Raegan Robinson’s Lucky Charms
Raegan Robinson of Lucky NOLA creates wall hangings, plates and jewelry out of unlikely materials.
Cheryl Gerber Photographs
Artist Raegan Robinson roots through a box of sundry items that includes letter stamps, a pinecone, weeds and other plants, mysterious car parts and a small saucer stained with a rust-colored hue from Hurricane Katrina’s floods.
“A lot of these different things do have meaning to me, but anything that makes an impression is fair game,” she says. “Foolish things like this?” she says, holding up a scrap of yellow mesh. “This is my special, special thing – it’s from a lemon bag, but I love the texture. I thought I lost it once, and I almost had a breakdown.”
Robinson uses these disparate objects to individually create small ceramic wall hangings, plates and jewelry for her line Lucky NOLA, which is sold on Etsy (www.Etsy.com/Shop/LuckyNola) and some local stores and art markets. She impresses these objects into the clay, creating pieces that have a similar character to New Orleans: a mélange of overlapping shapes, patterns and textures with a distinct patina.
The New Orleans native studied art at University of New Orleans, Dillard and Delgado – her time at that school, Robinson says, was most influential in her art training. Her early gallery shows and school projects featured large ceramic sculpture, but after graduating and losing constant access to a kiln, she wanted to scale back. Then her Mid-City studio was destroyed in Katrina’s floods. Then she had a baby.
“I had a newborn at the time, so I thought, ‘What could I make that I could store in a smaller spot?’ And also – I didn’t want her not to be able to handle things. I wanted something sturdy, and I wanted to start making things she would enjoy,” Robinson, who is now in the process of finally moving back to her Mid-City studio space, says. “All of these things that I make now started from the idea of wanting to make things for her – something tactile, where you can feel the impressions and different things – but something that if you grew with it, you would never have to put it away.”
She started making ceramic bunnies incorporating the original illustrations from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and, as many New Orleans artisans do, fleur de lis. “There was no way around it,” she says with a laugh. “I thought, if I was going to make a fleur de lis that I liked, what would I do?”
She begins each piece by cutting out a shape in clay, not caring too much about any cracks or imperfections. “A thing I like about this city is we hold onto things that are pretty old, so I like my clay to look aged,” she says. She pulls from her mixed bag of objects and makes impressions on the piece. Some of the works have a decidedly New Orleans theme, with impressions from wrought iron gate pieces and local imagery such as pelicans or magnolias, but many times the images and textures are linked in a subtle way.
“You develop your own vocabulary with things, so you just naturally end up grabbing things,” Robinson says.
After baking in the kiln, cracks and other subtleties are illuminated – impressions from one plant give the back of a plate the look of a photo negative.
She says the plates she makes are food-safe, and all her pieces are free of lead and cadmium and are safe to handle – something that’s important to Robinson, since the special textures of her pieces lend themselves to being touched.
“That’s the point: I wanted things to have impressions and to have something you feel kind of bonded to,” she says. “Even if it’s just something you put on your wall, I find that many people just come and they touch.”