Ben's Lens: An Interview with Ryan Reich

Ben's Lens: An Interview with Ryan Reich

October 27, 2019

There is nobody making art like the new sneaker mugs from Ryan Reich. I found them in my discovery page on Instagram as soon as he released the first batch and knew I needed them for the site. Maybe it’s nostalgia, but something about those iconic designs brings all kinds of emotions out of me. I remember having Nike’s as a kid, but I’ll never forget buying my first pair of SB Dunks off my college roommate. I still have them in my closet. From there I started wearing Jordan’s and to this day I spend most of my time on Nike running shoes.

I’m intrigued by contemporary art, and specifically fascinated with pop art. Ryan evokes a reaction from his work that connects the common medium of ceramics with mainstream culture. Both my brother and I have added Chroma Square mugs to our personal collections and I’ll have to add one of the latest sneaker mugs to my own collection as well. His attention to detail is so thorough that even the bottoms of the mugs are “stepped on” to show the pattern from the bottom of the shoe.

Ryan interviewed me early on for his podcast Clay Is A Four Letter Word. It was awesome getting to chat with him and I’ve learned about amazing ceramic artists from his other podcast episodes. I’m not very familiar with cup makers outside of the small niche of borosilicate glass pipe makers, so it’s helpful to be able to explore through an expert like Ryan.

Image result for clay is a four letter word podcast

How long have you been working ceramics?
Twenty-seven years. I started when I was fifteen as a freshman in high school. I totally sucked but it was fun and I was able to take it again and again throughout high school. I learned by making lots of mistakes. Now I teach high school ceramics. 

Tell us about your current balance between work and art, and of course family.
I am lucky to make a living teaching high school ceramics. It affords me the opportunity to always be around clay but I am there to teach students to make art, not make my own stuff. So most of my own art making happens after everyone is in bed. Usually I work from 9pm - midnight most days of the week in the garage. If I'm not at work or in the garage, I'm with my wife and two kids.  

Chicago Sports. Primarily, Go Cubs Go!
I have lived in California my whole life but my father is from Chicago. He has brainwashed me since a very young age to be a die hard Cubs, Bulls and Bears fan. It has been mostly a disappointing existence with a few good years sprinkled in. I was really happy for my dad to see the Cubs win in 2016. He grew up blocks from Wrigley Field and was at the World Series in 1945. My whole family is back in Chicago so the fandom runs deep…

Remember when you told me you didn’t think I was the right fit to rep your work? Lol
Yes. Im still trying to figure out this artist thing...

We talked a little about your experience with glass on the podcast, but I’m sure my audience would love to hear about that. Also, I would love your perspective as someone who has worked both mediums on how they are similar and how they differ.
As a BFA ceramics major at Cal State Fullerton I was required to take a glass class.  Glass Casting, Stained glass or Glass Blowing. As a potter/vessel maker I thought glass blowing made the most sense. I ended up taking it for 2 semesters and was lucky to have a semester with Joe Cariati. I learned a lot about design, form and efficiency from Joe that resonated with me beyond glass and applies to ceramics.   There are a lot of similarities with some of the equipment and the rotational aspects of forming vessels but the processes are still very different. Clay is much slower process from start to finish. Clay is more tactile, I can touch it and wear it (Im usually covered in clay), and at the end of the day if im not done or tired I can wrap it up in plastic and keep working tomorrow. Glass was much more intense and spontaneous. And sweaty. But both are magical in their own way…

How’s your cup collection?
For someone doing ceramics and friends with artists of all kinds my personal collection is pretty weak. Mostly trades nowadays.   

Who is your favorite cup maker?
My favorite artists right now that make cups are Mike Cinelli, Ashley Bevington, Nick Weddel and Mathew Mitros

Do you have a favorite cup? One you’ve made, or one you own, or maybe just one you saw once?  
Nothing of my own work is a favorite. I see them as experiments and exercises. I'm still waiting to do the real work. 

What’s your favorite cup on my site? It’s ok if it’s one that sold, the best ones always do!
You turned me onto Stephan Peirce. I really dig the form of his mug with their gangster lean and the colors. Right now the “Log Jammin” is probably my favorite.  

Anything else you want to share?
I think I hear my kids screaming so I’m gonna go now… Thanks Ben! 


I’m stoked to be able to carry Ryan’s work and that it’s been so well received by our audience. All of his releases through Drinking Vessels have sold out, and I’m sure these new mugs won’t last long. Juggling a full time job as an art teacher at university, raising a young family, and creating art is no easy task. Because of all this and the demand for his drinkware, I’m honored that Ryan sets aside a few mugs from each batch for me to release.

Instagram: @ryanreichceramics

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