Kat + RogerMar 30, 2018Photos By Chris Braun
If the late John Berger taught us anything, it's that the best definition of art is "a way of seeing." That's why we created the Huckberry Artist Series — a partnership with some of our favorite creatives, a peek into their process, and a chance to see the world through their eyes. And to bring just a little more of their world into yours, we teamed up to create a limited run of prints and merch. For this go-around, we've upped the ante with a batch of custom-made ceramics.
"One thing that gets lost in mass-production is a true connection and appreciation for how something is made."
2/4 OF THE MAKERS BEHIND CLAYSTREET
Kat + Roger
Love and ceramics. For some, those words only conjure up memories of the oft-parodied pottery scene in Ghost. For Kat Hutter and Roger Lee, they're just the two persistent forces of the couple's daily life. As husband and wife, they've melded their respective fine art disciplines—painting for Kat, ceramics for Roger—into a thriving studio practice. Roger's hand-thrown, high-fired stoneware is embellished with Kat's geometric, playfully-patterned paintings. The end result is more functional and intimate than any art hanging in a museum could ever be. Most recently they've unveiled Claystreet — a collaborative project with fellow ceramicists, Mudshark Studios. Huckberry was lucky enough to commission a custom batch of these ceramics and ahead of their release, we spoke with Kat + Roger to learn more about their labor of love.
H: Let's start with the basics. Run us through a typical day in the studio.
K+R: It’s a 9-5 for us (maybe more like 10-6). Emails early in the morning. Walk our favorite, sweet monster, Sugaree. Then we arrive at the studio and get to work. Roger will start throwing on the wheel, working on orders for our retailers. Kat will start painting on the finished wares. We break for a quick lunch. Then continue production, or packing/shipping, load the kiln, water the plants. We know what needs to be done and we try to be as productive as we can throughout the day. Being your own boss may mean having some freedom, but it also means taking responsibility for everything.
H: How did the Claystreet project begin?
K+R: Claystreet began as a conversation between our friends at Mudshark Studios in Portland, OR. We lived in Portland about ten years ago, and Roger was one of Mudshark’s first employees, working with Chris and Brett, the founders/owners of Mudshark Studios. We have maintained a strong connection with them throughout those years. This project had been something we all had been thinking about, and on a trip to Portland last year, it sparked the flame that then became Claystreet. We all thought it was a no-brainer, and were a little surprised it took us this long, but happily, it happened. We had been thinking of different ways of scaling K+R, which we knew we did not want to mass produce any more than we already are. Working with Chris and Brett at Mudshark seemed like a great solution. We intend to grow the Claystreet collection by adding pieces slowly and eventually include a dinnerware line. To be completely honest, Claystreet has been something we have been working on behind the scenes for a few years, and it is finally time to let it out!
H: Congrats on bringing it to life. What's the process like, collaborating with another studio across state lines?
K+R: Mudshark has been a solution to a lot of our production needs. We design the product and help get it out into the world, and they take care of the production and distribution. It’s a perfect partnership where we both have the facilities to run our businesses, and now we have found the perfect match, balanced by each other’s strengths. Our relationship with Chris and Brett already had a level of trust and respect for each other’s work, which has made it a smooth collaboration.
H: Los Angeles has become a sort of mecca for makers, what is it about the city that makes it so hospitable for creative work?
K+R: Well, it’s been a long journey getting to where we are, and Los Angeles has been the place that has worked out for us. This is where all of our past experiences seem to have come together to have helped to build something we are truly proud of. Roger is from LA and is aware of the potential of living in a city, where we would have access to the industry and a retail market. We seem to have found an audience here who respond to our work well and have supported us in our venture. It has definitely been a hustle getting to where we are, with both compromises and rewards. But this is a city that cultivates creative ideas and welcomes the entrepreneurial spirit. Los Angeles is a place where we have come to follow our dreams. We still wake up every day, grateful for what we have, and wonder what else is out there for us.
H: Interest in ceramics seems to be at an all-time high. What do you attribute that to?
