Photos: Joe Chin
We partnered with Phillip Kim of PKK Ceramics to produce a new mug just in time for the holidays. This is the third distinct style that Phill has produced in collaboration with our brand, and we count ourselves fortunate to be able to work with him year in and year out. When we set out to brainstorm for this year's mug project, we sent over photos of our NY flaghip store as it was being built out. The combination of the faded red brick baseboards and the hand-troweled cream plaster walls reminded Phill of a hike that he went on four years ago in Utah, where he found some interesting red clay in the wild. We enjoy working with Phill for many reasons, not least of which is his keen eye for detail and his ability to tie points of inspirations together. To some this may look like a simple mug, but a lot of thought, intent, and work was put into each one.
Whether you're purchasing some for yourself or as a holiday gift for a loved one, our hope is that these mugs will bring comfort as they're used every day. We all drink out of PKK vessels both at the office and at home and the enjoyment they bring relative to the cost that we paid for them is pretty amazing. There are lots of handthrown vessels out there, but Phill's experience as a barista has informed the way he designs his mugs in a pretty special way. The weighty bottoms provide a smooth balance as they're being drunk out of, and the interiors are glazed to perfection for an unparalleled mouthfeel.
We took time to chat with Phill about how he's been doing, and about these mugs in particular; you can read our conversation below. The L'Avventura Mug is available both online and via our NY & LA flagship stores.
You’re in a much different place this year than last - as many of us are. How has your process been affected by the pandemic?
Obviously there was a lot of worry and uncertainty when no one knew what was going on in the very early stages, but I hit the studio and gained a lot of momentum early on. Nothing is certain, but it’s both amazing and reassuring that people find ways to adapt in innovative ways when facing hardship; this is what I witnessed from other creatives too. There was a tangible boost that I felt as people actively tried to support the artist community but also responding and rallying around tragic events and injustices taking place throughout the country. I was happy to see friends show up. Their gestures of support were so reassuring.
I do feel like I was able to concentrate more this year. Being a small operation, you’re always thinking of ways to expand but I do feel like all the hard work I put in the years before set me up well for a time like this. It allowed me to try some fun new things here and there.
This red clay that we used on this year’s project is one of those new things. You’ve never worked with this material before, but the idea behind it is not new.
There are infinite things I don’t know about the process of working with clay, and this is what makes this whole journey fun: constant learning. When you do get away, especially on solo trips to a beautiful place, you can come across clay from the very ground you’re walking on which is super special. I found some of it on a trip to Zion National Park four years ago when I was hiking a trail. I did the hike alone and ended up overlooking the valley. I was making myself a lil’ AeroPress and hanging out at the top and on the way back, I found some natural clay body. I can’t pretend to tell you I know the whole breakdown of what makes it clay instead of dirt; all I know is what it felt like when I picked it up and it was clay. It was brownish-red and something about it was so impactful, from the color to the hand feel - it stayed with me and I thought about it often.
What drew me to this clay that I sourced for these series of mugs in particular is its stone-like feel, its rough and raw but yet very tactile in its sensation and that is always my goal. It brought me back to that clay I found on my hike four years ago. If we think back to the collection I did for you last time, the edges and walls on last year’s pieces had straighter, sharper lines. On this year’s, if you put your thumb and index finger on the bottom and circle your way around, it feels like threads of a screw. Those lines are where my fingers lifted the clay. Some of them are a bit smoother and others have more defined “threads.”
Did you have to throw or shape these mugs differently from the last ones?
Different types of clays have their own feel and their unique characteristics require subtle changes when hand throwing. Throwing clay is fascinating because every individual has a different approach to whatever it is they do, you just hone in on what works for you. Though the idea is the same when throwing, there are different levels of editing or adding throughout different phases that make them unique and personal. Even depending on your mood and how tired your arms are, the lines can be more or less defined.
What formed that white streak on the outside?
It’s porcelain slip. After working for a while, the water one uses to throw will turn into an excess material that has multiple uses, and so I collect it after I’m done throwing. Slip can be used as a binding glue for handles or any clay attachment really. In this case, I used it as a decorative tool. That was the final touch on this design, that last bit of gesture on a simple shape that people will hopefully use daily for years to come.