LOS ANGELES – Working from a home studio may not be ideal for work-life balance, but for artists, it’s a dream. Ceramicist Raina Lee has been shaping clay into pottery out of her garage since 2016 and for her, it’s the perfect balance of her passion and life.
“I really just love the feel of the clay. It feels like earth. It feels almost like flesh,” said Raina Lee. “My favorite part is throwing on the wheel. The fact it’s a machine, it’s basically a tool, but you’re using it to make whatever shape you want.”
Having grown up in Rancho Palos Verdes, Lee attended the New School in New York and got a job working as a copywriter in PR and advertising. She happened to live near a ceramics studio and after taking a few classes, she ended up renting part of a communal studio where she was surrounded by professional artists.
All artists are essentially a small business so participating in group shows and fairs taught her how to sell her works early in her career. But ceramics is not a product Lee can mass produce. Each piece is hand-thrown and glazed and can take threee to four weeks to complete.
“For me, I can’t really scale up for mass retail and it really only works in a gallery or boutique setting where only a few pieces are available and it’s a limited run,” said Lee.
With nonessential retail only allowed to open to limited capacity, it’s difficult for galleries and artists to sell art, but Lee’s house has one hidden secret she’s been using to her advantage. It came with a treehouse that she’s converted to an exhibit space where she has been accepting private appointments.
Saelee Oh is an artist and collector and she’s here looking to buy a gift for her mother.
“I do miss going to art openings and cultural events and being able to see other people, but I found that being able to experience art in a different way and to be able to go directly to artist homes and studios and be in a beautiful treehouse like this has been quite a perk,” said Oh.
The best perk being the chance to hear from the artist directly about their process.
“Is that a new glaze?” asked Saelee.
“Yeah, this is like six or seven new glazes,” said Lee.
At first, Lee felt strange trying to sell her work during a pandemic, but she found people were actively seeking home goods for their home office. For her, the best part is getting to know her customers.
“I make all the glazes. I fire it right here and for me to be able to see who it goes to and to have a real connection with them, that is something you just can’t do online,” said Lee. “You can’t just send a work out into the world and have that same experience.”
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