Seth Rainville '96: ceramics artist, educator, storyteller
Dedicated to his craft, with a passion for promoting the arts and artists.
Seth Rainville '96 is a potter, educator, and curator living in New Bedford, MA, where he divides his time between dedication to his craft and passion for promoting the arts and artists. His work diverges into two distinct categories. "Rainville-ware" is a functional line of ceramics devoted to the art of entertaining, while his signature "Ink-ware" gives Seth the freedom to be a storyteller. He fires in a variety of atmospheres and temperatures while pushing the boundaries of his material.
He graduated from CVPA, summa cum laude, in 1996, was a post-baccalaureate student in 1996-97, and served as an assistant studio technician in 1997-98.
I'm really proud of what is upcoming for me. I have been honored to be selected as a 2017-2018 Artist in Residence at the Ceramics Program – Office for the Arts at Harvard.
There I will have my studio and will prepare work for an exhibition at the end of the year, and will have tremendous access to all that Harvard has to offer: research libraries, conservation practices, museum curatorial access, and more. Beyond that, I will be teaching two classes.
Promoting the Cape's creative economy
I started teaching more and spending more time at the Falmouth Art Center, helping them develop their studio and curriculum. This summer, I'm teaching a Tableware 201 class there.
I now make most of my work there and decorate at home in my decorating studio.
Much of the work I am proud of in Falmouth is my quest to connect the general public to the creative economy of the Cape. We recently held an event I spearheaded called Showcase/Marketplace. This event highlighted 3 local professionals who all rely on the creative economy in different ways: a florist who works with local potters to create special vessels, an interior decorator who always promotes using local original art to her clients, and a chef who celebrates food with intentful tableware. Each of these professionals came in and demonstrated their talents while using wares produced by teachers and students at the art center.
We also held a two-day marketplace where our students and faculty had an opportunity to sell their art. After this event we have noticed an increase in sign-ups and interest in the art center, and the demonstrators have noticed an uptick in their businesses as well!
Recent & upcoming work
I am going to be in a series of shows, but most notably an exhibition called "At Your Service" at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, CA. My piece called "Daddy, why did the bad man win?" is featured in the show.
I will be conducting a workshop at Hartwick College in New York this fall as well.
Last fall, my "Weather Reports" show was held at the Gustin Gallery in Dartmouth. My work celebrated the diversity of emotions felt by one who has gone through immense change and adversity, a theme close to my journey in life. A November wood firing at the Gustin Gallery marked the closing of my show; my work then traveled to the Old Church Pottery Show in Demarest, NJ for December.
I also completed 500 soup bowls for New Bedford's 2016 annual Soup Bowl Supper, a fundraiser for the Neediest Families Fund.
Studio practice that follows the seasons
My studio practice changes like the tide. I will sketch out ideas in my sketchbook constantly, and when an idea for a body of work hits me, I dig in and get to the studio. I throw and assemble, carve, sand, and then bisque the works as a whole. Once the works come out of bisque, I spend most of my time in my decorating studio at home where I have my library, and other inspirations to draw from.
Once the works are decorated, it's on to firing, whether in a wood kiln or in an electric kiln. Lately my work has been either cone 6 Oxidation or High temp wood firing.
This progression happens multiple times a year, and seems to follow the seasons. I'm usually in the making studio about 6 months of the year, the decorating studio about 3 months of the year, and the rest of the time is spent firing.
I teach at a variety of institutions and do workshops across the country. Although I only teach an average of two classes a week and about 4 to 7 workshops a year, I love the community of it, and I find that my ideas really flourish after a workshop or by the end of a semester. Teaching keeps you sharp and is valuable for creating connections in the art world as a whole, so I certainly consider it a big part of my studio practice.
The "clay world" in Arizona & at home
In 1998, I made the decision to move to Arizona following some personal and emotional upheavals. I did what I could to get involved in the clay world there, and within the year, I was teaching at the Phoenix Center for the Arts and the Mesa Art Center. By the end of my second year, I was deeply immersed in the Arizona art culture and did not look back. I truly feel like the world responds to the energy we put out into it.
While my time in Arizona was evolutionary, and served as the solid foundation for what I would become, my career really took off when I came back home in 2008 and was taken on by Leslie Ferrin. She brought me to SoFA Chicago and New York for years and also showed my work at her gallery. At the same time, I was fortunate to reconnect with Jim Lawton, served as the UMassD studio manager, and was lucky enough to make some great friends along the way. Actually, one of the students I worked with that year became my business partner in 2009, when we opened NAVIO Artisans Collective, a gallery of fine craft in New Bedford.
Evolution & consistency
My work has changed dramatically over the years. I started my career making primarily functional wares with layered wax resist glaze techniques. I sold to the general public as well as to restaurateurs in the Scottsdale, AZ area. Almost by accident, I went back to making my "Ink-ware" as a demo in a wood fire class I was teaching at the Mesa Art Center. The demo came out of the kiln and made its way into a collector's hand before it cooled to room temp.
My senior show at UMassD consisted of narrative wares that spawned the basis for the work I make, but it was the demo in that class and the energy of the imagery on that piece that really made me go forth with confidence. Once I devoted the majority of my energies to "Ink-ware," I started to get more sculptural with my forms and began manipulating the surfaces in deeper, richer ways.
Here's what hasn't changed: my love of storytelling and my love of black and white as the launching point for my work. My efforts to be a superb craftsman, and to promote our art form, have only grown over time.
To live as an artist: be bold
The best advice I can give anyone who wants to live a life as an artist is to be bold. Rarely will you meet anyone successful who has just followed the "path."
You always hear about struggle and perseverance being the catalyst for change that makes one great or successful: the days when you feast on Ramen noodles and make mugs till 2am in a basement studio. Whether you are an undergrad or a grad student: just remember, it's only a beginning, not an end. Do whatever it is you have to push through and be bold.
Don't give up. You need to understand that the world owes you nothing, so you must go out there and make it happen.