Rachel Herzer is a ceramicist, painter, and musician living and working in Freeport, Maine. A childhood spent in the forests and fields of Michigan, filled with creativity, drawing and music, informs the dual passions of her life: teaching and making.
Rachel spends her mornings either at the easel or in the ceramic studio, throwing and pinching both stoneware and porcelain, making tableware and planters, and her afternoons as a teacher, committed to passing on the life-enriching experiences of childhood artistic pursuits.
A graduate of both the School of Music and the Frostic School of Art at Western Michigan University, Rachel holds a BA in Music and a BFA in Painting. After falling in love with clay during her last few semesters of art school, Rachel has spent her post-graduate years continuing to pursue her passion for the field of ceramics. Her work has been supported by grants and residencies such as the Kalamazoo Artist Development Initiative Grant, the Arts Fund Award for Individual Artist, the Vermont Studio Center and the Gold Museum in Jinguashi, Taiwan and has been exhibited in Malaysia, South Korea, and Taiwan.
I fell in love with clay while in the midst of getting a painting degree. The tactile response of a malleable, ever changing medium was such a departure from my work at the easel. In the ceramic studio, the physical labor was astonishing and satisfying, the skill and finesse was intimidating, and the sheer scope of the medium’s history in conjunction with its current cultural relevance was invigorating.
After graduation, while working as a painter with an interdisciplinary studio practice, I took whatever ceramics classes I could, eventually finding that most of my work had been happily consumed by the clay studio. There was satisfaction and inspiration in developing technical skills at the wheel; there was harmony with clay’s artistic and societal fluidity. Clay was adept and appropriate not only as a prized, elevated art form but also for everyday use; it could span contexts, regions, and functions; its ability to tell stories about time and place was a constant companion to the human experience.
Now my work in the studio primarily focuses on functional ceramic pieces, inspired by various exceptional teachers and informed by my painterly perspective of surface, depth and color. I seek to create pieces that bring harmony and introspection through their use, carefully considering dimension, proportion, and the tactile experience in my design. I’m inspired by the scope of teaware, cultures, and traditions across the globe, fascinated by the routines of tea drinkers in Great Britain as well as the traditions of tea ceremonies in Japan. Returning often to the ideas of the tea ceremony as practiced in Taiwan (a relatively adaptable practice, flexible according to the practitioner’s skill level), I appreciate and admire the idea of ritual and meditation through tea, and in my work’s purest moments I hope to capture a small bit of these ideas. I hope my work combines the satisfying imperfection of the human hand with well researched ideas of form and tactile surface.
I believe in the ceramic object as a point of meditation itself, elevating the ordinary experience of food, drink or presentation, giving us the chance to appreciate moments of connection to art and handmade objects. Pottery can be a vessel for connection and communication, whether to ourselves, others, or the environment around us – functional art allows for a daily and routine relationship with beauty, art and reflection.
At this point in my creative exploration, my work is exploring this new medium – asking questions of myself and the clay while deciphering how and whether to translate ideas from my painting and interdisciplinary practices. I am interested in exploring function and scale, as well as surface design and the complexities of glaze chemistry. Most important to me is the experience of these functional pieces – in hopes that this work shapes our experience of our day, to enrich our lives with the beauty and care of the handmade. My hope is to translate sensibilities of peaceful and harmonic balanced color and form, allowing the functional pot to be used and appreciated aesthetically as a work of chance, chemistry and transformation.