Maker Stories: Villarreal Ceramics

Something about Vanessa Villarreal’s work seems very centered and focused. Maybe it’s the recurring nature theme, or maybe Vanessa has just perfected her aesthetic. I admire people who can be so consistent in their style and execute it so gracefully, and Vanessa’s collection of ceramics fits that description to a T. Every piece has a calming, peaceful feel to it, inspired by everything from shells to feathers to cacti. Her work can be purchased in her Etsy shop. Enjoy her charming color palettes, soothing shapes and this insightful interview. Stacy

The full interview continues after the jump . . .

Where are you from, and where do you live now?

I grew up in Fair Oaks, outside of Sacramento in California. I’ve been living in Tucson, Arizona, for three years.

Do you have any pets?

A dog named Lucie that acts like a cat.

What era/decade are you most inspired by, in terms of design and lifestyle?

I find inspiration from many artworks made in the mid to late ’60s and early ’70s. I enjoy looking at the work of artists that pushed minimalism, like Richard Tuttle, Cy Twombly and Eva Hesse.

Who is your favorite artist or craftsperson?

Lately I’ve been focusing on ceramicist Toshiko Takaezu. I recently found pictures of my grandmother (who was also a ceramic artist) working on some pieces with her at a workshop in the early ’80s. My grandmother just passed away in July. Takaezu was a big influence on my grandmother’s art, so I’ve been keeping both of their spirits alive in my head as I’m working.

Do you collect anything?

Small rocks. When I visit an environment that I find inspiring, I usually sneak a rock in my pocket to help keep that memory alive.

What’s your favorite plant?

The Valley Oak [tree] because of its silhouette. Beautiful and spooky.

What’s your go-to drink or snack while working?


What recipe/dish do you find yourself making again and again?

I’m not sure if it is considered a dish, but I have been eating avocado and lemon on sourdough toast since I was a kid, and I still eat it almost every day.

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?

Mendocino County, California, is one of my favorite places. I started going to this part of California as a child, and it has been a family camping destination for many years. When I graduated from college, I was fortunate enough to live in the town of Mendocino for an artist residency to work with ceramics. There is a great group of artists there, and the landscape is a huge source of inspiration for anyone who visits. The adventure of driving along the 101 highway and seeing the redwoods and rivers meet the chill of the Pacific Ocean is amazing.

Are there any traditions in your life?

Gahr Farm in McMinnville and northeast Portland, in Oregon, and Quilcene in Washington are the three places I circle every year in late spring to rejuvenate and get centered again.

Centsational Girl

Lovely interview from a wonderful artist! Thanks for introducing me to Vanessa’s beautiful work! ~ Kate


What a GREAT artist, beautiful woman and an inspiration!! I am FORTUNATE to call her my niece and a FANTASTIC artist!!


Everything is beautiful – a great interview and look at Vanessa’s work. I need those ribbed plates for food styling!

Cristina Egea

This work is so delicate,thank you Design Sponge for connecting us with the beautiful part of life.


Vanessa’s work graced our gallery for three years! We love her dioramas as well as her delicate porcelain cups. SO thrilled to see her work here!