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Central Mass’ Rebecca O’Brien Experiments With Pottery and Nature

Friday, June 28, 2013


One of Becky O'Brien's beautiful stone vessels.

West Boylston artist Rebecca J. O'Brien's life story has centered around two key passions, the separate desires to both create unique pieces of art and to help others any way she can. She is able to accomplish both goals  with her very own studio, RJ Arts, which doubles as her own personal workshop and a place where she can teach others her skills.

Her medium of choice is pottery, and this love of sculpting, as opposed to painting or other forms of expression, carries on a family tradition.

"At a very young age I was introduced to clay as an art medium. I still have some of the first pieces of clay art that I did with my mother as the ceramics teacher at the Girls Club of Worcester," remarks the artist.

Her love of clay became complete after auditing a wheel-throwing pottery class at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville, but this did not immediately become her career of choice. She moved to Philadelphia where she joined the Mercy Corps., and took part in volunteer social work for five years. In the meantime, however, she continued to take pottery classes, and spent time in local studios constantly experimenting. She worked in pottery shops as an apprentice and as a graduate assistant. She soon received her Master's Degree in Art Education and moved to back to Massachusetts where she began to teach and continue to perfect her craft. She opened the studio soon after. It quickly achieved success, and in the process, she remembered and acknowledged the power of family.

"I began RJ Arts after my second child was born in 2005, using my initials, but also the initials of my grandmother who was a beautiful influence on me growing up. Since opening RJ Arts the business has grown in direct correlation to my children growing," she says.

Stone Vessels and Tree Vases

Her current work is focused on "stone vessel sculptures" and "tree vases."

The stone vessels are exactly what one would think: a piece of pottery that uses stones as a key material in the final product. To O'Brien, stones come readymade to be used in such a way. She explains why.

"I have had a fascination with stones for many years. I enjoy the organic nature found in the shapes of stones at the beach or the stone walls found all around the New England states," she remarks. "For a long time I have wanted to create pottery reflecting this fascination with stones. I started making these stone vessels from beach stones I have gathered over time. The ocean and it’s free flowing elements have been another major influence on the shape and the unique form of every vessel as well as the spiral feet on which the vessel rests."

Over the past 15 years she has experimented greatly with textures, glazes, form, shape and technique. Each vessel, in a different way, is designed to reflect the "graceful and organic asymmetrical elements found in nature."
"I love that when each vessel is complete, it is one of a kind and has its own individual character," she says.

Her impressive "tree vases" also look to nature for inspiration, and show how truly excpetional her creative eye really is.

"I started making the vases in 1995 with the shape and form of a tree trunk in mind, which makes the flowers eventually put inside an extension of the tree, reaching and branching out as flowers and trees naturally do, " she says, describing the impetus for the creations. "However, I want the vases to be able to stand alone anywhere, existing as a sculpture celebrating the graceful and organic asymmetry naturally found in trees."

She loves trees for the same reason she loves stones, for the form, the texture, and the shapes they create, and the "organic positive and negative shapes they produce."

She is currently in the process of finding galleries where she can present these impressive works to the public-at-large.

The Future And Continuing to Benefit Others

"I am very excited about the future of my work," says O'Brien. "In my search for galleries, I am looking for places where visitors feel welcome to browse and are comfortable asking questions about artwork. I am looking forward to the possibilities that having artwork in galleries may afford."

 Perhaps more importantly, she is continuing to keep others in mind, as she has done her whole life.

"Aside from my own personal artwork, I enjoy using pottery as a fundraising opportunity for organizations and individuals in need and hope that I will be able to offer more of that when I am further established in galleries."

For more information on Rebecca J. O'Brien please visit her website.


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