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Meet Rena Hamilton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rena Hamilton.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Its been a long road, but I always knew that I wanted to give back to the local community and to create works that would enrich the lives of others. I studied to become an art teacher in the late 1990s at Ohio University and went on to earn a Masters of Arts in the early 2000s. From a practical mindset, I convinced myself to take a ceramics course in case I got a job that required that I teach it. Up until that point, my preferred medium was in the 2-dimensional discipline of printmaking. The material and process of clay did not come naturally to me. I was the very last person in my intro to wheel throwing course to learn to center a ball of clay on the pottery wheel! The beginner clay body is typically very rough and I remember my hands, along with my ego, being so tender, bloody, and bruised. Thankfully I’m full of grit and stubbornness and I don’t like to fail, so I stuck with it and eventually fell in love with the material. I have over 20 years in with clay now and I hope the best works are still yet to come. Outside of my own studio, I teach art with an emphasis in ceramics at a 6-12th grade public arts charter school full time, and am the president and founder of our local clay club, the Flagstaff Potters’ Guild.

Please tell us about your art.
I create finely crafted utilitarian ceramic objects for the table and home decor. Beyond gaining the skills to form with clay, there’s so much to learn about the various types of clay, firing temperatures, fuel sources, glaze chemistry and how it all works together. My preference is working with porcelain clay fired in my custom built wood-soda kiln high fired to cone 10 (approximately 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit). I’m obsessively thinking about about form, function, and surface and as Ellen Dissanayake would say, “making things special”. I often incorporate hand drawn and inlaid imagery, applying silk screened underglaze transfers to my wares, as well as layers of glaze and wax resist. It is satisfying to combine my first love of printmaking with utilitarian art pottery! It’s this combination of intense surface investigation with wood-soda firing that really sets my work apart from other pottery makers. I create the silkscreens in a small makeshift darkroom in the guest bedroom closet. The imagery I choose relates to my passions, interests, and first-hand experiences outside of clay. I’m a gardener, mountain bike and motorcycle rider, and skier. These passions are shared with many and allow for a shared connection to humanity, particularly from maker to user. The best feeling is attending a gathering and seeing my work on display, or on the table, in someone else’s home. Homes should be filled with objects that comfort and inspire, and bring beauty, and fun to any occasion.

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
I don’t think you can talk about success without talking about failure. Willingness to fail, reflect, and keep going is essential. In order to grow, and not stagnate, an artist must keep pushing the material and the quest for creating meaningful, engaging work. The next, better, piece. If you don’t work outside of your comfort zone, you’ll never create anything great. Working with clay certainly keeps me humble.    Pieces can crack or warp at any stage of the making and firing process.  Glazes can bubble, crawl, pop off, or become too milky and opaque masking the painstakingly created underglaze image.   The successes and joyful feedback from users keep me going.   I’ll share a couple of comments I’ve received from buyers of my work that make me feel successful: 1) “your pots are workhorses” which leads me to believe that they have some daily drivers, so to speak, in their cabinets and 2) “you look like your work” which makes me feel like I am making work that is a direct extension and reflection of me as the maker. I hope that to be strong, graceful, at times playful, and deliberate.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
In the Phoenix area, folks can purchase my work at the Earth and Spirit (Avila) specialty retail store in the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. I have wares at galleries around the country including Boston, New York, Chicago, and Nashville. Readers can see the complete gallery and exhibition list on my website, www.renahamilton.com on the “where” link. When I have enough work available, and have the honor of acceptance into some of the finest juried art shows in Phoenix, I’ll take advantage to connect buyers directly. The March Scottsdale Arts Festival is extraordinary; if you’ve never been you must put it on your list!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All photos of the work taken by the artist, Rena Hamilton. Photos of the artist taken by Robert Hamilton.

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

2 Comments

  1. Jennifer Tvorik L’Heureux

    March 13, 2019 at 12:51 am

    Rena, beautiful article – so inspiring and meaningful! Your work is amazing. So lovely to see what you are up to. You are an amazing woman. Best wishes. Jennifer

    • Rena

      March 25, 2019 at 12:42 am

      Heartfelt thank you, Jennifer! You were an early supporter and lover of the material and maker yourself. Thank you for the encouragement along the way. Keep making and sending love, beauty, and handmade out there! ox, Rena

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