Photo by Staci Valentine
On the morning of my visit to Mirena Kim's studio, Los Angeles was cloud covered and gray, an unusual state of being for the typically sunny city. Cooler, wet weather allows for longer drying times for green ware waiting to be bisque fired, and in this case it also seemed to allow for a more leisurely pace to the morning. Mirena greeted me, holding a mug of her own creation, steaming with coffee.
Mirena's studio is primarily a working space, but the entrance is a welcoming alcove of her creations, on display in groupings of shapes, sizes, and glazes. Forms are crowded together, resembling gatherings of people; some taller than others, some slightly thicker, but all similar in basic form.
It is no mistake that her forms look like gatherings of people on her display shelves; she thinks of her creations as anthropomorphic. Her vessels are even given human names.
This is Gedde.
Vessel photos are from the artist's website.
A designer first, Mirena's forms are planned in advance and diagrams line the wall by her wheel. Her designs are planned with function in mind. Vases specifically meant for holding one simple branch, or very tall vessels that will be wired to become lamps.
How the piece will interact with the user is at the forefront of Mirena's mind. The design of her squeeze cup is a prime example of this; finger holds are placed into the mug for the user to hold on to the mug, literally placing their hands into the finger prints of the potter.
Though she has added handles to some of her mugs at the request of clients, she continues to return to her original squeeze design. When I arrived at the studio, a batch of darkly glazed squeeze cups were cooling in the backyard kiln.
At the end of our visit Mirena talked to me about some of her influences, thumbing through books about Heath Ceramics and Finnish design. She was so kind and generous with her time, though I could tell she had deadlines to meet and sales to get packaged and shipped. If you are interested in purchasing any of Mirena's work there are several shops online and in person that stock her wares, a list can be found here, or a prearranged visit can be made to her studio.
Mirena hosts two sales per year, one around Thanksgiving and one around Mother's day. If you are interested in joining her mailing list for notifications about sales you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is also a regular poster on Instagram, you can find her listed under mirenakimceramics, and she often posts images of her work and the studio.