R. Wood Studio
By Griffin Nelson | Photos by Sara Wise
Rebecca Wood has surrounded herself with an impressive group of creatives, has made wise and bold marketing choices, and has managed to be in the right place at the right time.
But a lot of her success is the result of who she is as a person. She’s a hard worker, naturally creative, driven and able to see the beauty in what others might consider ordinary and turn that into something both useful and beautiful.
“We’ve been both smart and lucky,” says Josh Skinner, manager of R. Wood Studios. There’s a lot of hard work and support that’s led to her success but there’s also an incredible amount of innate talent.
Though she’s best known for the products of her ceramics studio located at 450 Georgia Drive, sold everywhere from Athens to New York City and beyond, Wood is also a talented painter, floral designer, milliner and all-around artist. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in drawing and painting and admits to not having given ceramics much thought at the time.
Her abilities as a painter blossomed during this time however and she came into her own as an artist, developing her style and showing in galleries throughout the Athens and Atlanta areas. It was the mid 70’s-80’s and Athens was “nothing but adventures and fun and exploring,” she says, a virtual wonderland of creativity, a city with a low cost of living and a breeding ground for starving artists to create to their hearts content.
When the stock market crashed in 1987, she went looking for less expensive materials to create with. She dabbled in fabric painting, hat-making and eventually, ceramics.
To create a consistent thickness without a potter’s wheel, she used a rolling pin to make a set of plates and fired them in a kiln a friend found for her at a yard sale. Necessity truly is the mother of invention and with this initial creation, Wood set off for New York City, “the Mount Olympus of art at the time,” as Wood recalls it, with a suitcase full of hats and other wares. The plates seem to have been a bit of an afterthought but (this is where a bit of luck comes in) she placed herself in the offices of a high-end boutique where there happened to be a buyer who fell in love with them! That boutique wrote her the biggest check she’d ever seen and suddenly she was in business.
Not that that meant she was suddenly successful. It was more than a decade before she wrote herself a real check. With a studio to run and materials to buy, Wood had friends help her glaze, used connections to get her name out there and though each year she was tempted to quit, she managed to put one foot in front of the other year after year. Today, she has a studio full of hardworking and creative staff and a historic dream home perfect for painting sessions and floral classes.
As the world has changed she’s managed to maneuver her business through it all. As Skinner points out, Wood has a knack for surrounding herself with other creative people, whether ceramicists, musicians or artists that support her in positive ways. Wood has worked with photographers, social media managers and writers in her studio, each bringing their own unique perspective and contribution.
Once or twice a year she teams up with other area ceramicists to create batches of wood-fired work. It’s a time and labor intensive effort that is most efficient when a whole group participates. The process can take more than a week with several days devoted to tending the fire around the clock and then several more days of letting it cool slowly to naturally create stunning and truly one-of-a-kind pieces.
“It’s like Christmas Day,” Wood says, showing me how each type of clay, each homemade glaze and it’s placement in relation to the fire can effect the final product. “I’ll never get tired of ceramics,” Wood says. “There’s just always something new to do.”
Each new style that’s added to the shop has it’s own quirks. Handmade really means made by human hands in the R. Wood Studio with hours of work going into building, glazing, and firing each piece. The newest “picnic” line is perfect for summer get-togethers with classic gingham stripes translated into modern tableware in five different colors.
Ceramics may be Wood’s true love but she continues to flex her creativity in other ways. She hosts Ikebana floral workshops in her stunning barn-meets-studio and her home is an artists dream - full of paintings and plants and natural light.