Rebecca Manson is a sculptor whose belief and process partially lay in the hands of chaos.  She’s a rebellious one, who has taken the rules of classic pottery and thrown them out the window.  If she’s using clay that can only handle a heat rating of 100 degrees, she immediately turns the kiln up a couple notches just to see what happens.  So, in a way, she’s a provocateur.  But one that has a beautiful object to show for it at the end of the day and yes, even a few nicks and scratches too.


Rebecca Manson (photo by Martin Shroeer), Pankow Pedestrian, fired clay, 18 x 11 x 5", 2011
Rebecca Manson, Pankow Pedestrian, fired clay, 18″ x 11 x 5″, 2011, photo by Martin Shroeer


Daniel Rolnik: How did you learn about making ceramics?

Rebecca Manson: I started taking pottery classes when I was eight years old.  And I thought I’d be a potter for a while, but then realized I was more interested in pushing the medium into the realm of sculpture.  The culture surrounding ceramics is still so stuck in its traditions.

Is it intentional that your work looks like it’s melting?

I see myself as a facilitator of the clay melting and breaking and that’s the most key element to my process.  So, I wouldn’t call it accidental, but it also isn’t too anticipated.  I use a specific type of clay that I know has a tendency to move in the kiln at certain temperatures and so I’ll always set the unit to at least 100 degrees beyond what it can withstand.

Are some of your pieces based on actual pieces of furniture?

I often go to furniture warehouses like HD Buttercup just to look at everything, but I don’t usually base an entire sculpture off of any particular piece.

Do you ever hide things in your sculptures?

Not anything consistently, but I may start hiding a fork in everything from now.

Why is that?

One got stuck in a sculpture while I was applying PC-11 to it and I really liked the way it looked.

What’s PC-11?

It’s an epoxy that I use to attach some of the elements to my sculptures.

How do you get some of your ceramics to look like sea-foam?

It’s a variation of a classic recipe, but it’s a top-secret process.

Why do you also have pieces made out of Styrofoam?

I work with other materials when I have a block.  For example, I built a pair of oil wells when I first moved to Long Beach in September [2011] to start my residency at CSULB because they are everywhere.  I thought I would be more affected by the landscapes out here, so this industrial thing has been a big surprise and allowed me to really get inspired again.

Do you paint the sculptures before you fire them?

It’s different every time.  Sometimes I glaze them and then fire them multiple times.  But on average I fire everything five times, which is pretty unconventional.

Do you get criticism from ceramic snobs about being so radical?

Yeah.  Some of them are like ”WHOA! I’ve never seen what she’s doing before” and others are like ”hmmm maybe she should take some classes.”

Are you ever frustrated with how your sculptures turn out after you’ve stretched them to the brink in the kiln?

Yes, sometimes it all goes to hell.  For example, I came back to the kiln after firing one of my favorite sculptures and the entire thing had disintegrated into dust except for one part that was buried beneath it all.  And then another time, I just over-fired a kiln by hundreds of degrees thinking it would make the sculpture turn out crazy, but when I opened the door to the unit I realized it had turned my piece into a rock hard puddle that was fused to the walls.  Most of the time though, I’ll get upset about these things and then months later I’ll appreciate them, as the best pieces I’ve ever made.

Rebecca Manson (photo by Martin Shroeer), The Salon, fired clay, 26 x 7 x 10", 2011
Rebecca Manson, The Salon, fired clay, 26″ x 7″ x 10″, 2011, photo by Martin Shroeer


All images courtesy of the artist