Souda’s Kawa Collection: Imperfect Perfection

by Maxwell Tielman

In my sister’s last semester of college, she took a ceramics course to fulfill her studio art requirement. Chosen probably because she assumed ceramics was the least demanding of the various courses available, she soon learned that she was in for a rude awakening. Surrounded by classmates with much more manual dexterity and artistic experience, my sister stood out as the loner student whose toils behind the potter’s wheel usually amounted to nothing but frustration and muddied clothes. As the semester progressed, my sister often voiced her ceramics-induced woes to me over the phone. Of her final review she said, “I got a C. That’s the only C I’ve ever gotten.” When my family came to pick her up post-graduation, I finally got a chance to see her work. Expecting to find disfigured, lopsided mutant pots, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ceramics she had spent excruciating hours fussing over and which garnered a C from her professor were actually quite beautiful. Were they perfect? Hardly. But they were fully functional and their subtle imperfections in form and glazing added a lovely homegrown feel to them—warm evidence that they had been made by hand, not a machine. Upon viewing my sister’s work, I was one part proud and another part enraged. Enraged that her professor had put such a premium on perfection. In a world where everything appears to have been made by robots on the moon, it’s nice to hold something that has the misshapen, one-of-a-kind signs of the artist’s hand. This is something that Souda, a newly established Brooklyn-based arts collective, seems to be fully cognizant of.

Named after a rough Japanese translation for the English phrase “Oh yeah!”, Souda was founded mere months ago by three Parsons alumni: Isaac Friedman-Heiman, Shaun Kasperbauer, and Luft Tanaka. Still fresh from their artistically experimental college days, the design collective’s work seems to be informed by a vivacious urge to push boundaries, both formally and materially. Although their current line of designs, shown most recently at this year’s ICFF, includes seating and lighting, I was most taken with their “Kawa” collection of ceramics.

Crafted in their Brooklyn studio, the Kawa line uses a unique slip-molding technique that uses bands of variously shaped leather as reusable and reconfigurable molds. The resulting vessels are one-of-a-kind beauties that appear to be simultaneously rigid and soft—one minute looking like a melting bowl and the next a folded leaf. The texture of the leather also imparts a faint speckled texture on the vessels, a lovely touch that hints at their method of manufacture. The collection of ceramics, which by nature defies preconceived notions of mass-production, is a wonderful amalgamation of handcrafted organicism and streamlined multiplicity. I, for one, am a huge fan of Souda’s stunning take on imperfection and can’t wait to see what other wonderful designs this trend can bring. Check out more photos of the Kawa line after the jump! —Max

Photographs by Courtney Reagor.

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