Maui ceramicist invited by Hawaii Craftsmen

“Flame Hale II,” one of the pieces Maui ceramicist Jennifer Owen submitted to the Hawai‘i Craftsmen Annual Statewide Juried Exhibition. -- Photo courtesy the artist

When taking her first ceramics class from Hawaiian-born and raised ceramic artist Toshiko Takaezu while a freshman at Princeton University, Connecticut native and retired University of Hawaii Maui College Associate Professor Jennifer Owen had no idea she would move to Hawaii and settle here.

That class did, however, guide her towards her life’s work.

“My love for ceramics prompted me to become an art history major,” explained Owen.

She taught her first ceramics class while a senior at Princeton and continued teaching both during and after graduate school.

Preferring to make her own one-of-a-kind pieces, Owen quickly realized teaching ceramics would allow her the ability to survive as a working artist. She would earn a living from teaching, and then would be able to devote the time needed to create pieces she wanted to.

Owen with one of her “Hale” pieces. -- Photo courtesy the artist

After earning her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Oregon, Owen took a trip to Kauai during Christmas break and “totally fell in love with Hawaii, especially the ocean — I love to swim and have never before lived near the ocean — and the tropical fruits.”

She managed to extend the vacation into a six-month stay, after which she packed up in Oregon and moved to Kauai. Not finding a significant teaching position on Kauai after two years, she moved to Maui and found a job teaching ceramics at the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center in Makawao. Owen was head of the ceramics department at the Hui for the next 24 years.

It was an invitation to be a visiting artist by retired UH-MC (Maui Community College at the time) art teacher Barbara Miller that started Owen’s relationship with the university.

“(Miller) recommended me to take her place on her retirement, and I was the ceramics teacher there from 1995 until my retirement this summer.”

The idea of retirement is used loosely here. Owen is hardly sitting back with nothing to do. She remains an art consultant for the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, a position she has held since 2014.

“Mambo” -- Photo courtesy the artist

This year, Hawai’i Craftsmen, a non-profit organization headquartered on Oahu which promotes fine craftsmanship in Hawaii’s art community, has invited Owen to take part in its prestigious Hawai’i Craftsmen Annual Statewide Juried Exhibition 2018, now in its 51st year.

This year’s juror is Isabella Ellaheh Hughes, co-founder and director of the Honolulu Biennial Foundation and juror of Art Maui 2018, which exhibited at the Schaefer International Gallery at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in April.

The exhibition runs from Oct. 25 through Nov. 11 at the Honolulu Museum of Art School’s Linkekona Gallery, located just half a block from the museum at 1111 Victoria St. Honolulu. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The gallery is closed on Mondays.

Hawai’i Craftsmen aims “to bring craftspeople of all ages and skill levels together to learn and share the benefits of creating,” according to its website.

Through programs, workshops and events, Hawai’i Craftsmen supports the belief that fine craft is a vital and enriching part of contemporary life.

“Bamboo Tripod” -- Photo courtesy the artist

As an “invited artist” Owen explained she will have several of her sculptures on display

Owen is honored by the privilege of receiving the invitation, and acknowledges how Hawai’i Craftsmen is committed to all the neighbor island artists who are its members.

“It’s a wonderful show for craftspeople,” enthused Owen. “[They] send a juror to all four main Hawaiian islands to conduct the jurying. That means the show is juried from actual works of art, without the artist having to ship their pieces to Oahu unless the pieces are actually going to be in the show.

While the jurors did not visit Molokai and Lanai, craftspeople from those islands were allowed to have their pieces juried online — this saves the artists money by not having to ship their pieces unless they are actually going to be in the show.

Owen acknowledges her work has been in the show 21 times since she began entering in 1984.

“I love the fact that the show brings together the best of craftwork and craftspeople across the entire state. … I’ve traveled to Oahu several times to view the show — it is always outstanding.”

For more information about the Hawai’i Craftsmen organization or the upcoming show, visit, call (808) 521-3282 or email

For more information about the Honolulu Museum of Art School, call (808) 532-8741.

In addition, juror Hughes will be conducting a free public lecture in connection with this exhibition from 5 to 5:45 p.m. Oct. 9 at UH-MC, Heona Art Building Foyer.

* Catherine Kenar can be reached at