Rae Dunn Clay, Emeryville


last week, i headed over to west Berkeley for mid-afternoon tea with Rae Dunn at her beautiful studio.  Rae and i had worked together on some projects a few years ago, but somehow, we'd never met in person.  we recently struck up a conversation on instagram (where she posts pictures of all her studio visitors- so fun!), and when she mentioned coming over to visit, i jumped at the chance. in my travels, i have been lucky enough to visit countless artist studios and "spaces of making", and hands-down, ceramic studios are always my absolute favorite.  clay is so tactile, so real. it goes through many forms before the finished product is complete, and the process is incredibly transparent- i love walking through a studio space and seeing pieces at every stage of production.

Rae's studio was absolutely beautiful, as was she.  the light was mesmerizing, and the sounds of streetlife breezed in through a huge door, covered in linen. i had the pleasure of meeting two of her neighborhood friends, a interior designer and a ceramics artist, and along with Wilma, Rae's dog, the four of us shared tea, cookies, and conversation, all while trying to keep my one-year-old daughter Charlotte entertained and happy.  (Wilma did a great job of cleaning up the trail of cheerios strewn throughout the studio...thank you ladies for your patience and help!)

Being familiar with Rae's ceramics through her shop and the samples we exchanged when working together, I found it fantastic to see the breadth of her work in one place.  Her larger-scale vases stood out to me immediately.  I hadn't seen any of her work of that scale, and they made a great impact.  Rae mentioned she is becoming more and more interested in scale, and is looking forward to making more one-of-a-kind pieces.  I also particularly loved the low fruit bowl on her table, and the small plates with unglazed edges that we ate our treats from- they had a perfect, almond tone and were decorated with a little sketch of a bee. (similar here). Perhaps my favorite part about Rae's work are the glazed color cards that she produces for her projects- they are a beautiful artifact of the process.  I have several hanging above my own desk.  What I love about Rae's work is that it is hand-built, and you can see her touch in every piece.  She has an eye for silhouette, and her shapes feel effortless in the hand, as if they have always just been there.  Her handwriting and sketches give her work a lively spark, a reminder to not take life too seriously and to embrace joy.

As we wrapped up tea, Rae was kind enough to let me take some photos while Charlotte enjoyed a stroller ride around the studio.  It felt wonderfully inspiring to be within such a creative space and enjoying quiet, thoughtful conversation.  It has been quite awhile since I picked up my camera, and after shooting for just a few minutes in her studio, I am hooked again and excited to re-educate myself on photography.

Many thanks to Rae (and Wilma!) for inviting me over and sharing their afternoon with us.   Despite chasing the baby around, it was a much needed moment of respite and break from the normal, i left feeling re-invigorated and creatively recharged.  truly the sign of an afternoon well-spent.

to learn more about Rae, visit her website

all images by Alexandra Sklar for The Merchant Home, please link back and credit appropriately.