Rebecca Wood came to Athens in 1975 to study art and develop her drawing and painting skills at the University of Georgia. In 1991 she launched her own popular eponymous ceramics business, born at the intersection of Athens music, art and culture. Wood and her staff of six artists craft colorful and durable functional pieces ranging from dinner plates to mugs to special collections with floral detail made-to-order by Wood. Her east side studio and shop is a wonderland of brightly glazed clay.
The Red & Black: What was it like being a creative in Athens in the 1970s?
Rebecca Wood: It was just an amazing time, a lot of creativity. The music scene came out of the art department too. Back then the cost of living was so cheap that you could literally just do nothing except lay around on a hot, sweaty summer afternoon, just talking and brainstorming, like “Oh, let’s make a band.” So that’s how [my studio and art] was able to get generated.
R&B: How big is your business now?
RW: We have seven employees, plus me, in a big old produce warehouse just near downtown. We’re kind of using up every ounce of the room right now, which would have blown my mind if you had told me that when we started out. We are open every day, and people come shop and come watch us make things. Everyone here pretty much knows how to do all the things so if somebody needs to go off and on again, an opportunity to go abroad or their band goes on tour it’s not really an issue because we can all just kind of fill in.
R&B: Where do you find inspiration?
RW: Nature, always in nature, because I was of the generation that left the house in the morning and came home at dinnertime — the whole time I was out in the woods. We had creeks and pastures and woods around my house. I was just always in nature and I’ve always been a real observer. So that’s where I just learned everything about colors and shapes and symmetry and all that, and nature is just a never failing inspiration. Of course I go to museums and am inspired by thrift store stuff and textiles — but always nature, primarily.
R&B: What are your go-to spots for thrifting or antiquing around Athens?
RW: I always go to Reed’s Odds and Ends out on 441, near Watkinsville, and just any thrift store or any estate sale. But lately I’ve acquired so much stuff, and now I’m in the age of putting on the brakes and saying, “Don’t look, don’t even go in the place!” The only thing I’ll allow myself now is to go to pottery sales, and I’m still pretty addicted to buying pottery because it’s all inspiring. I’m not much into buying though, I’m really trying to steer clear — I’m in the giving away mode right now.
R&B: What makes Athens such a great art town?
RW: We’re just wall-to-wall with high level artists in this town of all disciplines. So that’s what’s so great about Athens, and that it’s such a collaborative atmosphere. When I used to try to be an artist in Atlanta, nobody was going to share with you their client list or anything they were doing because they wanted to keep everybody for themselves. Here it’s just so much more collaborative, you realize the benefits of working together and collaborating.
R&B: What local artists inspire you?
RW: I love Adrienne Antonson’s State with their clothing designs and then Rinne Allen, of course. She’s done our photography for years, and she’s top level. And there’s another good photographer, Amanda Greene, who’s really great at capturing that old South kind of dying ways of life. And then Mimi Maumus over at home.made. She’s the most creative chef in town.
R&B: What plans do you have for the future of your studio?
RW: I teach Japanese flower arranging [ikebana] on the side. And we’re going to start doing that like once a month at the studio … It’s such an easy way to learn balance and symmetry and study beauty and nature. And it’s meditative — I mean, nothing but benefits to it and it’s easy to learn. So, we’re going to be doing that here and I’ll be doing some more ikebana workshops around town too.
This article was originally published in our fall/winter 2023 Visitors Guide.
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