Why I Create: Rebecca Graves

Rebecca Graves

"There's always something rolling around in my head and it's finding its way out to the world through pottery. My slightly bent sense of humor, strong sense of justice, and deep desire to empower people show through the rich textural surfaces of the pottery inviting you to smile and touch.

One of the most exciting things to me is crafting items that truly function and make your life more enjoyable. If the coffee cup dribbles and ruins your favorite comfy shirt, what is the point? Good design and craftsmanship are as important as the surface decoration. I love the entire process.

Throughout the years, I've done a little bit of everything and a whole lot of some other things. My formal training is in graphic design but my explorations have ventured into printmaking, textiles, writing knitting patterns, painting, jewelry making and a whole slew of other crafts that have honed my attention to detail. On top of all that, I spent nearly 25 years in corporate retail with the main bulk of that in retail merchandising, store design and as a regional director for a midwestern department store.

Never in my life have I loved a job more than making pottery. It is immensely satisfying knowing that the time I've spent crafting a latte mug that will travel to your home, will be appreciated and enjoyed for years, if not generations.

Growing up in a creative family, I was sewing at age two and attending classes at the Toledo Museum of Art at age four. I have explored the arts from childhood without pause. With over twenty-five years of working as a studio artist as well as a variety of apprenticeships and studio assistantships, I have grown into a satisfying life of art, adapting techniques to fit my personal style."

You can see Rebecca Graves work here: www.instagram.com/gravesco/ and here: www.rebeccagravespottery.com

More of Kurt's conversation with Rebecca Graves...

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Q: How did you get started?

A: I have always done it. I come from a family of makers, so we always were making something in the household and at the age of two I was drawing constantly. And I did a drawing of a train with people in it and curtains in the windows and the caboose with the conductor and all of that stuff, and that kind of started my journey because at that point my parents realized that I would see things that other people my age weren't seeing. So, they never told me no about exploring something creative. I was sewing before I turned three. My great grandmother taught me to crochet when I was three. My grandmother taught me to embroider when I was four. All through school, I was taking classes at the Toledo art museum. For me it was never a question about being an artist. It's just always been the thing that I do. 

Q: Was it pretty natural to start making etchings on the surface of your pottery?

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A: Actually, I started out doing a lino block printing and a friend of mine who's a potter asked me to carve on his pots. And that's where this whole clay ball started rolling, because I had not really worked in clay much prior to that. I was really enjoying coming up with the ideas of the image that was going to go on a functional piece and then creating a functional piece that would house the image. So while most potters who were learning were worried about creating an interesting shape, I was concerning myself about designing a shape that would allow the carving to show and still be functional. So. the parts were more simple so that the carving would stand out more. And then after doing that for a couple of years I started spreading into more design work with the clay and letting it speak for itself. I love function!  Things have to function and feel good. And some of my favorite cups as a kid were at a Japanese restaurant where my aunt worked, and they had a thumb dent in them. And I just thought that was the coolest thing when I was a kid because it felt good. It didn't matter what size my hand was. It felt great and I like to incorporate stuff like that. 

Q:  What's it like working with clients?

A: So for a lot of times for custom work, I'll have people ask me to recreate something I've already done. Which in the pottery world, is not a problem. It does have a tendency to be a bit of a production item. So making multiples, it's not factory production but I'm making multiples. I let them know that ahead of time. I make a family of pots, not identical clones. So even if I make 100 of something, each one will be a little bit different. Each a little bit unique even though it's essentially the same shape and essentially the same design. 

Q:  How do you feel about collaborating with other artists?

I love collaborating with other artists and feeding off of each other's designs. When I started in ceramics, Steve Smith was handing me pottery and completely removing himself from what the outcome would be. His expectation was that I would return the pots to him with my marks on them. He didn't try to control it. And I loved doing that with collaboration. I love it when a client comes to me and says, "Here's the overall theme. Create what you want out of it and when you're done hand it back and then I'll create what I need to as the next step." So, working with Barrister and Mann, they contacted me and said that they love the idea of how music and scent play with each other, and gave me a song and asked me to design a little container for shave soap that would act as a lather bowl, based on the Rolling Stones song, Sympathy For The Devil. And it was a blast. I had free control over how it came out and once I was finished I sent him the samples and he's turned it into an entire marketing campaign and it actually just launched and people are loving it. It's fun. It's also been really interesting because it's been love or hate. So, he launched it earlier today. In the thread of the launch, people are either ecstatic about it or they hate it, and that delights me to no end. I don't want to be creating something that doesn't really engender a reaction. I want to create things that make people think and decide if they love or hate it. 

Q:  How do you start relationships with vendors?

A: It's been interesting. I've had a couple of different ways that I'm developing these really interesting relationships and they tend to be somewhat organic. I met Abby from the Paradigm Gallery at a show downtown. She came up and said I love your work and I love to carry it in the gallery. And we started talking and immediately hit it off and I think we're going on three or four years now of working together. Some of my other really good working relationships have come from people that I have met in odd places online. Instagram and Facebook both have created some really cool relationships. The collaborative project for the shave soap was from Facebook and I'm working with someone on a subscription box for art supplies. And I'll be doing a little something for her next subscription box, and we met on Instagram and it just started out as "Hey, I love your work." "Oh, Hey.  I love yours too. We should do something together. "