Above: Rachel Donner crafts colorful ceramics in Santa Fe. Photograph courtesy of Rachel Donner. 

RACHEL DONNER'S EARTHY BEGINNINGS instilled a work ethic she now carries into her career as a ceramicist. Growing up 30 minutes north of Taos, she spent her childhood in the forest, riding horses with her father, absorbing the ebbs and flows of nature, and raising chickens and a lamb for 4-H.

First kiss: In college, a love affair bloomed for making functional works of art, like ceramic mugs and bowls. “It’s charming to me that you can make a vessel that you put your mouth on,” says Donner. “You can have these intimate moments with it, and so can other people.”

Home spun: Donner interned with Kansas City ceramic artist Meredith Host before working at Taos Clay and Cincinnati’s Core Clay. Homesick for New Mexico, she established Rachel A. Donner Ceramics in Santa Fe in 2015. “I’m shifting my work a little bit to make bigger pieces and sculptural pieces that show the personality of the clay,” she says.

Wrap it up: Earlier this year, she took a workshop with Seong Weon Joanne Lee to learn Korean coil building. “I love how coiling and pinching leaves a beautiful texture. My finger marks squish into the clay, showing the hand of the artist and reminding us that it was once soft clay.”

Sleep on it: After a making cycle, Donner takes a day of solitude to look at everything with a fresh eye. “In the beginning, I liked to make curvier pieces, but I’m into cylinders now, with a pattern that isn’t distorted by a shape.”

Shape it: Her distinctive style includes pottery adorned with simple shapes in bright colors. “I’ve developed this language with patterns and colors.”