Denise Bonsack (Photo courtesy of Katie Knapp)
Mar 15, 2023
Local artist brings her business back home
The old saying says ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’.
This is definitely true in the case of local artist Kylie Rieke.
Kylie and her husband Jake met and started dating while they were in high school at GFW. They both went to the Twin Cities to attend college, and then got married in 2004. After working in the cities for a couple years, they served in the Peace Corps in El Salvador from 2008 to 2010. When they returned to the U.S., they also returned to the Fairfax area and Jake’s family farm.
Kylie decided to pursue a studio art degree during her second year of college. She took a beginning ceramics class as part of that pursuit and was introduced to the potter’s wheel in that class. She knew instantly that that would play a huge part in her future. She says she has taken other classes here and there but has always returned to the wheel.
Kylie was employed by Mark Thomas Company out of Sleepy Eye as a production potter. “I wasn’t very good, and they hired me knowing it would take some practice time to refine my skills,” she said. “I’m so grateful they took a chance on me!”
She left that job when their second child was born and she wanted to stay home while their kids were young.
She went back to work in 2018 and spent two years working as a production potter at Clay Coyote in Hutchinson. When the pandemic hit, however, and the schools were shut down, she once again returned home to be with their two daughters – Avery, who is now 11, and Maya who is eight. At that point, she and Jake decided they would find a way for her to make pottery at home and their new business, Raydiant Clay Works, was born.
In 2020, Kylie began the very long process of setting up and moving into her new pottery studio, which occupies the space in a building that also houses the farm office and a garage. Once the space was ready, she says it took another year of buying equipment, testing the kiln, and experimenting with different clay and glaze before she could really start working in there.
The business has also grown and evolved. Early on, she began by taking orders, working on commissions and selling pottery through art shops in New Ulm and Marshall.
She started making functional pieces like dinnerware, but the longer she worked in that realm the more she struggled. Making the same pieces over and over just didn’t motivate her, and she felt like a machine cranking out cookie-cutter pieces rather than an artist creating something unique. Plus, the items she was creating weren’t as lucrative to sell, which made it harder to make ends meet.
Several months ago, Kylie and Jake decided to pivot from functional pottery to statement pieces. She also started documenting the entire process on YouTube.
“I use the potter’s wheel to turn my emotions and thoughts about our journey into physical objects,” she says. “The forms represent our life lessons, but also contain that authentic energy of my hands, mindset and spirit in the process.”
Kylie says she always has an idea of what she plans to create when she sits down at her potter’s wheel. Sometimes there’s a very specific plan, and other times just a general idea. She allows the form to evolve and change as she creates, making every piece truly unique.
The other thing she has noticed is that, now that she is creating art, as opposed to functional pieces, everything seems to flow better. Even something that might be considered a ‘mistake’ turns out to be part of the final piece.
While she no longer takes orders from customers, she is selling some of her pieces on her website, and through some shops in the area, including The Grand in New Ulm, the New Ulm Community Market and Coop and the Marshall Area Fine Arts Council Gift Shop in Marshall.
Their plan for the future, however, involves reaching out to Art Galleries that have shows. They will display the pieces, along with a QR Code that contains the link to the YouTube channel, allowing people to actually watch each piece being made.
“There are so many people that have helped me along this journey,” Kylie says. “Even though I get to sign my name at the bottom of the artwork, I do not deserve all the credit. I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me, especially Jake. His belief in me is what motivates me and keeps me believing in myself every single day.”
In addition to creating pottery, Kylie is also currently serving on the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council. She is the Renville County Representative and the Vice Chair for the group now, and will move into the position of Chair in 2024.
Check out Kylie’s YouTube channel (search Raydiant Clay Works) to watch her create. The process is fascinating!