Nancy Kwon is a ceramic artist based in Los Angeles. Producing functional and sculptural pieces alike, Kwon finds inspiration in ancient artifacts, as well as Korean and Japanese ceramics (a tradition she is trained in). Her work is available at outlets including Picture Room, Totokaelo, March, and Blue Mountain School, as well as on her own website.
RE: ROUTINE — AND BREAKING IT
I try to keep my work Monday through Friday. I wake up, I walk my dogs. I have a pretty regular routine during the week. Outside of that, I’ve been really into birdwatching. Once a week, or once every other week, I go to a good birding spot in LA.
Birding is something you can do on your own and it doesn’t require anything. It has been incredibly calming and rewarding for me. I love seeing birds that I haven’t seen since last summer come through again.
RE: PURSUING YOUR CALLING
I moved to New York for a job. I started working for the artist Jenny Holzer, and most of my work with her was digital and online. She was making a lot of work with poetry, using texts from different poets and arranging them into different contexts. The work was interesting but I wasn’t doing anything that really utilized my creativity in the way that I enjoy most — I felt the need to do something more tactile, so I started taking wheel throwing classes at this studio in New York called Togei Kyoshitsu.
Being a part of Jenny Holzer’s studio influenced my work because a lot of what I did there was research-based. What I make now usually comes from a point of research, and it’ll go on a tangent from there. I think it brings some weight into the work and is also a way to educate myself during the process.
It’s engaging — it’s my way of having a conversation with ancient artifacts and with history.
RE: FINDING YOUR TRIBE
Before I left New York last year, I was part of a community studio. That’s one thing that I really do miss since moving to LA. It was important for me to have that community, especially early on when I started selling work. I was at Sculpture Space in Queens, and it was good to be around other artists working in ceramics. It allowed me to absorb spoken knowledge, be around peers, and get feedback.
When you’re a part of a community, you end up supporting each other and helping each other grow.
What keeps me excited about ceramics is the tactile nature and the transformative process. It’s honestly such a surprise each time I open the kiln after firing work. There is so much to experiment with and I love the trial and error.
Since I moved to LA, I’ve been exploring experimental surfaces by using tools to chip off and/or sand down the glazed surface of ceramics. My environment really influences the work I make, and since I am working mostly outdoors doing a lot of yard work and gardening, I see a lot of decomposing surfaces and soil — somehow that seems to seep into my work.
RE: COMFORT FOOD
In the summer, I eat a lot of Korean cold soy milk noodles. Soy milk broth, radish water kimchi noodles, and cold soba. I get dry noodles at the grocery store, and I make a big batch of broth at home. I usually make enough so it’ll last me throughout the week.
RE: FAMILY TIES
My family is from Korea and I grew up spending a lot of my summers with relatives there. Once I began going deeper into the history of pottery, I realized what a huge part of the culture it was and still is.
As it relates to me and my family, it was exciting to relearn certain things. It was interesting to read about types of ceramic teaware that I grew up seeing around my house and my grandparents’ homes, moon jars, onggi pottery, and ritual ware, things like that — things that I’d seen growing up but that maybe didn’t register at the time.
In March when we went on lockdown, I wasn’t getting orders from stores that I normally rely on. I began to just make work I enjoy and posting onto my webshop. It has been really nice, because of the freedom it has given me.
I think this time has also pushed me to ask questions about what I actually enjoy making, what the value is in what I am making, how do I want to continue making work, and what do I want to continue making.