Inside the Artist’s Studio with Rachel Donner

Rachel’s cups are on view in our juried exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels”. Her cups are available for purchase in our Online Gallery Shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com


I grew up in Taos, New Mexico and attended college at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado. Santa Fe, New Mexico has been my home for just one and a half years. I moved here from Cincinnati, Ohio where I had just done a yearlong artist residency at Core Clay. I was ready to get back to the southwest and move closer to family and friends. Though I took a job as an assistant to a local clay artist, I set up a studio and worked diligently in all of my spare time. By the end of December 2015 I was ready to take the leap and quit my job. As I write this, it is just about my one-year anniversary with “Rachel A. Donner Ceramics”.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

Rachel at work in her Santa Fe Studio.

The following is a brief description of my process:

Functional pottery is the primary art form I indulge in. Sketching, repetition, trial and error, and real world observation fuel my design choices for form, surface, and function of the pots I make. I use the potters wheel to form the pots and then decorate them during the leather hard stage. One of my favorite forms to make is cups. There is something infinitely satisfying about making cups. With every cup I make, despite the simplicity of a cup, I find new details, subtlety, and exploration within each one.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

tools for inlay

After throwing and trimming, the first layer of decoration is inlay. I use an xacto blade to make lines or hole punching tools in varied shapes (square, triangle, circle, or flower). Using Amaco Velvet Underglaze, I inlay color into the thin lines and wipe away the excess with a sponge.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

ready for color inlay

Rachel Donner Ceramics

inlay before the excess is wiped off

Rachel Donner Ceramics

craft punches for making paper stencils

Next comes the paper stencils. I cut out different basic geometric shapes with craft punches (made for scrapbookers) using plain, cheap printer paper. Dip these stencils in water and they adhere perfectly to leather hard clay. Then, I paint on the main color of underglaze over the stencils and after three coats, peel off the stencils and clean up the lines and foot of the piece. This completes the green stage. After bisque, each piece is coated in a translucent glaze and then fired in an electric kiln to cone 5.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

part way through the stencil removal

Rachel Donner Ceramics

a nearly finished bowl next to a pile of used paper stencils

I love clay because it is alive. Every step of the way you have to be there to take it through the process. To quote my artist statement, “Creating something out of clay is like healing a wound.” There is never ending mystery and growth when working with clay.

Rachel Donner Ceramics

cups by Rachel Donner

Rachel Donner Ceramics

cups by Rachel Donner

Rachel Donner Ceramics

detail of cups by Rachel Donner

Instagram is one of my favorite social media platforms and I use it regularly to show all parts of my process, even the failures (follow me @666_tinka). From beginning to end and everything in between, it’s really fun to share what is happening with your fellow makers in the sweet online clay community. I also have a website at www.racheladonner.com.


Stop by Main Street Arts to see two cups by Rachel Donner in our current exhibition “The Cup, The Mug: A National Juried Exhibition of Drinking Vessels” (juried by ceramic artist Peter Pincus, exhibition runs through January 6th). Rachel’s work is available in our Online Gallery Shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by furniture maker Patrick Kana.

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