Photographs by Guy Ferguson and Rachel Saunders
We love discovering ceramic artists on Instagram and @rachelsaudersceramics is one we’ve been following and keeping tabs on for inspiration. It was serendipity then to discover a message from Rachel herself when we met at Paris Fashion Week’s Man/Woman show where we showed DAMDAM. We’ve stayed in touch since then – despite the Vancouver-Tokyo divide! – and had a little chat about her craft, how to pursue a self-taught passion, and which skincare product she loves to share with friends.
Hi, Rachel! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello! Currently, I live and work in Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island off the West Coast of Canada. I’m originally from an even smaller island off, but have been calling Victoria my home for some time now. I’m a ceramicist primarily, but my work also extends to art direction and design consultation. It keeps things interesting for me as I like to get outside my own head once and a while and work with inspiring brands and interesting people. Mostly though I make and sell my own work in my studio in Chinatown that I share with four of my close friends called Upside Studios. My ceramic work is a mix of functional and sculptural pieces that have a constant thread highlighting the inherent natural beauty of the clay.
“My ceramic work is a mix of functional and sculptural pieces that have a constant thread highlighting the inherent natural beauty of the clay.”
How did you get your start with ceramics?
About four years ago, I was working for a big company in the fashion industry in L.A. and I realized quite quickly that it was so far from my calling to be sitting at a desk all day and fighting traffic all night. I felt so disconnected from everyone and especially myself, and made the decision to return to my island home. I innately knew since childhood I would work for myself and work with my hands, and I also wanted to create something functional that would add beauty to people’s lives. Ceramics was a perfect fit, and I had conveniently fallen in love with the medium right before I made my departure to L.A. Upon returning home I found a communal studio and started volunteering at it so I could learn from the ground up. I made a lot of messes and even more mistakes – both of which I continue to do – but I eventually taught myself how to make things I liked and continue to learn and grow everyday.
How would you describe the aesthetic of your ceramic work?
I think one of the most interesting parts about any form of art or craft is how, when done authentically, it can subconsciously and naturally reveal and express aspects of the maker that can not be seen otherwise. Of course I am influenced by what is around me and what I choose to take in, but there is a lack of control I like to maintain in regards to what I actually produce to keep a certain level of authenticity about what I make. I like it to come from myself, but also somewhere deeper. Sometimes I will set out to make a certain design that I have consciously thought up, but a lot of it comes from just doing it and seeing what angles and shapes I am naturally drawn to. This method teaches me about myself, and sometimes I step back to look at a collection and can see different parts of myself that I was not aware of before. I also use a very select colour palette in my work, but am also partially colour blind so I sometimes wonder if it’s as cohesive to others as I see it. I am not a very deep artist in terms of trying to convey and idea to an audience, but I do like to connect with people and I find handmade objects that can enhance and bring presence to our daily lives is a way that works well for me.
What inspires your work?
Beautiful people from different worlds than my own, food and community, love and nature.
“To wake myself up I’ll give myself a facial with a jade gua sha tool, working in the [DAMDAM] Magic Drops Balancing Oil, and finish with an ice cube. This has been my go-to routine lately and it makes me feel so cared for and alive.”
Tell us a bit about what you call your “Found” collection. How do you want this to start a conversation around sustainability?
I had become increasingly burnt out from producing so much of my own work and saying ‘yes’ to so many projects that I really needed to take a step back from production. Quantity became more important than personal meaning as I stretched to meet demand and my mental and physical health took a toll. I wanted to take a step back and assess my own values and intentions for my business, and it was never to put as much out into the world as possible, it was to always have meaning behind each piece. I have always been an avid vintage picker and collector, and I’d always come across incredible pieces of pottery that I just couldn’t justify bringing into my already pottery laden home. I got so inspired by all the incredible pieces I found that I wanted an outlet to not only share what I found, but also highlight the notion of sustainability and repurposing what already exists in this world. With each collection I make a donation to a different environmental fund which has been an extremely gratifying part of the process. I’ve been so grateful of the response I’ve received and look forward to many collections to come.
Do you have a morning ritual to get you in the right creative headspace?
After a couple years of working for myself, I finally realized I can make my own schedule and play by my own rules which has been really liberating for me. Instead of darting off to the studio at 9 A.M. now, I have really taken to very slow, self-indulgent mornings which seem to make me more productive overall. It’s such a privileged luxury to be able to do this, and I feel very lucky that I can start the day in a way that really fits my own rhythm and adds to my inner balance. I like to give myself a lot of attention in the morning, and like to spend it alone to have time to myself. To wake myself up I’ll give myself a facial with a jade gua sha tool, working in the Magic Drops Balancing Oil, and finish with an ice cube. This has been my go-to routine lately and it makes me feel so cared for and alive. I always look forward to breakfast, usually making a healthy little bowl with colourful ingredients. Ideally I do 10 minutes of meditation or go to an exercise class like barre or Pilates. But this is me on my best day. I have plenty of days where I stay in bed too long getting strung out on my phone, and enter the studio in an anxious, scattered headspace, but I’m slowly trying to weed those days out!
“I was just on a trip with my girlfriends and one of them borrowed my [DAMDAM] Nomad’s Cream Cleanser to try. As soon as she finished washing her face she grabbed her phone and placed an order for one of everything because she had never used anything so good and gentle before! Sharing is caring.”
We’re so happy to hear you’re enjoying our products!
I’ve loved absolutely every product I’ve tried so it’s hard to pick. Everything is SO gentle and subtle, and smells so amazing and natural. I might have to say the Paradisi Mist is my current favorite, because its more moisturizing than most toners I’ve tried. I spritz it into my hands and softly pat onto my face and it leaves me dewy and hydrated. I was just on a trip with my girlfriends and one of them borrowed my Nomad’s Cream Cleanser to try. As soon as she finished washing her face she grabbed her phone and placed an order for one of everything because she had never used anything so good and gentle before! Sharing is caring.