Upon entering designer Eny Lee Parker’s studio in Brooklyn, sizable ceramic designs at diverse stages of production decorate the room that’s finished with her medium for creation: the potter’s wheel. While the centuries-old device is traditionally associated with the craftsmanship of small clay vessels, Parker reimagined the machine’s capabilities to build contemporary pieces of furniture and lighting.
In 2015, Parker, a graduate of Savannah’s College of Art and Design, took a trip to her parents’ native Korea, where she bought her first ceramics — a gray pottery tea set — at a market in Gyeonju City, the country’s oldest town with a rich ceramic-making history. Fascinated by the handcrafted quality of her souvenirs, Parker returned home with a renewed sense of discovery, and decided to try her hand at throwing. “Clay was just something that clicked with me,” she says. “After taking a few pottery classes, I wanted to make furniture-scale pieces. I had to push myself to learn more, because it wasn’t a very common practice.”
Modifying the classic craft even more, Parker doesn’t glaze her work once it comes out of the kiln. Prior to moving to New York City, she would apply a clear gloss, sandblast it to remove the sheen, and then finish the piece with beeswax for a subtle patina that deepened the clay’s natural tone. But now considering the space constraints of her adopted home, Parker cannot keep heavy pieces equipment on hand, and, instead utilizes a clay with tiny white speckles to achieve a similar look. “With sculpture, there are no rules,” adds Parker.
After debuting her first collection of glass and terracotta tables and other mixed-media pieces at Sight Unseen Offsite last year, Parker shifted her attention to ceramic lighting. Her Insta-famous Oo lamps are created through a hand-building process that yields an organic form. “I like a little awkwardness with shape and scale,” Parker adds, highlighting the fixture’s raw composition and feminine curves. “It’s really interesting to bring odd pieces into a space and observe how we end up living around these strange objects.”
Though her designs are playful in nature, the on-the-rise talent, who grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, wants her furnishings to be significant of the current era. “Rather than form follows function, I think form should following meaning,” says Parker. “There’s so much happening nowadays that we should explore our values and current events with our designs. People want a story and to feel like they’re participating in a greater cause when they purchase a piece.”