It is enchanting to see someone create a ceramic object, especially one that is as utilitarian and everyday as a plate, yet patiently made to achieve paper thin walls and delicate curves. Even more exciting, to witness a craftsman work with nature instead of against it, to shape and mold a piece of Earth, the subtleties of the artists’ movements imprinting in the clay. When we visited local NYC artisan Sydney Oh’s studio, we were hypnotized, not only by the spinning of the throwing wheels, but by the profound dance Sydney’s hands performed to evolve her clay into a finished, hand-thrown product. Minimalist vessels, glazed in a spectrum of neutral tones, were piled high on her work table, and we wanted to purchase each and every one of them for ourselves.
We invited Oh over to style a breakfast that would bring her pieces to life; Oh brought the dinnerware set, we brought the food, a simple meal of pastries and granola. In-between throwing sessions and nibbling on croissants and tartines, we had the opportunity to catch-up with Oh, to talk about her line of hand-throw ceramics, Milk + Clay, her creative energy, and how she stays rooted in the moment.
The Moment: We want to learn more about you, tell us a bit about yourself!
Sydney: I was raised in Georgia and studied journalism, photo journalism and speech communication in college. I moved to NYC to work in fashion, fell into PR and have been a publicist since. I fit in pottery any chance I can, working in the evenings and on weekends.
The Moment: How did you get interested in ceramics?
Sydney: I’ve always loved taking art classes since I was a kid and now thinking back on it, I am really appreciative of my mother for this! My high school offered a pottery course and it officially began then.
The Moment: How do you stay creatively inspired?
Sydney: Being in nature really helps – it slows me down and helps me reset. I’m just returning from a trip to New Mexico and it was so incredible. The earth has so much to offer!
The Moment: What does making ceramics mean to you?
Sydney: Fortunately, I can see myself making ceramics as long as I live, and I know how difficult it can be for some to find that kind of passion. There is always something new to learn. I find it comforting, cathartic and making use of handmade pottery elevates the everyday.
The Moment: How did you discover your personal ceramic style?
Sydney: There wasn’t a key defining moment in which I’ve thought, “Ah, this is it.” Although I will always strive to refine, I do love minimalism and throwing thin. I’m very direct and straightforward, and perhaps it translates to the simple, functional forms I tend to make, often in whites, neutrals or blacks.
The Moment: How do you stay true to yourself while creating?
Sydney: I love hearing feedback and am always open to others’ opinions but the process takes a great deal of time, several weeks for one piece from start to finish, and I’m careful to not make pieces I don’t truly enjoy creating.
Above photo credit: Rhi and Dean
The Moment: What’s the most rewarding part of owning a pottery line?
Sydney: Seeing how others use Milk+Clay pieces in their daily lives! So I’ve started a hashtag for it: #milkandclayliving
The Moment: How do you stay in the moment?
Sydney: The process of slow design is so appealing to me because it helps me stay in the moment. Everything around us is incredibly fast paced, especially in fashion PR. I work seasons ahead, months before collections hit stores. It’s nice to take a break from a society where instant gratification is the norm.
The Moment: How important is it for you and your art to stay in the moment?
Sydney: Being present and in the now is very important to me. I really don’t see a point in saving the finest of things for special occasions. I hope those who like Milk+Clay ceramics will make the most of it and use it every day. It’s meant to be functional and if anything happens to it, I can always make another.
Photo credit: Sally Griffiths