Photos by Sophie Ungless
Catherine Rex is the talented, mixed-media artist behind Rex Design (@rexdesign.co). Peet Rivko has recently collaborated with her to create the perfect mask mixing bowl. Originally from Los Angeles, Catherine now lives on a sailboat (yes, a sailboat) in Newport Beach and is constantly inspired by the environment around her as well as the female form. We visited Catherine in her studio in Costa Mesa, California, to chat more about her art, daily rituals, and inspiration.
How do you define essential and what is essential to you?
I define essential as things that you absolutely cannot live without, and I think maybe living on a sailboat has made me quite the minimalist. Family and friends are essential, and I can live without the rest. Getting outside is essential. I don't feel like myself if I can't get out on a walk or out on the water. Also setting aside dedicated time to get creative that isn't related to my job.
What are some of your daily rituals? Have you adopted any new rituals in the past year?
My daily rituals are starting with either a coffee or matcha, I must have one or the other! I like to get out and go to a local coffee shop since I work with a lot of the ones in the area. Then I like to take my puppy, Henry, out for a walk. I think it's a top-notch excuse to get up in the morning and just enjoy being outside in the harbor where we live. It's also one of the ways I get inspiration for my work, so some days certain things stick out, and other days it's just a nice way to get moving. At the end of the day I like to do some yoga and cook to close everything out. I had the goal mid-2020 to develop a ritual of setting aside one hour every morning to just sketch. It hasn't worked out so far, but I'm hoping for 2021!
We've noticed a lot of your work involves the female form. Can you tell us a bit more about the inspiration behind these works?
I'm definitely inspired by what I know. I grew up here and love California, so that inspires my color palette. At the same time, I am a woman and I can only create work that's based on my experience. In a lot of my work you'll see nude figures and female faces and body parts, and I'm always trying to explore femininity and where we find power as women. It's an exploration of my own life that I'm putting into clay and canvas. I also grew up dancing, so you'll see a lot of different dancing figures and movement.
What does beauty mean to you?
I pulled a quote for this. "The beauty is in the difference, the things that make you unusual are the things that make you individual and to me attractive." Beauty is when something pops out to you and inspires you, which is always going to be something unique and unusual. It could be the way that the light hits the female form to make a unique silhouette or the colors I see while I'm out walking. Beauty can be the little things that you may not notice at first, and it really does come from the differences, what makes something unique, and what's eye catching. You'll never find one of my pieces that are exactly the same because I hand draw all the figures, and I generally don't look at a reference for them. Right now I'm working on a series that's totally improvised, so the design will be whatever fits the form of the piece the best.
As a company that values connecting to nature, we love that you live on a sailboat. How has living on the water affected how you go about day-to-day life?
I moved onto a sailboat because I was relocating, and my husband (boyfriend at the time) was like, "Let's move to a sailboat!" It was a way for us to afford waterfront property at a reasonable price. Now, what I love most about living on a sailboat is the connection to the water, mother nature, and the wind. Also, we live in a small boat and it forces us to get outside everyday and experience what mother nature is bringing you for that day. It's how I ground myself and stay connected to being part of something bigger.
Always with me:
Hand cream, a hat, and Henry
Most effective stress-reliever:
Yoga or dancing
Favorite thing about nautical living:
Being connected to the water
Studio must have:
Best advice you've received:
Things don't have to be perfect to be wonderful
First place you want to travel after quarantine ends:
Best advice to artists:
"In relations with people, as an art, if you always stick to style, manners, and what will work, and you're never caught off guard, then some beautiful experiences never happen." – Helen Frankenthaler