Architerior talked to Rachel Heibel, a ceramic artist based in Ann Arbor, MI, USA. We discussed her early memories of creativity and how they shaped her artistic mindset. She also shared the thoughts behind her current series of lights and planters that talk about mental health, and specifically seasonal depression. We also talked about the fact that in art nothing is ever fully “done.”
Rachel, how did you find your way into art?
My grandparents house was a place where I was allowed to make a mess. It was where I spent a lot of my early childhood. I was encouraged to paint and even more encouraged to draw when I was home, because it wasn’t messy. I was always most intrigued by physical objects that I could make, or something that I could repurpose, especially if it was outside. I have distinct memories of setting up a series of toys and a hose to make my own water fountain. I loved to make sand castles, or mud sculptures. My grandma showed me how to press and laminate wild flowers so I could keep them forever. I think that painting and drawing definitely were important to help me grow into an artist, and they still are things I enjoy, but these random challenges that I gave myself such as insulating my tree house for the winter in a pretty way, or dying my guinea pig’s fur so he looked nice in my video edits of him were what developed my mind to think in a way that is new and necessary to be an artist today.
Was education in art a part of your journey to become an artist?
Art education has developed me into who I am as a person and as an artist. As a child I was very active and my mind had to be entertained. I have very positive memories of summer art camps and weekend classes. The real impact came from my high school art teachers who soared high above what high school art teachers typically know and do. They were tough on me and critiqued me in a fair way, but never held back. They mentored me and helped me believe that I was suited for a place like The University of Michigan. Today I am a junior at The Stamps school of art and design at Umich. I have grown so much in these three years. I have experimented with all mediums and have settled into a place that excites and challenges me in the ceramics department. I love that I have one degree in art and design with a background knowledge with many mediums, while learning so much from the professors and the studio coordinator in the ceramics studio.
What techniques do you use?
I work primarily with ceramic, but I am excited to further develop skills with many three dimensional mediums in the time to come.
How does your planning and creation process look like?
I find that I often do very little preliminary work, especially when working with ceramic. There is a conversation that happens with the clay through the making process that I find to be most beautiful when not silenced by constraints.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on a large series of lights and planters that talk about mental health, and specifically seasonal depression. During the winter months in many places humans’ circadian rhythms are thrown off due to a lack of full spectrum light. I found that plants also need this full spectrum light to produce Vitamin D, just as we do. I’m making my pieces large so that they are floor standing in a room and hopefully help to combat seasonal depression.
Is there any artwork that you’ve created that is extra significant to you?
I think that my series “The Great Lakes” is especially significant to me because it was the first project that I worked large scale on and I hope to do so a lot in my career. I also think that with the help of my mentors I was able to communicate some important information about what climate change is doing to these large, beautiful bodies of fresh water.
What are the best things about being an artist?
I love that I’m able to see the specific choices and the brilliant human intent that went into producing all of the beautiful objects that I’m drawn to. I often think that if I wasn’t an artist, maybe I wouldn’t get so much joy from things that are beautiful because I wouldn’t have an understanding of the process behind creating.
What are the worst things about being an artist?
Since I’m at a university where I am surrounded by people with all different kinds of brains I often think about what it would be like to be pre-med, or an engineer maybe. I find that I am so lucky because I often genuinely enjoy my classes and I’m passionate about the work that I produce in them, but I feel like my mind never stops thinking about what I could be making or how I could be making more. I think many people’s work ends when the assignment is submitted, but in art nothing is ever fully “done.”
In ten years time, where do you see yourself and your creative work?
Ten years is a crazy amount of time and I love to dream about having my own studio and selling my work as my job. I could also see myself teaching while doing so, or even working in a museum setting maybe. I think keeping my options open while working hard will lead me where I’m meant to be.
If you could go back to the beginning of your art career, what advise would you give yourself?
This is the very beginning for me!