Rickie Barnett grew up in the Northern California city of Redding. He attended California State University, Chico, receiving a Bachelors of Fine Art degree with an emphasis in painting and ceramics. After Graduating in the fall of 2013 he took up a year long position as an Artist in Residence at Taos Clay Studio in Taos, NM. He has just finished up a long term position in the Seattle area where he worked as an assistant for George Rodriguez and Deborah Schwartzkopf at Ceramistas Seattle ( now known as Rat City Studios). He is now gearing up to move to North Carolina to take up a position as the studio assistant to Cristina Cordova.
My work is an internal look at the preeminent issues of being bound to another and the affects it has on an individual. The malleable nature of clay allows for a quicker way of working in a highly detailed manner. I work figuratively creating characters based on the struggle of balancing relationships, placing them in an open narrative where they can revisit emotions experienced but not quite understood. I strive to provide a sympathetic relation to narrative in the restlessness of living in one’s headspace, an effort to stay honest with myself and my loved ones. The continual self assessment within our interactions bears fruit which nourishes the bond and eases vulnerability, harvesting growth.
How have you come to work with Rat City Studios:
In the early summer of 2015, I was living in a small cabin behind Toas Clay Studio in Taos, NM. My residency was coming to an end and I was in the mist of the ever so chaotic task of trying to figure out what the next step was going to be. My partner at the time had just received a position at Cook on Clay, on Whitbey Island. I had been wanting to get up to the northwest for some time but I didn't want to make the commitment of moving to an island, without a studio. I had recently read an article about Deb's studio in Ceramic Monthly and decided to reach out to her. I knew the deadline for her assistantship position had past but after perusing her website and seeing how connected she was with so many artists in the area, I decide to reach out to her and see if she could point me in the direction of someone needing assistance. To my surprise, she got back to me within a few hours and said that she had an opening available at her studio and that I was welcome to apply. Within a few more days she offered me the position and with great enthusiasm I accepted.
Shortly after that Deb offered me an opportunity of a lifetime. She had picked up an old 1963 Aloha camper at an estate sale. It needed a lot of work and she gave me the opportunity to live in it, next to the studio, if I could fix it up. I had never done any trailer remodels but I figured I could accomplish it with the help of the internet. It turned out to need a complete rebuild. This was one of the hardest things I have ever taken on by myself. It was also, the beginning of me realizing how Deb goes about mentoring her assistants.
Deb is not the kind of mentor to hold your hand and help you through something. She will be the first one to tell you that she's not afraid to voice her disappointment in you either. She will balance the strengths you have with the direction in which you want to go and push you to grow and sharpen those skills, no matter how painful. Along the way you will also learn about a bunch of stuff you didn't even know you would be interested in. She will challenge you all day and call you on your bullshit. If you need guidance or are interested in a certain aspect of her work you need to ask for that guidance and that information. You want a crit, ask for it. Otherwise she will just let you keep working. Deb is not interested in reading your mind and she is not interested in babysitting your career. She is interested and driven to help you learn how to swim on your own. If you start sinking and feel like you are drowning, she will get in the water with you and talk you through the strokes you need to make you keep your head above water. She will not bring you a life preserver. You need to figure this out on your own. But at the end of the day she might invite you out for a beer and talk to you about life and where you want to go.
Deb Schwartzkopf is a shark. She can not stop moving and if she did she'd probably die. Her sense of urgency is out of this world. If it is decided at a morning meet that the kiln shed needs to be extended, she wants to know if it can be done by the end of the day. You will learn to not doubt that this is, in fact, possible. You will learn to not doubt yourself as much as you have in the past.
My time at Rat City was easily one of the best times of my life. Both my work and myself grew immensely. I made life long friends and found myself finding huge strides in my work. Deb Schwartzkopf changed my life in a huge way and even though I'm now living on the other side of the country I know, for a fact, that Deb will always have my back when I need it. Even if that's in her telling me to stop bitch and get back in the studio.