I am so glad to have my fifth installment of Native Creative feature local ceramic artist and painter Andrea Luna-Reece. I've admired her work for a long time, and have pieces throughout my house and on our patio. Seeing her work has made me put "take a ceramics class" on my mental to-do list.
Please introduce yourself!
Hello. My name is Andrea Luna Reece. I was born and raised in Orange, California and I currently reside in Costa Mesa, CA with my husband and two sons. I received my BFA in Ceramics from Cal State Long Beach in 1998 while working as a publicist for an Indie punk label from 1994 to 2000.
Can you tell me about your process?
My process depends on what I am working on. The majority of the work that I am doing in clay is slip cast from molds. Slip casting is a technique for the mass-production of pottery, or in my case, small-scale production runs, especially for shapes not easily made on a wheel. A liquid clay body slip is poured into plaster molds and allowed to form a layer called a cast on the inside cavity of the mold. After several hours, sometimes overnight, the cast piece is removed from the mold, "fettled" (trimmed neatly) and allowed to dry. This is when I decide if I am adding other pieces to an item, or cutting into the piece or leaving it as is. This produces a green ware piece, which is then dried before firing, with or without decoration and glaze. After my work is completely dry (it can take anywhere from one to 3 days or longer depending on the size and thickness of the piece and the weather) the clay is very fragile, non-plastic and porous. I load my kiln and fire to bisque; the firing is the process of heating clay pottery in a kiln to bring the glaze or clay to maturity.
After the kiln cools I unload the kiln. A firing takes about 6 hours to get to the desired temperature and then about another 6 to 12 hours to cool. Depending on how packed the kiln is with pieces. The next step is to glaze. Glazing is where I “paint” my pieces. Once glazed, the pieces are put back into the kiln for the glaze firing, which is a cycle in a kiln to bring the temperature at which the glaze materials melt to form a glasslike surface coating. Then the piece is finished! Well that’s the hope anyhow. One of the fascinating (but also very frustrating) things about ceramics for me is the uncertainty of it all. Sometimes you just don’t know what is going to happen inside the kiln.
When I set out to create a new piece or a new line I start by sketching a lot. I also peruse my older sketchbooks to either re-hash an idea or get inspiration. My sketchbooks are another extension of the process. I will also go to outside sources for inspiration. Sites like Pinterest are great for seeking out quick visual eye candy and inspiration. But, I prefer to look at vintage pieces, or older work and study it to see how I can re-create it, making it new.
When it comes to painting I usually just put on some music and just see where it takes me. Sometimes this works and other times I have to stop and really think about what I am going to put onto the canvas. I have a few ideas sketched out but the painting usually never takes on a direct narrative from my sketches, that’s what is so exciting about the creative process things just change as I am working and I never know what is gong to influence the next image. Or what is going to influence the next ceramic piece.
Specific artists and designers that have or do inspire me are Frida Kahlo, Jean-Michael Basquiat, Edward Kienholz, Robert Rauschenberg, Pablo Neruda, Joseph Cornell, Mid Century Modern design, furniture, ceramics, and the architecture, Gertrude and Otto Natzlers, Beatrice Wood. Currently loving my friend Sara Paloma’s work (have since we were in high school together) Heather Levine, Kristen Morgan, Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, Craig “Skibs” Barker, Lindsey Byrnes on and on I could go.
There is so much that influences me and inspires me. It could be a song, a good book, a movie, something from nature, an old sketch, or an artist, or something just lying around my house or studio. It’s not the music or book for example that makes me create a planter or a painting but it’s the music or book that moves my spirit that brings about the inspiration.
Succulents are also a huge inspiration; not just for their beauty but also for the way the plant elevates my work. I am drawn to the planter, to the shape, or surface or color and I love it, but once its planted, it totally takes on a whole new meaning. The plant is alive, growing and thriving in a planter I made. Sounds funny to say but it does do that for me, it moves me that way. Light is the inspiration behind my paintings. The light that shines out of the fractured and the broken. I am moved by hope and try to convey that on canvas through images incorporating birds, trees, flowers, numbers and colors. Images that convey vulnerability and trust.
I love when I am able to see how someone lives with my work. Whether it’s a painting to hang over their couch, or a piece they bought to memorialize the loss of a child, or a ceramic planter or vase. I love that someone wants to live with something I made every day. That is pure inspiration to me!
