Among drying works of clay, jars of glaze and an arsenal of paintbrushes, artist Andrea Luna Reece warmly waves us into her airy garage studio. We're here to talk ceramics with the Costa Mesa-based creator, and over the course of 75 minutes we discuss much, much more, including painting, Nitro Records and Frida Kahlo. With a style so hip and unique it makes even her apron appear catalogue-worthy, Reece tell us how she crafts the modern vintage ceramic pieces we've seen in stores and for which we've developed a healthy obsession.
While cleaning and smoothing a few of her kiln-ready pieces with a damp sponge, Orange-born Reece rewinds back to the 1990s as a drawing and painting major at California State University, Long Beach. Though it was hardly her first, a ceramics class woke her up to realize, "This is so where I need to be," she recalls. Swayed to clay, she was accepted into the program and graduated in 1998 with a BFA in ceramics.
During her college years she handled publicity and advertising full-time for Nitro Records, the famous Huntington Beach-based indie punk rock record label backed by The Offspring frontman Dexter Holland. She continued on with the company post-graduation, then woke up once again to her true calling.
Reece fired up her ceramic work in 2000 and since then has seen her creations featured in numerous local boutiques, including Harmony HB Arts & Wellness Center in Huntington Beach, Organic Designs by Aggelige at The Camp in Costa Mesa, Ornate Home on Balboa Island, Twig & Willow in Long Beach, Love & Whiskey in Irvine and our very own online Made In HB Marketplace. Branching out of Southern California, Reece's goods are also stocked at Driftwood in Moss Landing, California, and Nellybelle General Store in Evergreen, Colorado.
One customer even bought a batch of Reece's ceramic pieces to use as salt and pepper shakers in a local restaurant. Says Reece, "I love seeing how my work is put into other people's homes."
On average she makes two to three pieces daily, but her process largely depends on the weather. "The wetter it is, the harder it is to dry," she explains, noting that her pace picks up come summertime and tends to lag during the winter.
Her success didn't come swiftly or without challenge. She and her husband raised their two sons, and her older son's own illustrating skills suggests her impact. Both of her boys, however, readily participate in creative time with mom. "My boys are always making things, and then they want to blow them up," she says, laughing. Reece elevates her art education contributions by volunteering twice a week teaching art at Sonora Elementary School in Costa Mesa as well as at her sons' schools.
Hugely inspired by nature, vintage pottery and music, Reece often pulls from the great outdoors to dream up her creations. Owls, birds, squirrels, foxes, fawns, flowers, vases and planters sprouting succulents crowd her studio shelves, as do earthy shades of black, gray, white, blue, green, yellow, pink and orange. Using molds both handmade and recycled from other artists, she brings her ideas to life with her hands inside her garage workspace as well as in her dedicated Santa Ana studio. After a bit of polishing and drying, she coats her clay works in glaze, feeds them to her electric kiln, then repeats the latter parts of the process again. Baking her works with precision at times proves impossible, such as when the kiln overfires and melts its contents.
"I can hold it loosely," says Reece of her work, which comes with much uncertainty. Envisioning the final product, due to the nature of glazing and firing, deems trying, but it's all part of the fun. Says Reece, "That's what I think has always been an attraction for me to clay in general."
When all parts behave, the results are stunning and functional. Long-necked, striped vases; sterile white bowls with playful animals perched atop the lids; hanging planters; multi-dimensional vessels and small plates hand-drawn with charming words and symbols like "hello," "love," anchors and feathers make up her collection, which appeals to everyone from the young hipster to the 90-something grandmother looking to freshen up her abode.
"I want to make things I would put in my own home," Reece says, nodding to both the decorative and functional elements of her work. Two questions she seems to constantly ask of her work are "What else?" and "What if?" She explores, she experiments and she evolves, and she tries to do it all organically with as little intention and structure as possible.
Aside from her ceramics, Reece also pours her creativity onto canvas. Bouncing between paint and clay, she dabbles in mixed media works utilizing not only paint and canvas, but also paper, dye, pencil, pen, charcoal and ink. This year Reece plans to focus on a series of paintings, though she's not entirely sure where her brushstrokes will take her. Images of cacti and houses come to mind but fail to fall exactly into place. "I know that my work is going to change in a new direction, I just don't know exactly," says Reece.
She also plans to return to hand-building with clay, which is considerably more time-consuming than working with molds, but at times much more creatively sating. Her work will likely pop up at local shows, like the Patchwork Show in Santa Ana, throughout the year.
"I just want to have fun," says Reece, who describes herself as lucky and blessed. And we just want to continue adorning our homes with her classic creations.