Who: Rachael DePauw
Artist’s chosen location for interview: Her studio below her house, which has pots in the rafters and the sound of children running above it
Q: How important are intentions?
RD: They are good as long as you still have flexibility. I’m thinking specifically about my art. I think intentions are really important, and I often wonder if they are more important than anything else. None of us are perfect, so we don’t always get to achieve what we want to or convey what we want, but knowing that our heart is in the right place definitely matters.
If I think about my own intentions, it’s now about surviving this current administration. If you would have asked this question six months ago, I’m not sure it would have been so heavy. Even still, raising two happy and successful kids that will make the world a better place is a total intention of mine. That sounds so cheesy, but teaching kindness, patience, and lowering expectations seems to be a good way to do that.
It’s funny because the drawings that I do are really therapeutic, and they allow me to think about these things. I don’t meditate; I probably should, but I think those drawings are a lot like meditating. You are so in the moment. If I’m mad about something that happened, it simply evaporates. It’s amazing.
Q: Who do you find yourself asking questions of the most?
RD: I’m constantly scouring different visuals. I follow all of my favorite ceramic artists on Instagram, and I do a lot of visual searching that way.
I feel like I’m constantly trying to slow myself down, pace myself or not get ahead of myself. I always want to be doing more than I am, so I’m often struggling to be happy with what I’m making at that moment. Maybe it’s the motherhood side of things, but I’m always asking about what I want to be doing and telling myself I will have the rest of my life to do that. The issue is that I want to do all of it now. [Laughing].
Q: When do you find that you clean your studio space?
RD: I clean a little bit everyday. Silica is one of the major ingredients in clay, and that’s not the best material to breathe in on a consistent basis, so I try to keep the studio somewhat clean. And when I say everyday, I mean sweeping. I am working with mud, so there are constantly shavings and parts flying everywhere, so if I didn’t sweep everyday this place would be a disaster.
Although, you can see scraps of clay everywhere. I don’t do any dusting, and I have this great trade situation with a woman I give lessons to. She has a cleaning crew, so they come through once a month and do a really deep clean of the place, and I give her lessons. And I have no problem with other people moving the pots or touching them. There is such a high failure rate with pottery in general, so you really become a bit desensitized from your work, which is really freeing in a way. You can try all different things with pottery because if it works, great, and if it breaks, it’s okay; you just try and make a new one.
Those platters that I make [points to platters against the wall], I am lucky if two out of the three come out without a giant crack in them. From your very first class as a potter you learn this. The glaze can ruin it, it can blow up in the kiln, there are so many things that can go wrong. You can’t get attached. I make objects, but I am not a materialist. You have to be pretty forgiving in this life as a potter.
Q: What is something you wish you could pull off but never have?
RD: Currently, I just wish I had more time to be more creative. I have two kids that are four and one, so I don’t have a lot of time to try new things. When I first started making work I had this goal of making a new line every year. You know how artists often make one body of work, and you can recognize it? I don’t really have that desire. I like the idea of doing different dinnerware lines. Although, I’ve never been able to pull that off.
You get in the groove or working in one way, and then you get orders for it, and the more you get orders, the more you’re making. It snowballs. Eight years later, I am still doing this technique called sgraffito, and it’s a black and white pattern. I tend to like the more geometric patterns. Maybe it’s the simplicity of those, I’m not sure exactly why I gravitate toward them, but maybe it’s a style choice, and everyone’s style is different. And my better sellers are the floral designs. Maybe the flowers are more accessible.
Q: Tell me about a bag that you have.
RD: My favorite bag is a backpack that I got from Bloomingdeals Thrift Store. It was $8, and it was amazing. It was probably a $400 bag, and someone just didn’t like it so they donated it. You could put everything in that bag. It was perfect, and then the zipper died.
I have been trying to get it fixed, and a friend of mine even took it to her shoe repair guy, and they couldn’t fix it. I’d really like to have this bag back in my life. Nobody fixes anything anymore. We live in this disposable existence.
Yet, I’m a potter. It’s funny that I’m making a living selling pottery; it seems so antiquated, but people love it. It can be strange when you think that in 2017 I’m selling pottery, and this is something that goes back to ancient times. It’s a pretty great medium. The longevity of pottery is fantastic. Once the clay is fired, it becomes ceramic, and it’s not going anywhere.
And I’ve always had this love for it. I didn’t even take my first wheel-throwing class until my junior year in college. I was a political-economy major from engineering, so I clearly had no idea what I was doing with my life. I took a random arts elective because I needed to fulfill a credit requirement, and a light bulb went off. It became a compulsion. I’m not sure I thought, ‘I can make a living off of this,’ but I was obsessed with pottery from the start. And I’ve been doing it ever since.
Rachael DePauw’s pottery is currently on display at The Historic New Orleans Collection (533 Royal Street), and she will also be at Jazz Fest on May 5 through May 7, 2017. You can also set up a private appointment to see her work at her studio as well as follow her on Instagram and Facebook.