K+R: We feel that one reason interest in ceramics has been climbing is a backlash to relying so heavily on technology in almost every aspect of life these days. This allows us to have access to almost anything. When one is faced with so many options, we think it has caused people to actively choose to return to something more tangible, handmade, truly one-of-a-kind, like ceramics. It is the quest to find something truly unique that always ends up leading to the artist/maker. There is a very visceral connection to the material. Ceramics have such a timeless quality, and really it is one of the oldest crafts, so they'll always have a strong place in human history.
H: If you weren't working in this discipline, what would you be up to?
K+R: Well, it’s not like we just woke up one day and decided to “do ceramics." Both of us have our Masters in Fine Art; Kat in Painting, and Roger in Ceramics. This has been a career for us where we have traveled, taught at various colleges and made work wherever we could. We’ve always maintained our studio practice, so without ceramics, we would probably still be sitting on a quiet beach somewhere, but wondering, “How did I get here?”
H: When you hit a creative block, where do you turn to reset or find inspiration?
K+R: We tend to travel a lot when we feel the need to take a break, even if it’s a day trip up the coast or into the mountains. Inspiration is everywhere, and we are fortunate to be living in a city with so much “culture” around us. Occasionally, we take a break by taking the Metro downtown to eat lunch at Grand Central Market, cruise through Chinatown, or stop off in Little Tokyo and walk to the Arts District to see what’s up at Hauser & Wirth. Much of what we do has become work for us, and we love it! But right around October, we start to feel the need to go somewhere and plan a trip before the holiday madness begins. We’ve been fortunate enough to live in amazing places we can still call home. We hope to make this a tradition for us.
H: What tips do you have for people just starting to furnish and decorate their homes — newcomers to "nesting" for lack of a better word?
K+R: You'll know you've got it when you can walk into your place and feel comfortable calling it "home". It’s a good balance of a natural aesthetic and function, where everything has a purpose and has its place.
H: Outside of ceramics, are there other handmade or crafty items you live with?
K+R: Yes! We’ve been slowly building up a collection of furniture made by fellow makers we know. Our friends Garza Marfa, in Marfa, Texas, make incredible Saddle Leather Furniture. We added one of their Oval Chairs and Ottoman and an Eric Trine Leather Armchair to our small collection. And, of course, we have quite a ceramics and art collection with pieces from so many people we love and respect — too many to individually name. Each piece has a story from somewhere we have lived or an experience we've had or a person we've met. Those are the things that become so special, they become the most important part of the pieces we bring into our home. It’s been a pleasure working with so many talented people and we feel blessed to be able to call them friends.
H: What do people miss out on when they buy mass-produced home goods?
K+R: I think one thing that gets lost is a true connection and appreciation for how something is made. This, in turn, results in a disposable or temporary nature to things we bring into the home. Even if something is mass produced, often times it is still made by people, but so often that is not even part of the conversation. Things get reduced to trends or seasonally designed objects to be replaced on a whim. When we know how the objects we bring into our home were made or who made them, those are the objects that stay with us for the long term. Also, it forces us to carefully consider what we bring into our home and why we are drawn to things.
H: After a long day at the studio, how do you treat yourself?
K+R: By the end of the week, we feel the need for a good happy hour somewhere: wine, beer, good food, and a toast for all the hard work.
H: On that note, before we take any more of your time, got a word of advice for couples that work together?
K+R: Count your blessings, and constantly remind yourselves of your past, present, and future together. Oh, and say, “I love you.”
Katby the numbers
- 2 - 50pieces made per day
- 5,000+K&R cups
- 2cups of coffee per day
- "When we know how the objects we bring into our home were made or who made them, those are the objects that stay with us for the long term."
- "Occasionally, we take a break by taking the Metro downtown to eat lunch at Grand Central Market, cruise through Chinatown, or stop off in Little Tokyo and walk to the Arts District."
- "It has definitely been a hustle getting to where we are, with both compromises and rewards. But this is a city that cultivates creative ideas and welcomes the entrepreneurial spirit."