Newport Beach Ceramicist, Catherine Rex on Nautical Living and Creating Contemporary Homewares

Photo by Nicole Leever

Ceramics artist Catherine Rex has spent her life creating whenever and wherever she can. When a studio wasn’t an option, she made do in an 8-by-8 storage unit and on the sailboat she and her fiancé call home. Now, at her Costa Mesa studio, she crafts eye‑catching vessels, plates, and sculptures. Her pieces sell for $20 to $500 and are available through

Where do you find inspiration?
A little bit of everywhere. My bright colors are pulled from the California desert. Death Valley is one of my favorite places. The sandstone is literally rainbow colored—it is the coolest thing! For my marbled pieces, I very much draw on our landscapes and ocean scapes. Growing up in the mountains near Malibu, I spent a lot of my childhood hiking outdoors, so a lot of inspiration comes from there. We have such an amazing landscape—there is no end to the different colors to pull from.

Tell us about Costa Mesa Ceramics Studio.
There are four artists who work here regularly, but Costa Mesa Ceramics holds classes and open studio time, so we share a space with a lot of students. I think it’s always fun to have new people here because everyone has their own outlook on clay. It’s fun when a new student comes in and they are like “Oh my gosh, look at what they’re making!” It can be inspiring.

Do you take commissions?
All the time. I love collaborating and making a piece that really fits in someone’s home and something they are just really happy with.
The espresso cups were originally a commission for Ali Garvin at Neat Coffee in Costa Mesa. That’s where everyone finds my work. She is phenomenal and the reason I get to do this as my job.

Being from Malibu, how do you like Orange County?
I love living on the sailboat in Newport Harbor. The community here is wonderful and supportive. The support has been such a blessing, and I especially love what’s happening in Costa Mesa—there are so many cool places opening.

Do you think moving to Orange County influenced your work?
The coastline in general has influenced my work, and living on a sailboat has definitely influenced it. I’ve always tried to get out into nature and pause for a second. I think living on the boat has emphasized that for me—to take that moment and realize how lucky I am. I don’t want to move through it too fast and forget that I get to have this lifestyle many people don’t.

What’s your process?
It varies depending on what I’m doing. I feel like a lot of ceramicists choose their process and really dive into it, and that is amazing. But I bounce around like crazy. I am a little ADD with my art.

What are you working on right now?
A series of functional sculptures that I am referring to as lady vases. They are vases influenced by women’s bodies. They vary in size, but I like them larger. It gives an oomph factor. If it is tiny that’s cool, but it’s kitschier. I love making sculptures functional because then it may allow them to be in the homes of people who don’t normally buy art. I like the idea of making my art more accessible to the everyday person.


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