ABC30 ORIGINAL: Celebrated potter Rae Dunn talks art, inspiration and growing up in Fresno

Graciela Moreno Image
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Celebrated potter Rae Dunn talks art, inspiration and growing up in Fresno
Rae Dunn's highly coveted clay pieces with the distinct long, black letters are the most popular pottery in the country - and have thousands of fans all over the world.

Look up the name 'Rae Dunn' on Instagram and you will be flooded with pictures of off-white pottery - with large, simple everyday words.

Hutches filled to the brim with mugs, canisters, and plates.

For fans, the addiction is real.

Many wait outside stores like Home Goods, anxious to be the first to get their hands on the latest release.

But the frenzy associated with Rae Dunn collecting contrasts with the calm inside the brightly lit studio in Berkeley where Rae spends her morning's building and shaping her works of art.

"I really have a hard time expressing myself. That's why when I found clay, I found my voice and just communicate through that."

She found her "voice" serendipitously about 25 years ago when the Fresno State graduate moved to the Bay Area for a job in industrial design.

Rae Dunn's pieces with the distinct long, black letters are the most popular pottery in the country - and have thousands of fans all over the world.

"I was riding my bike in Golden Gate Park and I spotted a beautiful building in the distance that looked like a castle."

Two classes in that art building fit her schedule - clay and glass.

"Naturally I flipped a coin to decide which one to take and it landed in clay and the minute it touched my hand, it changed my life."

Women - and men - seemed to instantly connect to the hand-made look of her pieces, fingerprints and all.

"When I first started, my pottery teacher was 'smooth those out you want it to be perfect,' and I was like, 'I don't want it to be perfect - I want it to look like somebody made it."

The natural flaws and imperfections are as inherent in her work, as those one-word messages.

"I think sometimes one word can be more powerful than a whole sentence... I feel like I'm so not a wordy person and I feel like my pottery resembles me - quiet, soft-spoken."

The images and lettering on her pieces have - for the most part - been small and understated until five years ago when she created the popular elongated-letter, or "ll" as it's known among collectors.

The demand for the line was so overwhelming she partnered with ceramics manufacturer Magenta.

"Now that there's so much in production - we all come up with words, the stores and my fans will come up with words... email me with certain words that might be good."

Those 'word suggestions' come from all over the world.

Her ll line is sold at TJ Maxx, Home Goods and Marshall's across the U.S., as well as Canada, England and Australia.

Though she tends to shun the spotlight, her "rockstar" status in the pottery world may not come as a huge surprise to those who knew her in high school.

Some academic subjects were not her forte, but she loved being part of Bullard's pep squad and Rae and her siblings even had their own band called "the Dunns."

Rae believes her musical upbringing was a significant influence on her work today.

One of her biggest fans is her former Tenaya Middle School teacher Kathy Robinson.

"I don't go by my kitchen without looking at something and think about how proud I am that this is a gal that made a mark in life and she did it without any fanfare, she did it simple, Earth-like and grounded," Kathy says.

Rae now wants to go bigger.

She plans to dedicate more time to large paintings and art pieces that will never touch anyone's lips but will bring joy.

"The function I want for these is for people to write their dreams and wishes on a piece of paper and stick them inside," she says.

Her new book In Pursuit of Inspiration is full of the things that feed her creative process.

She hopes it will inspire others to unleash their inner artist.

"I think we have innate ability to create and most of us just lose that as we get older. It's never too late to tap back into that."

She's also currently collaborating on a stationary line as well as a home and office furniture collection.

And fans, mark your calendars!

You have a chance to meet her in June during a book-signing. Here are the details:

WHAT: Book Signing by Rae Dunn

"In Pursuit of Inspiration"


1424 Fulton St

Downtown Fresno

WHEN: June 8, 1-4 p.m.

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