Mirena started her pottery journey in 1991 after searching for the perfect vessel for flowers. After her quest proved unfruitful, she took a pottery class and fell in love. Even though she worked as a graphic designer at the time, she knew she would take up pottery eventually. For years she gave pottery to her friends, made it for herself, and held holiday sales for her work until she built up a clientele. It took twenty-two years to open a full-time pottery studio in 2013. You can now find her work in boutiques across the United States and online.
Here we talk with Mirena about her journey in ceramics as well as where she finds her inspiration:
GLAZE: You started making ceramics back in 1991, what prompted you to do so and what made you decide to pursue ceramics as a career?
Mirena Kim: I wanted to have a simple, even primitive ceramic cylinder for flowers, particularly flowing branches. Everything I was seeing in shops was too finished or over-decorated so I decided to take a class and make one for myself!
Throughout the years I’d give away my work or hold little pre-holiday sales and I loved knowing that people appreciated my little pots. When a few stores started to inquire into carrying a few things it became natural to grow the business bit by bit.
G: Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
MK: In the past, I was very focused on what I wanted to have personally in my home. I filled my cupboards with plates, bowls, and cups that made me happy – mostly for how they looked with the food or flowers (I love to cook!).
Nowadays I start with really just imagining a new form: does it push out into space or fold under the weigh to space? itself? Each new vessel seems to be an answer to a previous one – so, a kind of endless conversation.
Each new vessel seems to be an answer to a previous one – so, a kind of endless conversation.
G: Where do you find your inspiration?
MK: I love that even inanimate objects can have so much personality. Sometimes objects look like people and sometimes people look like objects. I try to imagine the interaction between object and user and that sends me in a direction.
G: What does a typical day in your studio look like?
MK: I start by uncovering the pieces that I’d thrown the day before – checking to see how things are drying. Too fast is never good but too slow is agonizing… I’m a very impatient person, which is not an asset as a potter!
A day is either a throwing day or an everything else day – trimming, glazing, loading the kilns, etc. On throwing days I try to have a huge breakfast because it’s so physically demanding.
I’ve started this new thing where I end my day an hour before I actually want to end my day. It seems obvious but it’s so important to give oneself time to finish up, sweep up a little, prepare for my next day.
Increasingly a big part of my day is social media. I find it to be very effective at reaching new clients, customers, and maintaining a sense of community with other makers.
G: What is your biggest lesson you’ve learned from pottery?
MK: I think most potters would say they learn to get over calamities and disasters quickly. So many things can go wrong in the process. I’ve thrown out scores of pots (maybe hundreds!) over the years. I’ve learned to not look back and of course no crying.
G: What are you working on now?
I’m very excited about wall sculptures. My first series was based loosely on animal shapes. Right now I have a piece I’m calling “Rain” that is comprised of raindrop-shaped ceramics pieces mounted to the wall. I was obsessed with the drought and then heavy rains here in Southern California. It’s my way of expressing my angst and hopes for a better climate future.
Images by Dawn DiCarlo and Staci Valentine, courtesy of Mirena Kim