Rebekah Miles | Hand Painted


Rebekah Miles is a California based artist and ceramist. She grew up in the foothills of the Los Padres Mountains on her family’s avocado and cherimoya ranch. Her work is an extension of her environment, deeply rooted in California. Rebekah is inspired by California plant taxonomy, her family’s heritage, and loteria. Her work as functional as it may seem, is just as much sculptural. Her modern techniques mixed with the antiquity of flower motifs giver her pieces a timeless feel.  When she’s not in the pottery studio, she’s working on her hand painted book cover project, all books selected based on a range of subjects, artists, and authors. Rebekah’s unique pieces all tell a story of a time and place in California. Her work not only makes you feel right at home with the sense of familiarity in her drawings  but she transports you to her world of native flowers, fruit, and animals, inviting you not only to feel nostalgic but to let your mind wander through time with her pieces.

—Gilda Hariri

Where does your creativity originate?
Growing up on my family’s ranch, I spent so much time outdoors- exploring in the Rincon Creek, playing at Bates Beach, riding in the hills above our avocado ranch (I had a mule named Conquistador), and I loved foraging for fruit and flowers. I had a lot of freedom which fed my creativity.

Who and what inspires you now?

I am very inspired by the paintings my grandma made in the late 1930’s. Sadly, she gave it up once she had children. But she was prolific in the few years that she painted. She always traveled, had a huge passion for seeing the world. Maybe with painting she decided she had nailed it, moving on, she had places to go and see!  As for what inspires me, my respect for nature and wanting to bring light to how special our earth is!

You’ve started a new project based on your grandmother’s paintings?
Based on some of my grandmother’s hibiscus paintings, I’m making a series of ceramic platters. They’re some of my favorite pieces,  I will be exploring this series for a while.

Rituals in the studio you can’t do without?
No rituals- I just dive in.

Watercolor and Wine, where and when?
I’ve been holding watercolor classes at Municipal Winemakers,  monthly for the past few years, which I started with the nudge of a girlfriend. She gave me pretty water jars and that got it going. I make a seasonal still life for inspiration and give the class a basic introduction on how to get started on their painting. Then they drink wine and have fun! I’m taking a break right now, but I hope to resume classes in the fall.

Tell us about your hand painted book cover project?
I started making hand painted book covers ten years ago. The project transforms the book into a sculptural functional painting. It is a way for me to pay homage to the different artists I admire and my reverence of art history. I have collaborated on numerous covers with the Rodarte sisters over the years, from a project for Colette in Paris and Opening Ceremony in New York,  to a series of one of a kind covers for their book they made with Catherine Opie and Alec Soth. I did a secret project at the Santa Barbara Public Library, where I checked out books, made new covers for them, returned them with their shelf numbers and barcodes attached to their new covers.

Favorite fruit to paint?
I love painting cherimoyas- they are my spirit fruit

Favorite flowers you’ve painted?
Pansies are a favorite because they look like faces.

Your partner Mark Churchill is a potter as well, how has he influenced you? Do artist duo’s always bounce ideas off each other or is there a sense of separation?
I wasn’t looking for a change to my studio practice when I met Mark, but it happened and it’s a beautiful thing! I used to work out of a community center in SB and now I work from home. Mark does pretty much all of the studio process for me now that we have a baby- he makes me clay slabs so I can build my pieces, then he bisque fires them, I paint them, he does most of my glazing, and then he fires them, sands them and brings them back to  to me! We just collaborated on some mugs he made and I painted with snowdrop flowers. I love that we make very different work but can find ways to collaborate also.

Photos by Leela Cyd RossCara Robins, and Nancy Neil