A day in the life of ceramicist Rachel A. Donner
[Editor’s Note: Santa Fe Found has kindly allowed us to reprint this interview with ceramicist Rachel A. Donner. Santa Fe Found covers local creators, artists, and entrepreneurs. They present an inside look at their processes and philosophies through interviews & photography].
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WORKING IN YOUR CRAFT?
I went to college for graphic design and wasn't really enjoying it, but when I took a 3D requirement course of wheel throwing, I was hooked. I still resisted it some with the hopes of being super employable with a graphic design degree, but by the end of college, I only had eyes for clay.
WHAT WAS YOUR PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY BEFORE WORKING IN THIS FIELD?
I was a student, in the sense that I was attending University. After student life, ceramics became my first professional journey and one that I am still very much on.
WHAT DO YOUR DAYS TYPICALLY LOOK LIKE?
Over the years I have learned how to work from a home studio and be my own boss. I schedule my days in order to stay organized. I write to-do lists each night before bed. I wake up fairly early and always try to eat a good breakfast, then I usually go on a walk or get started on computer work. I often don't get into the actual studio until noon, the other, less fun, parts of the job take up the morning. Depending on what I am working towards, a shop update, a commission, a wholesale order, I work accordingly in the studio. I usually end the day at 7 or 8 and then make a conscious effort to relax and unwind.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PROJECT YOU'VE EVER WORKED ON?
Recently I got to do a series of planters for Opuntia Cafe, and it was magical for me to be able to combine my love of pots and plants! The best part, of course, was seeing what Jeanna did with the pieces after I finished them.
WHAT IS YOUR FUTURE VISION FOR YOUR BUSINESS? WHAT ARE SOME DREAM PROJECTS YOU'D LIKE TO WORK ON?
I am constantly trying to understand the future of my business. Making pots full time has its pros and cons and I feel that my business plan is often evolving. My biggest vision is to comfortably be supporting myself with my artwork. As I write this, I am working on a dream project of what I call ceramic paintings while I’m a resident artist at the CSU Long Beach Ceramics Department for two months. Another dream project is replacing all of the plant pots in my house with ones that I have made.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR WORK?
My favorite thing about my work is the bright colors and patterns. I once had an experience where I was traveling and feeling kind of homesick and I was unpacking some boxes of work that I hadn't seen in a few weeks for a pottery sale. As I set them out, sparkling in the sun, I felt so much joy coming from my pieces. It really cheered me up.
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACE IN YOUR WORK?
Maintaining the spark of creativity and enjoyment can be difficult if you are making similar things over and over again, but spending time being playful and making every piece unique isn't cost effective.
WHO DO YOU GO TO FOR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, AND WHAT'S THE BEST ADVICE THEY'VE GIVEN YOU?
I have a few mentors and peers over the years who have stayed absolute confidants. One thing that is so wonderful about the ceramics community is that you can ask for anything, ask any question, and people are happy to help you figure out the answer. I'm not sure if I can narrow it down to one snippet of advice, but one thing I've gathered from all sides of the advice spectrum is to keep moving forward.
WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO BUDDING CREATIVES AND ENTREPRENEURS IN SANTA FE?
1. Put yourself out there. Any medium you are working in has a community here. When it comes to galleries, shows, sales, and networking, the best thing to do is ask people to include you, to look at your work, etc. The answer is always no if you don't ask - so cheesy but true!
2. Make work. Make as much work as you possibly can.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO MOVE TO SANTA FE?
I grew up in Taos, so I have a great love for New Mexico. I had just been living in Cincinnati, Ohio for a year at an artist residency and was uninspired, to say the least, by the midwest. I knew I had to head back to NM, but I didn't want to live in my hometown, so Santa Fe was the logical choice.
WHAT MAKES SANTA FE SPECIAL TO YOU? WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THIS PLACE?
Every single day, I am caught off guard by the sky.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT SANTA FE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Honestly, I would bring one or two loved ones from far away to live nearby.