A Talk with Ceramist Rachelle Lowe April 20, 2015 09:28 2 Comments

HS: So in a few sentences, tell us a little bit about Rachelle Lowe.

RL: I am a great collection of various interests, experiences, and observations. My work has been subtly influenced by countless artists and musicians and the ever shifting change that is the world. Some examples are the humor and honesty of Andy Warhol and the Pop Art movement. The deep emotion of the Abstract Expressionists Rothko, Diebenkorn, and Kline. The sounds of Baroque's viola de gamba and harpsichord. Nature and its endless creations. Insects, marine life, and minerals. The rhythms of poetry and prose. Gardening, cooking, and my lifelong search for antiques and vintage treasures. My interests inform my process and keep me grounded. An avid observer, I am always watching, absorbing my surroundings and processing content. These elements are the foundation of my work.   

HS: How did you get started / interested in working with ceramics?

RL: I am fortunate to have had extremely inspiring and supportive art teachers throughout the years. We had themed lessons in ceramics throughout grade school and junior high that included building animals, vessels, and teapots in clay. In high school I discovered and embraced hand building as a tool to create sculpture. Throwing clay on the wheel was fun and challenging but my spacial intuition really favored hand building, a technique where one attaches coils or slabs of clay by scoring the clay and joining the pieces together.

HS: What influences your work? Is it political?

RL: Great question. It is definitely not political. I have many political, ethical, and environmental opinions and concerns but I choose not to express those through my art. I want to engage and inspire the viewer through the color, form, and mystique of my work. I enjoy creating from a space of intuition, where I build my forms from the bottom up, never over thinking the process. Some artists like to plan everything out with sketches and specs but I prefer to start with a base of clay and feel out the form with my eyes and hands. As I add clay, the piece tells me how it wants to look. It is a very intimate dialogue between the medium and the artist. My work is both serious and funny, however not particularly in the same piece of art. This is a reflection of my personality- at times I am as serious as a poem and other times I really embrace the humor in life. 

HS: For those of us who don’t know a whole lot about different types of clays or the firing process, can you explain how it works? Talk about raku?
RL: There are countless varieties of clay and glazes. Both are available commercially or mixed to a specific recipe by the artist. Clay is formulated to withstand the particular temperature of the firing process in which it is being used.
Raku is one of many varieties of firing techniques. I use the Western method of Raku where clay is oxidized in the kiln as it reaches between 1470-1830 degrees F. The pieces are removed from the kiln and placed directly into an aluminum container that is filled with combustible materials. The heat of the clay ignites a fire in the combustibles and a lid is placed on the container, leaving the pieces to reduce. The clay must be formulated to withstand the thermal shock of the Raku process. Raku clay is the best option to ensure this unless you want to experiment. In my opinion the art of clay is largely about luck. My formal education taught me to truly detach from expectation and control because pieces break during the firing process or do not turn out as you intended. Embracing the unknown is crucial in the art making of ceramics. 

HS: Outside of making your doll heads do you work in other mediums? Do you have a favorite medium for getting your message out?

RL: I enjoy printmaking, sewing, painting, drawing, and cooking. There is so much beauty in each   medium. I also write poetry and enjoy many genres of music.

HS: Do you have any advice for people who think they’d like to try their hand at working with clay?

RL: Absolutely! Do it. Try something you have never done before. I've learned the most when I knew very little going into a class or process. Embrace mistakes and do not limit yourself based on your own judgement of your work. It is not up to you to judge yourself! Make art because you can. Your art is an extension of your experience and beauty. This is something that is very challenging for me. I have to be mindful and work on allowing my work to just be what it is and allow others to enjoy it. 

HS: Any last words of wisdom, a motto you live by?

RL: A recent personal goal I've had is to be as authentic as possible, to express my true self. This takes a considerable amount of courage and I remind myself that just like art, life is a work in progress.