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Rebecca May Verrill

Rebecca is primarily a ceramic artist and what she calls a “papercut artist”. She also weaves baskets and likes to garden, all of which are connected. She has been with RWS for 8 or 9 years. Rebecca was the first new member in our current location. Rebecca has always made art. She has to. “I feel the most like myself when I am creating. My favorite parts are those aha moments that I didn’t plan on happening that happen and that I learn from, much like my health.” A little over two years ago, and just before the pandemic, Rebecca was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Rebecca says making ceramics keeps her humble because nothing is for sure until it comes out of the kiln the second time. “Change is inevitable but the unknown makes it exciting especially with a process of having to go through 2000° fire several times.” She often finds inspiration while hiking in the woods looking at plants, rocks, and lichen, bugs even. “Artistically I’m really inspired by plants growing out of cracks in the sidewalk and thriving through harsh conditions where they aren’t really expected to survive but they do. The will to survive, to beat the odds, there’s something beautiful about that.” Growth and cheerfulness are thematic throughout her work, which has caused her to change the way she works as well, allowing her work to become even more colorful. Rebecca used to make wood-fired ceramics and she loved the process, but part of the reason she changed to electric or gas-fired kilns was because she didn’t want to make brown pots anymore, which is quite often the result of work fired with wood. She wanted to use color. “This work feels so much more like me. We grow flowers not because we can eat them; color feeds us.” She spends a lot of time with paper and scissors. Her studio is covered in cutouts of fictitious plants that grow in her mind. Imagine garlands of white flora hanging from bookshelves, cutouts scattered across her work table and stuffed into handmade bowls. Rebecca attributes her new aesthetic and shift in process to recent changes in her outlook on life as well as her passion for sustainability. This growth and change feeds her work and she wants people to see the joy in her pieces. Freshness is important to her as well, which is why she takes the time to cut new plants for each piece. She never reuses a stencil or cutout, so no two are the same. The image, just like an organic plant, is always growing and changing. In nature there is always variation and that imperfection is part of what makes it beautiful.

She started working in earthenware when she moved to New York for graduate school. She had been living in New Mexico for several years and moving back East was really hard for her, but the fortuitous clay deposit that fell in her lap made it worthwhile. The regional clay happened to be earthenware and she had many years experience working in high-fire. So she started working in earthenware and it stuck. “It's lower impact, has a lower carbon footprint--where it’s coming from, where it’s going. There’s something beautiful and wonderful about earthenware breaking down, such as a brick wall or decaying flower pot; it’s beautiful." And her favorite tool? Scissors! “Well, actually hands and then scissors, and then paper. Which is an interesting approach to start with considering I'm a self-proclaimed ceramic artist.” She’s inspired by Matisse and his cutout series he made late in life after a successful career making a different body of work. Matisse called this process “drawing with scissors”. Rebecca draws a parallel between her experience and his cancer diagnosis, which forced him to be bound to a wheelchair and bedridden and to pursue new ways to make art. “I think about this a lot, even more so since my diagnosis. Much like growing through a crack in a sidewalk, creating this body of work that was his most successful, that was so analog with a pair of scissors and a piece of paper. You could do that sitting on a rock or in a bed.” Not only does Rebecca run with scissors, she draws with them too. Her work will be featured on First Friday in November at Maine Craft Portland where you can find her work regularly. They invited her to collaborate and make a chess set with her friend Steve Hall (@sehallfurnituredesign) for the Craft Makers Gambit. Rebecca can be reached via her website, and on Instagram (@rebeccamayverrill).


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