This week I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite artists and friends, Rachel Steiner. Rachel’s lovingly designed and crafted ceramics have become integrated into my daily lifestyle – my morning tea is drunk out of one of her perfect mugs; my dinner is eaten out of her exquisite bowls.
Rachel will be exhibiting alongside her artist’s collective, Make. Do., this coming weekend at the West Coast Craft festival, and her work can be found 24/7 here at ESQUELETO.
Alexis: How young were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist?
Rachel: I started taking ceramic classes when I was in middle school thanks to my aunt. When I continued them into high school is when I began thinking of being a ceramicist as being a career. The great thing about clay is that the material can be manipulated in many ways; it gives you this feeling of creative freedom because you are not restricted to one dimension. It does, however, come with lots of technical challenges and I really enjoy the problem solving side of the process as well.
A: You are part of a great artists collective called Make. Do. Can you tell me more about how that came about? What sort of role does collaboration play in your creative process?
R: Make. Do. is made up of myself, Hannah Quinn, Laurin Guthrie, and Sophie Lourdes Knight. The four of us met in different classes whilst studying at California College of the Arts and came together to form the collective as a way to keep our individual practices evolving after graduating. We meet regularly and have shown together as a group multiple times. After the first couple shows we realized that we didn't just want to show together but take the opportunity to to challenge our own practices and to step out of our comfort zones to see how we can influence each other. The collective has been such an important aspect to my career as an artist because not only do I have my own line of work but I have allowed myself a space in which I can experiment. And it works well because we each came to the collective with a similar mindset.
A: My favorite thing about your pieces is that they feel like the best expression of a functional object. From where do you draw inspiration? What do you consider when designing a new piece?
R: When making my work I focus on making pieces that fit into every day life and that each piece is going to be comfortable to hold and use. My goal is to make that mug that you want to use over all the other mugs in your cupboard for your morning coffee. I also think its important to be very observant of what other people are making and to support other artists work. Keeping up with what is happening in design and craft has helped me create my own voice in the ceramic world.
A: You, like many independent makers, wear a lot of hats. You design, you make, you teach, you work part time here at ESQUELETO - how do you balance all of your creative and not so creative obligations? What are some of your favorite things to do around Oakland in your (rare) free time?
R: Ha! I wonder that same question myself. What helps me balance those two things is that I have a nice amount of both. It helps that all my jobs are creative in some way and that a lot of them involve ceramics! Importantly they all allow me to meet people and talk with other creatives which is something I really appreciate. I also get to work with a lot of creative and motivated people which is so inspiring. Most of my favorite things to do in Oakland involve eating! Some of my all time favorite places are The Ramen Shop, Duende, and Authentic Bagel Company. Oh, and Starline Social Club has really awesome shows to go dance to!