Spartan Conversations: Ceramicist Mirena Kim
New in the shop this week are a handful of beautiful new ceramic pieces from Mirena Kim, a Culver City, CA-based potter who came to ceramics after "a fruitless search for a simple, unadorned cylinder caused me to decide to make my own." We talked to Mirena about graphic design, daily ritual, and making work for "the rough and tumble of everyday living."
SPARTAN: Tell me about your background and how you came to start your own line?
MIRENA KIM: I'm Korean-born, from Seoul. I came to the US as a very young child and grew up in mostly in Los Angeles. I studied Modern Dance Choreography at UC Santa Cruz but made my living as a graphic and clothing designer, in LA and in NYC.
While living in Park Slope, I discovered The Clay Pot, and became fascinated with all of the handmade ceramics there. I was inspired to make something myself, and started to take a class in the neighborhood. I was hooked. I didn't formally start my line until last year (2013), but I've been steadily learning, making and selling my pots while continuing to work in design and raising two boys.
S. What's your process like?
MK: I'm inspired by the small actions and rituals that make up our lives. The morning coffee, the dinner with friends, buying flowers for the table. I start from there and then begin to design for those moments. Then I try not to add too much— keep the form very, very simple. Almost minimal. I let either the shape or the glaze do all of the talking.
S: Before you were a potter, you worked in graphic and interior design. Can you talk a bit about how this influences your work now?
MK: My design background forces me to see my work in context. At best, my work seems to slip into an environment and look like it's always been there. I see myself not designing for galleries, but for the rough and tumble use of everyday living. I make my ware rugged and simple. I've even taken my bowls on camping trips!
I am also inspired by the beautiful food photography that's everywhere these days. So in that sense I also see my work as part of 2-D visual art.
S: What is currently inspiring your work?
MK: Vegetables. I absolutely loved "Plenty", the cookbook by Ottolenghi. The food in that book is so beautiful and whole—I want to build my life around that aesthetic.
S:What are you reading right now?
MK: Glaze recipes. Hundreds of them.