I am always interested in a creative person's work situation – whether they have always worked full time as an artist, work a day job and do their art as a side business, or whether they worked a day job and finally had that one epiphany where they gave it up to follow a dream. What's your story?
While I was in school I was working full time as a publicist for an indie punk label. When I graduated I didn’t go on to grad school. I focused on work. I loved music and I got to travel, so it was great. I would make things throughout this time while working full time but on a much different scale. Finally, I started to really get the desire to make things again. To use my hands! I was really missing my art. So, in 2000 that’s when I decided to leave the label and focus on my art. I didn’t start out to start my own business or to even pursue my art as a business; I just wanted to make things. And, I was fortunate enough to have the support of an awesome husband to let me do just that. I started painting again, and slowly started getting into shows and having solo art shows. Not sure why I went back to painting first but I did, then my husband bought me a kiln for Christmas and I immediately started working in clay again. I started working back and forth between both mediums. One day I was walking into one of my favorite shops in Costa Mesa called Fleur De Lys and I noticed there was art on the wall that wasn’t mass-produced and the owner and I just started talking. I told her I was an artist and she said we would love to see my work. I brought in some paintings and they immediately took about 4 to 7 paintings of mine. And they sold and kept selling. So I told them I also work in ceramics and I did a little trunk show of my work in their store and that’s how it all started. I started doing Patchwork and which got me into another great store called Organic Designs by Aggelige at The Camp. She is amazing! And it’s just progressed from there. Once my work was in a few stores and the demand for product grew I knew it was time to make it a full time endeavor. It hasn't been easy, or quick. It’s been a lot of hard work, and lots of triumphs and fails but it has also been a lot of fun and an amazing experience.
This is tricky and for me this is an ongoing endeavor, trying to find the balance. You would think after so much time that I would have it down, but as demand grows, my time to create grows and as my family grows their time for me grows and changes too. Its pretty much an ongoing endeavor, especially when you throw in summer vacation and other holidays. The one thing I have had to learn (and am still learning to do) is to not try to control my days too much. So, I take it day by day and I make lists, lots of lists. It was really hard when my kids were little, but as they get older my window of time get’s longer to get things done. It’s a balance that after all these years I am still figuring out and modifying day to day. I have to remind myself that there is no right or wrong way here you just do what you can do and if something doesn’t get done, then you do that first the next day.
You sell your work through a few different avenues – I see it online, in local shops, and I always see you at craft fairs. Which one of these has been most successful for you?
This is a hard question to answer because there is times where your business is just on fire and times where it slows down and this wave of flow is in all three of those avenues.
Each one is successful in different ways. Local shops are important because it allows me to pour into my community and local shop owners are creating a venue for artists to be exposed to a greater audience. Craft fairs have exposed me to buyers/owners of shops. Craft shows also get me in front of the people who are purchasing my work and allow me to meet other designers/crafters who are doing what I am doing, trying to be a successful as an indie business. It’s so important to be in community. Online stores, like Etsy have also helped me be seen by shop owners and buyers and has connected me with other artists as well. Etsy allows my work to be accessible to people I wouldn’t normally cross paths with.
What do you do when you are not working?
Hanging out with my family and friends. Going to the beach, thrift stores, flea markets. Creating work, it sort of never stops. Procrastinating on pinterest. Rearranging my furniture! Watching netflix, and reading books.
What would your dream life be?
Living on a farm raising llamas and opening a brick and mortar place where the shop/art space can give back to my community.
There is this great quote by Theodore Roosevelt. He said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It’s very easy to get caught up in the comparison aspect of this business, or in any part of our lives, if we are constantly comparing our life or our work to someone else’s we are robbing ourselves of joy. The joy that we created in making something. The joy of being exactly where we need to be right at that moment. So don’t compare yourself to where someone else is at or your work to his or her work, it will not lead you into where you need to be.
Can you share some of your favorite local spots?
My favorite local spots are Newport Beach’s Back Bay - amazing for walks or bike rides or some needed nature inspiration. OCMA. Second Sundays are free and they always have things for kids. The Camp for East Borough and Organic Designs by Aggelige - she has the most adorable shop inside a vintage air stream trailer filled with her amazing succulent creations. Molly Wood Gardens is another great shop for succulents or vintage garden finds. And SOCO for Saturday’s Farmer market and amazing eateries and businesses.
Visit Andrea's site, check out her Etsy shop, or follow her on Pinterest!