Conversations with an Artist: Kelly Shimoda of Shimoda Ceramics
Kelly Shimoda of Shimoda Ceramics makes hand built ceramics, including jewelry, tableware, and sculptural pieces. Her work has a visceral quality, inspired by observations of landscape, the natural world, textiles, and metallic elements. Her blocks and figures capture a strong element of play. Her wallhangings beg to be transformed regularly. Her jewelry is a study in texture, both tactile and visual. We love it all and think you will, too. Even more beguiling, we love a mother-daughter story, especially when artistic talent runs in a family and are excited to also carry the art of Karen McAlister Shimoda.
Describe the moment you realized art fed your soul.
I grew up taking in lots of art, as my mother is a visual artist, so I observed her creations, had art books around the house, and went to museums all the time. Although I didn't consider myself an artist back then, I've had a compulsion to make things since I was a child. Through working as a photographer previously and now with clay, I understand that making art is something that I have to do, no matter the medium. It's the way I feel most comfortable expressing myself and making art feels empowering and liberating to me. It may have been a long process of discovery, but I now don't know what I'd do without art in my daily life.
What themes do you pursue in your art?
I'm inspired by observing the landscape and the natural world. I love metallic elements and free-formed shapes. At the same time, I'm always thinking about daily life and human behavior, which feels like a continuation of my work as a photographer. I've also found a new inspiration in being a mother to a young child, which I think has made my work a bit more playful.
Tell us about what influences the direction for your ceramic collections.
I tend to think seasonally and through small collections, which makes things feel more manageable to me. Whatever plan I set out with my work usually leads me somewhere else, which I actually find very exciting. I often make personal objects and then they inspire a series, or I'll start with a mug design and the clay scraps inspire a sculpture. I really try to let the moments I'm in the studio with the clay in my hands direct me as much as possible.
How has your work developed over time?
I started out making more functional items and jewelry and while I still enjoy those forms, I've really been enjoying making more decorative, playful, and sculptural pieces over the past year. I've allowed myself to follow my instincts which has led me to a really gratifying place in the studio.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
I love my little tabletop slab roller–it’s a very hard and dedicated worker in my studio:)
Do you collect anything?
I can't resist a good pinecone, strange rock, or a smooth piece of driftwood.
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen, read, watched or listened to recently?
I recently finished an excellent book, The Far Away Brothers, which is an account of two brothers' immigration journey from Central America to the US. They land in the Bay Area and it is so very relevant to our current times–both the brothers' story and the writer's work inspire me!
What advice would you give to your younger self about your artistic journey?
I wish I would have taken the risk to follow my creative inspirations earlier and to have trusted that it was possible and necessary back when I didn't believe it. That, and to be patient and persistent with my work, always.
So, what vibe will you add to your favorite spot? Can't wait to help you choose!
~ Bonnie & Jeffrey