ARTIST INTERVIEW: Rebekah Miles
Rebekah Miles is primarily a painter using clay as her “canvas”. Many of her paintings are interpretations of images that appeal to a sense of place and beauty, such as an antique loteria set (mexican bingo) from the 1800’s, a seed savers exchange catalogue, and a California native plant identification book. She strives to make modern pieces that feel like heirlooms. We spoke to Rebekah about her background and inspirations.
What is your background and how have your past experiences fed into your art?
I studied painting and art history in school and in 2008 I began making hand painted book covers as functional/sculptural paintings. I did a project at my local public library checking out art books, particularly ones with wear and tear, making new covers, replacing the shelf tags/barcodes, and returning them. They continue to live on the library shelves and remain in circulation. At the same time I connected with Rodarte/the Mulleavy sisters, who have commissioned me to make covers for well over a hundred different books.
Not long after I began the book covers I also started teaching myself hand building with clay as another alternative canvas. I wanted to make pieces that pay homage to the tradition of the art form, feeling both like an heirloom and my own expression. The imagery I depict on my ceramic works is often derived from what I see as California culture: in the landscapes of an antique loteria set, female archetypes from pre-digital graphics of Mexican canned foods, a book of California native plants, and a Seed Savers catalogue. Other pieces are inspired by miscellaneous ideas using google images or found objects, but as a whole I am moved by nature and our relationship to the natural world.
Do you feel that your environment feeds into work and if so, what makes your work distinctively Californian?
My environment very much feeds into my ideals as an artist. I come from five generations of a farming family on the central coast, and I will carry on in the ways of avocado and specialty fruit ranching. As an artist working with clay and natural imagery, I am honoring my surroundings and my respect for the earth and soil that feeds us and we will return to in the cycle of life.
What are your top 3 studio essentials?
A pot of tea (motivation!), soft clothes (comfort!), and a good attitude (the zone!)