ARTIST INTERVIEW + VIDEO: Linda Hsiao of Knotwork LA
Knotwork LA represents the ceramics and crafted products of Linda Hsiao. Born in Orange County in 1982, Linda studied industrial design at Pratt in Brooklyn, and went on to work in the eyewear industry for a decade, until her desire to work with her hands and create one-of-a-kind objects led her back to Southern California and to ceramics.
We spoke with Linda about her creative journey – nature as inspiration, her design background, and what she learned from two generations of women in her family. Take a look at the video below by Amelia Damplo for a glimpse in to how she creates her stunning designs.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now.
Back in 2007 I started feeling the need to work with my hands to create. That led me to seek out a few ceramic studios in Brooklyn and slowly start experimenting with ideas floating around in my mind. The need to come back to Southern California kept getting stronger until I finally moved back in 2009. And immediately started taking class after class in studio pottery, I have always loved exploring the outdoors, and draw on the landscape of my childhood and surroundings for much of the inspiration for my work. It wasn’t until 2012 when Kagan and I made the first wooden rattle I began selling my ceramic work. Since than it has slowly taken a life of it’s own with new collections every year and custom patterns for different clients.
What would you say is the driving force behind your creative work?
I love seeing the connection people have to my work and I’m happiest when people find their own connection with the object. Having others find their attachment is part of the joy I get being a maker. For me it’s important that I always do things I enjoy, both for fun and work. I truly enjoy every aspect of the ceramic process, from the time an idea is created, studies are made and there’s a time for exploration to the production and small mass production of a series. Plus opening a kiln always feels like xmas every time. Except for the occasional “oh no what happened!” It’s a pretty special process of what you can make with just a little mud and water. There are things my hands are always compelled to create. But at the end it’s always imagining where my pieces will go, which home they might reside in after they leave me always brings me so much happiness.
How do you find a balance between practicality and beauty in your creations?
With an industrial design background I’ve been trained to always consider functionality/practicality somewhere in my mind. Although over the years i’ve learned that can mean many things. The function of an object can be rather unpractical but have equally great a purpose like the Daruma wishing dolls. With the purpose for one to make a wish and beauty of an object to keep you company. I enjoy bringing a bit of whimsey and joy to regular household objects like the bird juicers and bird pitchers help make the everyday home more special. Where my porcelain inlay cups and dishes have a much more functional aspect being everyday objects they each are handmade and have their own one of a kind patterns on them.
How is your work inspired by or influenced by nature and your surroundings?
Most work starts out as a form of exploration both of material and process.
My porcelain inlay began with a curiosity of how different clay would react pressed into each other. Reminding me quickly of the sedimentary rock cliffs in the beaches of my childhood in Laguna Beach. Fossils and different textures and color embedded into on rock kept me mesmerized. I’m always looking and exploring. Sometimes I’ll see something on a hike or in a museum that will remind me of something and those little seeds translate into ideas. Sometimes it’s as as simple as inspiration from my garden, shapes in seed pods, flowers or an animal passing by my studio window. My more recent bird collection may have been influenced by the chickens, parrots and doves that visit daily and have manifested into my work itself.
Did you have any artists or creative people in your family? If so, how did they influence you?
My grandmother was an amazing painter, her patience and her beautiful large floral paintings were something that I looked at daily as a child. My mom would even grow special flowers for my grandmother to use and study. She would patiently study one type of flower with sketches and small paintings for a year before creating one large master.
My mother herself was also very inspiring force of nature. She created a small farm from their first suburban backyard in LA that led to acres of fruit trees, greenhouses full of tropical fruit, fields of asian vegetables and yellow watermelon. It was always amazing to see how trees were produced from grafting twigs, propagating branches in the air, a fields were made from seeds at such a large scale it had always felt like magic. Creating so much life and food for life.