Grace Eunmi Lee, born and raised in Seoul, Korea, is a ceramist who has been working with clay for 11 years and now lives in Ontario. Her work reflects her interest in the mundane parts of life that are unnoticed and seemingly insignificant. Large scale installations such as her 2012 work titled "Dust", are made up of minute ceramic creatures which represent the microscopic particles that comprise ordinary, ubiquitous dust.
In addition to her installations, Grace also has a collection of small, ceramic pieces available in the excellently curated, online shop SuiteHazen and will be displaying 4 of her espresso cups in an upcoming show in Seattle.
I'm very excited to share Grace's interview with you and hope you enjoy discovering her wonderful talent as much as I did.
1. Tell us a little about your background and how you got started in ceramics.
I was enrolled in art classes throughout grade school and high school, but it was in my undergraduate studies in university when I first encountered ceramics. My major in my undergraduate studies was Craft Design. I then went on to study ceramics further in graduate school.
2. Do you remember the first time you ever worked with clay? Did you know immediately that it was the medium you wanted to concentrate on working with?
I started in ceramic as a student in my university. I remember how I enjoyed my first ceramic class. I made a lot of dishes and cups.
I didn't know immediately that clay would be my medium of choice because I didn't want to limited myself to a particular medium as an artist. But as I created more and more out of clay I realized that it was the medium that I connected with the best.
3. What’s next for you and your work? Will you continue exploring microorganisms with your creatures or will you explore something else entirely?
I want to continue to develop as an installation artist. I hope to have an opportunity to have projects that would result in permanent installations. I don't see me changing my theme/concept in the near future. I still have many ideas I want to explore.
4. You’ve had exhibitions in South Korea, China and Canada. Do you have any upcoming shows in the United States?
I have an upcoming show in Seattle. It's a small cup show with international ceramic artist. I will exhibit 4 of my espresso cups.
Seward Park Clay Studio and KOBO Gallery Simple Cup 2014
Showcasing ceramic artists from North America and Japan
Opening event: Saturday, November 1, 2014
5. What’s the best part of being an artist in Ontario?
I love the diversity in Toronto. I find the diversity helps inspire new ideas and shapes. It also allows me the privilege of sharing my art with all kinds of different audiences. It gives me the opportunity to get a good mix of feedback from different perspectives.
6. You’ve said before that you’re interested in microorganisms and that the creatures you create and use to comprise your larger compositions represent the small particles of life that are often overlooked. Do you draw inspiration from things other than the overlooked particles of life?
I get inspiration from everything around me. Whether is something I see, hear, touch, taste, or feel, it can become an inspiration.
7. How many individual creatures would you say you’ve created (approximately) in your 11 years as a ceramist?
It's hard to say as I haven't really kept count, but I'd guess over 15,000 pieces.
8. What other contemporary artists do you admire?
9. Who (if anyone) has had the greatest impact on your career as an artist? (It could be someone who inspired you to pursue art, someone who helped you with your first show, etc.)
Melanie Egan (Head of Craft at Harbourfront Centre) and Patrick Macaulay (Head, Visual Arts at Harbourfront Centre) have had the biggest impact on my professional career as an artist. They were the first people to recognize my talents and give me the opportunity start my career as an artist in Canada. It's through the artist in residence program at the Harbourfront Centre that I started to blossom as a professional artist. They taught me a lot during the past three years, and it's because of my experience at the Harbourfront Centre that I am where I am now.
10. Do you have ambitions outside of being an artist? A lot of people have recreational time that is separate from their work, but for creatives, that line between work and play seems to get blurred. Is creating what you do for fun or do you also have a passion for say, cooking or horseback riding?
I like craft in general, so I like to participate in activities that allow me to exercise my creativity. That can be cooking, knitting, or anything really.
11. Can you tell us more about your new line with SuiteHazen? What led to this collaboration and can we expect more product lines like this from you in the future?
I wouldn't say it's a collaboration, but certainly a great partnership. Working with SuiteHazen has provided me with a great outlet to reach out to the European market with someone who has a strong background in marketing. I hope that we can share in each other's success and help each other succeed further.
*Images via the artist's website and SuiteHazen