During a recent three-day adult workshop on leather and knotting at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts in Wayzata, beginning student Jane Donovan was trying to problem-solve a snafu in the carefully woven length of the choker-style necklace she was making.
“I think this strand just popped out,” says artist and teacher Andy Juelich as he carefully examines her work. “We just have to re-tuck the end and it will be fine.”
Donovan, who usually works in wire sculpture, enrolled in Juelich’s class to learn more about making knots. She is appreciative of the teacher’s aptitude for encouraging students, even beginners like herself. “Andy has such a wonderful, gentle way,” she says. “He is so patient and does such a good job of teaching us the basics.”
Juelich embraces everything about being both an artist and a teacher. The 28-year Plymouth resident works in a variety of media—leather, woodcarving, rattan, drawing, painting—at his home studio, but his first love is clay, and if he’s not there or teaching classes at Minnetonka Center for the Arts, he can be found working at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis.
After earning a degree in studio arts in 2006 at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Juelich spent three years in an internship and apprenticeship to master potter Richard Bresnahan, where he learned about several aspects of the medium, including the finer points of “karatsu pottery”—a Japanese style of creating sturdy pieces of simply elegant “everyday” tableware, often multiple pieces (think teacups) out of one large piece of clay on the pottery wheel.
“When I was an apprentice, I was working more than 100 hours a week, but I liked what I was doing so much, I didn’t consider it work,” says Juelich, who has continued to collaborate occasionally with Bresnahan on pottery projects.
Not only does Juelich make clay teapots, he also creates durable rattan handles for the kettles, mugs and platters he basically guarantees “for a lifetime” due to the strength of the rattan he uses and the way he constructs both the handle and the pot to work in tandem with one another.
“The weight is more balanced [on the teapot] than it would be if the handle was also made of clay,” he explains. “In addition to liking the aesthetics of the piece, I appreciate the way the media collaborate to produce a useful and functional work of art.”
Juelich has been delving into the details of how things work since he was a young boy growing up in Plymouth, regularly scouring garage sales for finds like old VCRs that he would take apart, pulling out pieces for various works of art he was creating.
“My love for working with my hands started as young as I was able to do so,” he says. “I also remember spending a lot of time working with my grandfather in his woodshop. I would build tools for myself to use.”
Remembering his own artistic curiosity as a young boy is part of the reason Juelich loves teaching children about art. This summer he’s taught several summer arts camps, working with children as young as 5 and as old as 15.
“Each age definitely has its joys and challenges,” says Juelich with a laugh. “While my older students are capable of more abstract thoughts about art, the younger ones are more likely to show their true personalities in their creativity.”
Leah Hughes, children and youth program director at Minnetonka Center for the Arts, says Juelich is something of an anomaly: “A lot of artists only have one specialty, and while he’s primarily a clay guy, he’s incredibly versatile in a variety of disciplines,” she says. “He’s a phenomenal teacher who brings so much creativity to the classroom and can really spark a lot of ideas for future projects for his students.”
Recently, Juelich received his teaching certificate from Augsburg College and is planning to complete a master’s degree within the next few years.
When asked how he counsels young students who ask his advice about pursuing the artistic life, Plymouth artist and instructor Andy Juelich smiles. “Being an artist is a tough career choice,” he says. “But I knew it was the only thing that would make me happy, so I wanted to do whatever I could to pursue that life.”