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Hiebert Finds Her Footing

Hiebert Finds Her Footing

Things clicked into place when Jenna Hiebert 14 CR began working with clay and figured out that Ceramics was a natural fit for her interests and temperament.

Jenna Hiebert 14 CR admits to having a bit of a struggle during Foundation year figuring out where she wanted to be at RISD. Her original plan had been to major in Industrial Design, but she initially ended up declaring Illustration as her major and then suddenly switched to Ceramics based on an eye-opening Wintersession course.

“It was a huge surprise,” the rising senior says. Although she didn’t have much experience working in 3D design before coming to RISD, Hiebert found that the new principles she’d been learning during Foundation year really “started to click” during a Hands + Wheels Wintersession course taught by two grad students. In fact, the newfound sense of discovery was so strong that before the end of spring semester, she asked if she could still switch majors. “Everyone in Ceramics is really down-to-earth, and it was easy to tell that this is where I was supposed to be,” she recalls.

The biggest life lesson Hiebert has learned in Ceramics is patience. “Clay is temperamental,” she says, “and timing is everything. Sometimes things go wrong, but they may work themselves out later in the process. The best medicine is usually just breathing.”

Like many RISD students, Hiebert had a hard time with crits at first but now finds that the principles and rationale behind them have permeated her consciousness. “I find myself critting everything in life,” she says with a laugh. “You start thinking constantly about what’s good and how little things can be improved.”

At home in Ceramics, Hiebert considers the faculty to be almost like family. “[Assistant Professor] Larry Bush, the former department head, is like a grandpa or a dad,” she says. “And [Senior Critic] Frank Bosco is the strict mom. I have both their numbers in my cell phone, and I have definitely used them when I needed help. Everyone here is really accessible.”

Hiebert has also benefitted immensely from her interactions with visiting artists. In fact, one of her major “aha moments” occurred when noted ceramist Annabeth Rosen visited her studio. “She kicked my butt—and I needed it,” the soon-to-be-senior admits. “I really had to stop thinking and start doing—to work all day and keep producing until I figured out what I wanted to say.”

Although she had a healthy work ethic when she arrived at RISD, Hiebert says that she has learned a lot about time management and having the dedication to put in the hours. “You have to be healthy—mentally and physically—and you can’t party when you should be working,” she says. “I don’t think I left the studio during finals week last year. It’s really about knowing when to work and when to let off steam. And the competition with other students makes you work even harder.”

That said, Hiebert is quick to point out that the competition in Ceramics is totally friendly and self-imposed. Peers and faculty members not only support her but have helped her to develop confidence in herself and her work. “I was pretty lost for a while,” she recalls, “but by junior year I felt like I could call myself an artist—that I’d started developing ideas that are unique to my own experience.”

Simone Solondz