Artist Spotlight: Ron Rael and Virginia San Fratello

Through any one of Northern Clay Center’s programming legs, exhibitions, residencies, events, etc. there are opportunities to learn about makers and methods that fall outside of our traditional definitions of clay as a material and a process. NCC’s 2016 exhibition A Tipping Point: Technology in Ceramics, curated by Heather Nameth Bren, brought Ron Rael and Virginia San Fratello into our midst and they have altered our perspectives on the world with their approach to ceramics, 3D printing, and architecture. If you are not already following them, do so now. They are making social and political impact with their concepts and creations. If anyone ever told you to think bigger and you weren’t sure where to begin, this duo is a great model to emulate. We encourage you to check out Rael’s book Border Wall as Architecture as exhibit number one in our argument for why you should follow their careers.

NCC: Tell us about your work.
RS: Our work looks at traditional craft culture, local traditions, contemporary cultural phenomena, and technology, and blends that complexity into work that creates stories and asks questions.

NCC: Where do you make your work?
RS: Oakland, California and the San Luis Valley in Colorado mostly, but also, wherever a project might take us.

NCC: How long have you been making?
RS: Together, since around 2001.

NCC: What did you do before that?  
RS: Virginia worked in architecture offices in New York, Ron in Rotterdam. Ron grew up on a ranch in Colorado where one doesn’t have a single profession.

NCC: What is your background in?
RS: We are both trained architects with rural backgrounds in forests and ranch upbringings.

NCC: How do you supplement your practice?
RS: We are professors of architecture at the University of California at Berkeley and San Jose State University in Silicon Valley.

NCC: What do you love most about making your work?
RS: The stories that create the work are more important than the work itself

NCC: What is the hardest part?
RS: Letting it go.

NCC: What are your goals for the future of your work?
RS: To bring the work more into the environment and to scale up the work to make environments.

NCC: What do you see as your biggest achievement so far?
RS: Bringing together software, hardware, and materials in 3D-printing large-scale adobe structures.

NCC: What else are you excited about in your life?
RS: Our son, family, and the family ranch in Colorado.

NCC: What art do you look at for inspiration?
RS: We are less inspired by art, than we are the natural world and traditional craft cultures. However, we are lucky to have friends who are also our favorite artists.

View and purchase their work here.

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