The sun shone through the open door of the Rie Muñoz Gallery as the soft sound of music and pitter patter of dogs walking around played in the background of Mercedes Muñoz’s potter’s wheel. She sits in the studio portion of the her late grandmother’s namesake building, surrounded by finished and unfinished ceramic pieces, paintings and other knickknacks that brings a sense that the studio has been well used and well loved — which it has.
Muñoz was working in preparation for her summer collection release and first-ever show at the Rie Muñoz Gallery, which is set to open it doors 10 a.m on Sunday. Her art will be displayed in the same gallery which was originally opened by late grandmother, Rie Muñoz, who was known for decades as a renowned water painting artist in Juneau for decade. After Rie’s passing in 2015, Muñoz continues to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and said the show has a double meaning as it also is her first show since trading her home studio for her grandmother’s old studio as well. She said the art featured in this Sunday’s event has no particular rhyme and reason behind it, but rather are inspired by things that give her joy or what she is inspired to make that day.
“The forms I create are informed by my own everyday life -—mugs for coffee, egg cartons to collect chicken eggs, tiny bud vases to pick flowers with my children,” she said. “But my favorite part of the process is bringing a form to life by decorating it. I paint playful illustrations of plants, animals, fruit and many other things Alaska-inspired that are bright, colorful, and bring me joy.”
Born and raised in Juneau, Muñoz has always had a passion for art.
Between spending time with her in the studio creating art, taking classes throughout high school and drawing and painting for fun, she realizes that creating art is where she found the most joy and fulfillment, and this led her to take the leap of faith of pursuing art as her full-time career.
She graduated from Montana State University in 2014 with a bachelor’s in studio arts with an emphasis in ceramics, which she said is where she discovered her deep love for ceramics specifically, and from there she’s pursued creating pieces that she enjoys making and are practical in everyday life.
“I was so fascinated with being able to make something on the wheel and then a few weeks later have it actually be able to be used — that tangible art — I just really fell in love with that,” she said.
After graduating college, Muñoz moved back to Juneau with her now husband where she continued to create art in her home studio and worked at the Canvas Community Art Studio as a receptionist and pottery studio manager before transitioning to working on her art full time in her home studio and now at the Rie Muñoz Gallery studio.
Muñoz said feels very lucky and grateful to do what she does, and especially since becoming a mother of two young children she has always been intentional about dedicating and valuing her time creating, setting aside time for it to grow through the years. She said the studio and gallery are something she and her family hold very dear, and she said it’s special to see the generations of her family continue to use this space as a way to keep her grandma’s legacy alive.
“We’re kind of breathing new life into this space that we all care about so much and love so much,” she said. “She passed away just when things were starting, it’s kind of crazy to think about how much has happened since then,” she said. “My dad always said she’d be ‘tickled pink’ that I moved my studio into the gallery here — I’m very honored and excited to be here.”
Juan Muñoz, her father and the business owner of the Rie Muñoz Gallery, said he is excited about the show and the work his daughter continues to do.
“I’m proud to see Mercedes doing such wonderful work, we built this building in 1992 and it’s great to see Mercedes creating here as her grandmother did,” he said. “I know Rie would be tickled pink to see her studio in action.”
Lauren Heide, a Juneau resident and local business owner, said she found out about Muñoz on social media and has been hooked on her art since. She said Muñoz’s shows always attract a huge amount of people and at multiple shows she has seen dozens of people lined up waiting for the doors to open. Heide said she plans to go to the show this weekend, and is excited to see what Muñoz has in store this time around.
“Mercedes is one of those artists who create amazing, usable art and makes you realize art doesn’t have to only be something that hangs on your wall,” she said.
Know & Go
What: Mercedes Muñoz summer collection release
Where: 2101 Jordan Ave.
When: 10 a.m – noon, Sunday Aug. 28.