We had the good fortune of connecting with Raina Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Raina, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
To make work that doesn’t look like any one else’s and to not be afraid of making pieces that aren’t “beige” or safe sell. In making ceramics, you spend a few years purely learning technique, and to excel at anything you start by imitating the greats, learning the method your teachers make things, and learning and even copying peers, all for the sake of extending your skill set. You don’t really get comfortable in your own skill visually until you can master technique– for me it’s form making and glaze making. Only then can you push the limits of the material and get the outcomes you want, versus mistakes just being wabi sabi. Also, when I look to see what’s out there in ceramic art and interiors in general, I can see trends and aesthetics that have taken over. I feel it in my gut that I don’t want to make things that already exist, so for me its instinctual to try to make something else.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
CERAMIC ART: I’m an artist who makes sculptural and function works in ceramic. I spend much of my work creating unusual glazes, which have bubbly volcanic textures and day-glo colors, and creating painterly landscapes with my special combinations of glaze. I draw inspiration from extreme natural landscapes, such as the colorful rocks you see in Zion or Painted Hills, as well as rainbows of geothermal pools of Iceland and Yellowstone. I’m also deeply interested in ceramic history, such as classical Chinese, Persian, and Greek.
I’ve worked most of my life as a writer, author of non-fiction works as well as a zine publisher. I’ve been a publicist, start-up copywriter, an ad agency naming strategist. Mostly I’ve supported myself with writing. I published a handmade print zine that had a cult following in the early 2000 (1-Up MegaZine), as well as wrote Hit Me With Your Best Shot: The Ultimate Guide To Karaoke Domination. I am fairly comfortable to creating a product and going out into the world and selling it.
ADVICE TO CREATIVES
So many creatives I know aren’t comfortable promoting their work, either in person or online, but the way to be success is doing both. I cannot stress the value of doing in person events, whether they are trade shows, fairs, conventions, pop-ups because human connection is what people remember. Some people are shy, too worried of being “too much,” don’t like self-aggrandizing. What I try to stress is when you are writing a press release, marketing material, or even an IG post is that you are not writing as YOU. You are your brand persona, which is totally a different thing. It’s not personal, you are not exposed. You can have another Instagram account for your personal but when you promote your work it’s your work, that’s already in the world and not you. Don’t take it personally!
You have to 100% promote your work– no matter how amazing you think it is or how shy you are, it’s not gonna sell itself. Sorry, that’s just 100% true.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Gabriel Valley! Go for a Michelin Star meal at Bistro Na, order the crispy shrimp, marinated soy skin, watermelon juice and the elaborate 30 piece dessert, then go for $20 foot massages nearby! That’s how I impress New York friends.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The community of creative friends and fellow small business owners that have helped my work grow and thrive, such as early teachers at studios in New York, Ceramics professor Rob Kibler of Glendale Community College, fine artists Kozyndan, Tantuvi owner Arati Rao, fellow ceramist Minh Singer, Angie Myung and Ted Vadakan of Poketo. To many to name! All of my stockists, who are patient with me since they know I am a one-woman show! Claire and Phillip of Stroll Garden, who are giving me my first solo show in 2021! And my partner Mark Watanabe who does all my shipping, packing and display making, whose is over qualified to do these things as an architect. Thank you!
Mark Watanabe, Lindsey Kusterman, Shoppe Object, Stroll Garden