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Studio Tour

Studio Tour: Kenesha Sneed of Tactile Matter

by Sabrina Smelko

After studying digital media at design school, Kenesha Sneed spent years in front of a computer working as a motion graphics designer and Art Director. In her downtime, she decided to try a new hobby one day, and enrolled in a ceramics course at a community studio where she learned to wheel throw. She fell in love with the art form instantly, and, not before long, she launched Tactile Matter.

Having grown up on the West Coast, her goal was to create functional ceramic pieces that combined her love for illustration with the aesthetic vibe that California evokes. To her delight, it didn’t take long for her brand to catch on, but while completing her first large order, she began to fumble without a dedicated studio space. Luckily, at the time, her friend (and a fellow ceramicist) Ria Leigh recognized her distress and offered to share her space to finish the job — an experience which was exactly what Kenesha needed to realize that she needed to streamline her process and invest in a space to call her own.

Shortly after that incident, she found this warehouse space nestled in the middle of Downtown LA’s Ceramics Arts District. The location was perfect and the footprint was large enough for her needs, posing just the right amount of quirkiness. “The interior, at times, is filled with scraps of metal and wood,” Kenesha explains, “but once you walk through the space and out the back, there’s a large urban garden within a reclaimed railway, which seems uniquely out of place!” It’s these features that sold Kenesha on the space, and after building some of her own display items and furniture with the help of her partner, a furniture designer, it slowly began taking shape and feeling like her own. “This space is constantly evolving the longer I stay here,” Kenesha says, “[and] I like finding new ways to have functionality in my space.” With an adoration for all things plywood, the cabinets were Kenesha’s solution to keeping clutter at bay, housing bits of broken ceramics or pieces that didn’t make the cut; ones she doesn’t have the heart to toss in the trash.

Although creating ceramics can be a messy job, Kenesha, a self-admitted “neat freak,” always tries to maintain a clean, showroom feel. “I burn incense and light candles to hide the smell of whatever glazes I’m using,” she laughs, “and I try, where I can, to clean my station before leaving [so I can] come back to a clean space.” Thanks to the plenty of built-in shelves left by previous artists who rented the space, this task becomes easier, and with the addition of some plants and art, the studio is Kenesha’s happy place. Inspired by her deep coastal roots and fondness of the desert, she arrives each morning, grateful to have a space that inspires her and allows her to be truly creative. –Sabrina

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Kenesha illustrating a desert scene onto bisque-fired clay in her studio. Along with hand-making each ceramic piece, Kenesha built her own display shelves using unpainted plywood.
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A detail shot of Kenesha painting her illustrations onto clay. Doing them by hand without a lot of reference keeps the drawings loose and organic.
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"You'll usually find me wearing a head wrap in the studio to keep my hair from falling," Kenesha explains, "I've had a few 'uh-oh' moments getting them tangled in clay, so it's the easiest solution." Although there isn't much natural light, neon signage and diffused lights shed gentle light on the worktable.
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The neon sign was a parting gift from Ria Leigh when she left the area. It’s the perfect addition to the space and serves as a reminder of the early days of Tactile Matter.
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Pegboards are a great way to maintain a clean, organized studio and keep important tools within arm's reach.
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Twine and leather rope are Kenesha's go-to materials when hanging a ceramic piece from the wall.
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Kenesha's trimming tools of the trade.
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Beside the pegboard, pinned to the wall, are illustrated ideas for future pieces and some hanging Polaroid photos.
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"I had some help from my boyfriend building this drying rack, which holds my greenware pieces," Kenesha explains. To the left is a small wedging table and, above it, hang some tools and a painted canvas Kenesha created. You'll also find doodled-on Post-It notes on any given surface in her space.
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Although she's fallen in love with the handmade, digital mark-making still has its place in her work. "Most of the time, I find inspiration by illustrating my ideas [digitally and printing them out]," she shares.
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Kenesha cuts a slab of clay with wire to divide it into workable pieces.
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A close-up of Kenesha carving a ceramic, wheel-thrown, slab-rolled face mask.
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Although nature is a must in her space, over time she's learned the hard way which plants don't do well without natural light. Every so often, she'll place them outside for the day or bring them home over long, work-free weekends.
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Some underglazes and tile swatches hang from pins on raw plywood sheets.
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Bisque clay pieces resting before glaze is applied.
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"This is one of my greenware mugs after trimming and attaching an extruded coil handle," Kenesha says.
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Some custom-made pieces for a client, including plates and masks.

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