Eun-Ha Paek was once searching for the perfect pair of ceramic poodles for her fireplace when she realized she’d just have to make her own. Since then, she has never stopped dreaming up objects to make. “My art used to only exist on a screen,” she shares, “But with ceramics, it’s been exciting to translate ideas into tangible objects that live in my environment.”
By the age of 10, the ceramicist, sculptor, illustrator, and designer had already lived in four countries, and became fascinated by the different approaches cultures have toward expressing similar human concepts. “Idioms captured my imagination,” she recalls, “And made language seem like a decoder ring for not just communicating, but to acquiring multiple perspectives.” When her drive for exchange retreats and Eun-Ha gets trapped inside her own head, she engages with the “physical self” and temporarily stops creating. “Taking that step back helps me realize that I’m struggling with a locked door when I’m in a room with no walls,” she explains, “And that there are infinite numbers of directions in which to go if I just shift my perspective.” —Annie
Photography by Eun-Ha Paek, except where noted
What’s in your toolbox?
Rubber ribs, modeling tools, banding wheel, spray bottle, brushes, and a lot of empty yogurt containers and lids. The lids are perfect for storing paint — stacking two together keeps paint from drying out. I also use the containers to extend the life of my extruded clay, they tend to get dry so quickly. And Tupperware with plaster in them for storing half-finished works. As long as the plaster is kept moist, the clay will remain workable indefinitely.
Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”
like an explorer.
What’s on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?
CFile is great for ceramic inspiration. I tend to have a hard time reading reviews from beginning to end, but all of Garth Clark’s writing is really entertaining and informative.
How do you keep yourself organized?
I use Evernote for keeping track of the ceramic work that I have in different stages of completion with corresponding folders. Since I go to a community ceramic studio where massive amounts of pieces are being fired in the kilns daily, it’s easy to overlook or lose work as it goes through the bisque and glaze firings. I photograph each piece before it goes into each firing with notes about the type of clay and glaze used. And I end up with a searchable database of works organized by date. I’ve recorded 297 pieces since December 2011!
If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?
I’d love to speak every language in the world. Growing up in four different countries by the time I was 10, I became aware of the varied ways cultures have of expressing the same thoughts. Idioms captured my imagination and made language seem like a decoder ring for not just communicating, but to acquiring multiple perspectives. I think being able to see more sides of something really helps with being creative, too. And to be truly open-minded and really understand where other people are coming from would be such a gift.
What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?
Do what you love and find your voice, don’t second-guess what other people want. Be respectful, and speak your mind.
How do you combat creative blocks?
I try to stop thinking about it! I take a walk, exercise, meditate — anything that helps me get in touch with my physical self distracts my mind long enough to loosen its grip on those blocks. Taking that step back helps me realize that I’m struggling with a locked door when I’m in a room with no walls, and that there are infinite numbers of directions in which to go if I just shift my perspective.
Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?
I love things with history, so I look on eBay and museum websites with online catalogues. The Victoria and Albert Museum has a great online database.
If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?
Malene Müllertz for her 3D patterns in ceramic, Kathy Butterly for her details and intense glazing work, and Keith Edmier for his flowers made of dental wax. I also really admire the forms and stories in Stephen Bird and Mariko Wada’s ceramic pieces and would love to watch them at work.
What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?
Do podcasts count? I’ve been listening to “On Being” with Krista Tippett — there are so many inspiring interviews with incredible people from all walks of life. As far as music, the list would be very long. I like almost every style, but usually just one song per artist.