Vessels for Comfort: Rachel Dubicki in the StudioMarch 11, 2016
In ceramics, the journey of an artist is tangible. It can be physically felt in the glazing and the form of the object itself. For Chili Bowl Workspace resident Rachel Dubicki, being able to feel how far she has come is important to her growing practice. Two humble pieces in particular are her reminders: A mug in which, according to a fellow ceramicist, Rachel had found her artistic voice; and a garlic jar in which, in the words of a former professor, everything Rachel had been working towards had come together perfectly. She still has that jar, and she still uses that mug everyday.
These objects are important to Rachel because she didn’t fall into ceramics easily. As a trained printmaker, her introductory ceramics class at Alfred University was one of the most difficult and frustrating, yet rewarding, things that she had ever done. “I just didn’t want to give up,” Rachel says. “The satisfaction of all the hard work I put into it was something that I couldn’t let go of. I had to keep doing it.” After a grueling semester filled with late nights throwing and trimming, everything finally clicked. Soon after graduation, she found herself in WSW’s Ceramics Studio making bowls for this year’s Chili Bowl Fiesta.
Rachel takes her time and carefully considers her approach through each delicate step of the ceramics processes, nurturing each of her minimally decorated pots from block of clay to finished piece. She determines the chemistry of the glazes she uses, compares it to the types of clay she throws with and calculates appropriate kiln firing temperatures. “I always say that I went to art school and got a degree in problem solving,” Rachel says.
Rachel’s favorite part of the bowl-making process is trimming. It is in this moment, after throwing and before glazing, that she has complete control over the form of her object. She cuts into the work, carving off thick slices of clay to form sharp rims and dramatic feet and refined curves. Her mugs have an hourglass figure, heavy on the top and bottom but curving inward along the shape of the hand. Rachel often forgoes handles because she knows that her pots can be held comfortably without them.
“I want the only thought that people have while holding the work is how it feels in their hands,” Rachel says. For this reason, Rachel focuses most of her attention on the shape and the tactility of her work, creating something that fits so perfectly into someone’s hands that they might even forget they’re holding it—it just melts into their grip and becomes an extension of themselves. Like room-temperature, the work is subtle in its comfort.
Once Rachel finishes trimming, she reflects on how to best highlight the form through glazing, and how to turn each piece into a vessel for relaxation. “Whenever I think about a color on a pot,” says Rachel, “I imagine an entire room in that color and how I would feel sitting in it.” She decorates her pots simply and elegantly, with solid swaths of color accenting each angle and curve. Studies have shown that the color blue is calming, and Rachel glazes most of her work in deep blues and teals. Her glazes run and catch on different parts of the pot—sliding down the lip and pooling at the foot.
By considering everything so thoroughly, and adjusting as things come up, Rachel creates thoughtful, comfortable objects—minimalist work in a world of excess. Her hard work and dedication to her craft is all for the person who uses her pots: precise, crisp forms combined with soft, matte glazes create a quiet moment of pleasure for anyone holding one of Rachel’s mugs.
Rachel Dubicki is an artist based in Stony Point, NY. She recently graduated from Alfred University with a BFA in Ceramics. You can see more from Rachel’s residency on our Flickr.