This is one of an occasional series of blog posts about the passion behind the artists whose work will be part of Rose Squared Art Shows.
Marcia Reiver planned to go into medicine, but a disastrous anatomy and physiology instructor pivoted her in another direction. Thankfully.
Reiver loved to draw as a child but the idea of becoming a professional working artist “wasn’t who I thought I was supposed to be,” she says.
Doctor and lawyer were more acceptable and so was graphic design. Reiver worked in that industry before switching to retail, managing sales for a shop that sold European children’s clothing. She started her own clothing line after earning a master’s in fashion design from Drexel University.
She got married, had a child, opened a custom sewing business and then finally got her hands dirty again.
That not only felt good, it felt right.
“I hadn’t touched clay in 18 years,” Reiver says. “I never looked back.”
Her hands of gold create ceramics influenced by fabric patterns, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and sometimes, the collection of vintage pocketbooks she acquired as a youngster. Her specialty, Raku pottery, refers to a firing technique that involves removing glazed pieces from the kiln when it’s as hot as 1,850 degrees.
“Each piece is individually pulled out by me so the kiln’s not doing the work. I am doing the work,” Reiver says. She leans toward vivid colors, which means exposing each piece to oxygen to allow the colors to retain their brightness.
“If you look at my pieces, each of the colors is placed there not because the glazes decided to put them there,” Reiver says. They’re intentional. She draws out the details of the design and tapes the lines off before the glazes are applied for a graphic look. The glazes are applied inside and outside of each piece.
Reiver gravitated toward Raku when she became frustrated at what she calls “double dipping” as a wheel potter. After dipping a piece in one glaze and allowing it to dry, she’d repeat the process yet didn’t achieve the colors she desired.
“Have you ever tried raku?” a colleague asked.
Today Reiver teaches that technique in suburban Philadelphia, reminding her students to be mindful when removing pieces from the kiln as a lapse in safety can result in second- or third-degree burns. But her happiest place is inside her own studio, a murder mystery playing on the iPad, her puppies, two Hungarian Pulis that look like black mops, as companions. That’s where she brings her largely decorative ceramics — kettles, lamps, lidded boxes —to life.
“I have an idea of what I want to create,” Reiver says. “The piece actually tells me what it wants to look like. As I start creating, things just start evolving and the clay speaks to tell me how I need to modify it and what details I need to add. I almost envision it in my mind as I’m working.”
The results are nothing short of stunning. Be sure to stop by Marcia Reiver Ceramics at the Rose Squared Art Shows to have a look this spring.