner of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship
2002, 2000, 1998, 1996

Two-time recipient of a Greater Columbus Arts Council Individual Artist Grant
2004, 2000

Two-time winner of the Virginia A. Groot Foundation Recognition Grant
1996, 1997


More than 70 national and international exhibitions in the past 5 years, including:

Confrontational Clay, American Craft Museum, New York, New York

Visual Perspectives: 14 Years of the Virginia A. Groot Award, SOFA, Chicago, IL 

NCECA Clay National, UNLV's Barrick Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada 

Scripps 55th Ceramic Annual, Scripps College’s Chandler Gallery, Claremont, California

Heim und Handwerk, Munich Convention Hall, Munich, Germany

Figurines, John Elder Gallery, New York, New York

Telling Tales, The Craft Alliance, St. Louis, Missouri

American Figurative Clay, Colorado College’s Coburn Gallery, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Women's World: A Work in Progress, Brookfield Craft Center, Brookfield, Connecticut

Figures in Clay, Odyssey Center for the Arts, Asheville, North Carolina

Iintimate Conversations, Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, Massachusetts

Looking in the Mirror: Aspects of Figurative Ceramics, Riley Hawk Galleries, Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio

Divine Chaos, a solo show at Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio

20th Century Decorative Work of Art, to benefit NCECA Endowment, at Sotheby’s, New York, New York

Animal Magnetism, Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, Massachusetts

Once Upon a Time, Wustum Museum of Fine Art, Racine, Wisconsin

A Modern Bestiary: Artists View the Animal Kingdom, Wustum Museum of Fine Art, Racine, Wisconsin

Being Human: The Figure Expressed, Signature Shop Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia

Short Stories: Narrative Ceramic Art, Center for Ceramic Arts, Berkeley, California

Lasting Impressions: The Unforgettable in Contemporary Ceramic Art, Baltimore Clayworks, Baltimore, Maryland

Little Creatures, Art Gallery at Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida

Animated Earth: The Many Permutations of Clay, Craft Alliance, St. Louis, Missouri

Suspended Animation, Goldesberry Gallery, Houston, Texas

Small Figures, Santa Fe Clay, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Numerous exhibitions at:
The Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, Massachusetts
John Elder Gallery, New York, New York
The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Ohio Craft Museum, Columbus, Ohio
Santa Fe Clay, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Baltimore Clayworks, Baltimore, Maryland
Sybaris Gallery, Royal Oak, Michigan
Ferrin Gallery, Lenox, Massachusetts
Goldesberry Gallery, Houston, Texas
Wustum/ Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin

Numerous solo exhibitions at:
Quincy Art Center, Quincy, Illinois
Figurative Gallery, La Quinta, California
Ford Gallery (Eastern Michigan University), Ypsilanti, Michigan
John Elder Gallery, New York, New York
SOFA Chicago, Illinois
Shaw Guido Gallery, Pontiac, Michigan

Lectures & Workshops

Numerous Lectures and Workshops throughout the US and Canada, including:
Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Santa Fe Clay, Santa Fe, New Mexico
California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California
IUPUI, Ft. Wayne, Indiana
Baltimore Clayworks, Baltimore, Maryland
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Conference, Rochester, New York
Alberta College of Art and Design, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
The Ohio State University, Columbus, OhioSpringfield Art Museum, Springfield, Ohio
The Ohio Craft Museum, Columbus, Ohio
Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Southern Ohio Art Museum, Portsmouth, Ohio
Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Penland School of Art and Crafts, Penland, North Carolina
Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio
Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Hawken School, Cleveland Ohio
Clay Art Center, Port Chester, New York


Ceramics Monthly, Feature article and cover of December 1999 issue
American Craft, American Style and others Numerous articles
The Best of New Ceramic Art, Featured in the book by Toni Sikes,
Visual Perspectives: Virginia A. Groot Awards and Confrontational Clay Catalogues
500 Figures in Clay and The Figure in Clay, Featured in the books by Lark Books

In the Permanent Collection at:
The Mint Museum of Craft and Design, Charlotte, North Carolina
The Wustum Museum/ Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin
The University of Arizona Art Museum, Tucson, Arizona
The Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
and many other public and private collections


Click the images below to enlarge