Today we are stepping foot inside the home of Small Spells owner, ceramic artist, and reiki healer, Rachel Howe. Her home is a welcoming abode, with two cats that ushered me in with open paws. Most of the mid-century furniture throughout her home has been acquired from her grandmother or through craigslist, a mix-match of old family relics, some with modern touches.
All of the artwork is very meaningful to Rachel, as many pieces were obtained through trades with her artist friends. “I’m all about the trade,” Rachel tells me, “I’ll trade reiki sessions or ceramics with people. Trading art for art is my thing.” For example, Rachel tells me the story of the artist she obtained the beautiful graphic collage above her couch. I was just about to jot down the name and contact info of the artist to acquire about a piece for my home, but alas Rachel tells me that he recently stopped making art, moved to the Rockaways and opened the local taco joint, Veggie Island. C’est la vie!
One of the most striking pieces of art in Rachel’s home is one of her great great uncle’s paintings. Rachel’s mother gave his made-up last name to Rachel as a middle name, and is convinced that’s why she became such an inspired artist. New Jersey native, Rachel stems from a family of artists.“I have relatives on both sides of my families that do pottery, so I think it’s almost like destiny,” she tells me.
Both her and her sister have practiced the art of pottery since high school. Rachel went on to study fine art at Parsons, which brought her to Manhattan, and more recently to Williamsburg–a neighborhood (specifically near Grand Street) she truly loves to call home. Rachel practiced pottery for a couple of years (around six years ago), then stopped to pursue other art interests. Around two years ago the desire to get back into pottery was re-ignited again, along with an interest in the art of healing. “Over the past year, I realized that I was into all this stuff, so I decided to just do it. Each thing has taken on its own life.”
Rachel started working on pottery and learning reiki at the same time. Rachel tells me that reiki is energy work that uses the chakra system. It’s about balancing the chakras and cleaning the aura. Rachel does it hands-on but the traditional way is to allow the hands to hover over the body. “I can really feel the energy in my hands, “ says Rachel as she describes why she loves this healing practice so much. “I was going through a really bad breakup. A friend of mine was already into reiki, so I started going to her healer, a woman who would eventually become my teacher. It really helped so much to change how I was feeling about things. I decided to learn because it affected me so much and it fit into all this spiritual and supernatural stuff that I had been interested in my entire life.” Rachel now offers reiki sessions in conjunction to traditional tarot readings.
Rachel’s mystical interests translate into her pottery as well. The name ‘Small Spells’ came up during art school. Over the past decade a lot of her art has had a mystical/occult theme and has been very textual based. When she became disillusioned with the art world, she carried over the text-based mystical brand name, Small Spells to her new ceramic project. Rachel was initially into weaving, but found the practice to be extremely time consuming and not at rewarding as ceramics. She still relies on textiles, specifically their patterns and muted color combinations, as inspiration. “I really like when something looks machine made, but the hand is still there. I like structure, but like it to show that the hand is making the work,” says Rachel.
2013 has been an exciting year for Rachel, since it marks the beginning of an increase in orders that ultimately led to her being able to quit her day job and focus on healing sessions and ceramic work full time. “When you have your my own business,” she notes, “you work every minute of your life, but it’s so enjoyable and rewarding.”
Small Spells has made a nice impact on the west coast, where you can find Rachel’s products in shops and boutiques in San Francisco and Portland, but Rachel’s largest recent client is Steven Alan. Look forward to seeing her line of ceramics in store soon. Also coming up is a Small Spells collaboration with Morris Kitchen. A box set will include a Morris Kitchen syrup paired with Rachel’s ceramic cups. “It fits so perfectly and just makes so much sense,” Rachel admits. “I’m really excited about it.”
So am I. And I think I’ll be scheduling a healing session with Rachel in the near future too! Be sure to scroll down below for more photos of Rachel’s magical home.
Photography: Jocelyn Baun