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Lessons From Home with Milk and Clay

My name is: I go by Sydney, but my given Korean name is Hyunah Oh. 

I’m known for being: Senior PR director by day, ceramic artist of Milk and Clay by night and weekend. 

I first became passionate about this when: I started handbuilding pottery in high school, but fell hard for the darkroom and eventually went to college for journalism where there was a great photography program. With pottery always in the back of my mind, I was on a waitlist for a wheel class program after college. After four years, I finally got in and never looked back. 

I love it because: Making pottery is definitely cathartic and helps me stay present. I welcome the way it teaches me to slow down, while balancing New York’s fast-paced lifestyle. Working in fashion, specifically in PR, I’m constantly looking ahead and planning for seasons and launches for other brands. Pottery is a great way for me to stay grounded and have something for myself.

I started my line when: Milk and Clay was founded upon the idea of imbuing comfort and nourishment for the home and soul. I grew up using factory-made dishes and really felt a difference in the experience of using handmade ceramics. There’s something special and rewarding about bringing function to form and creating a vessel from the earth to nourish yourself. Whether it be a cup for tea, a plate for food or a vase for flowers, it can really elevate the everyday and bring a sense of comfort and calm into a space.

One thing you may not know is: My pieces tend to have very subtle design details that accommodate my aesthetic obsession, where only the enjoyer can tell by holding it up close. For example, the Pillowy Series pieces have an exaggerated rounded foot when you turn them upside down, which gives a very personal feel through a detail that only you might know about. The Pillowy Series Ashtray was designed with a lid to conceal unsightly ash and burnt ends, as well to help hold in the scent. What may not be obvious is the tiny bowl within the center that allows for smoke breaks. I tend to burn incense cones and rest palo santo on mine.

This work makes me feel connected to the Earth because: The pottery making process is very similar to nature in the sense that it can’t totally be controlled. There are just too many variables that may have an impact on the result. I love leaving it up to the elements, literally using earth, water, wind and fire. My favorite type of pottery is woodfired, which only happens a couple times a year and requires me to take bisqued pieces upstate to join a community of potters who stoke the fire for four days straight. Then, after a week or two of cooling, we can finally unload the kiln. The results are truly unpredictable, creating unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. The ashes from the fire may add a metallic sheen, and there may be a variety of carbon trapping details that can give the pieces character.   

I’m currently at home in: Staying safe inside my apartment in Brooklyn. Just doing my part to flatten that curve!

Staying at home all the time is challenging, but one way I’ve kept myself in a good headspace is: Practicing gratitude. I’ve been learning to shift my perspective to look for every silver lining. It’s helped me cope, knowing that I’m lucky to have a roof over my head and comforting food on the table.

One way, ceramics can help you stay sane right now is: I prefer working on a wheel, but staying home with limited clay has helped me be creative with handbuilding with much less pressure on myself. Just the other day, I made buttons and they were cute!

One lesson I’ve learned from this time that we can all carry with us after this period ends is: That our Earth can actually heal and flourish when we give it a break and curb our convenient lifestyle habits. I definitely don’t need as much as I thought. I hope that we all understand how globally interconnected we are and address climate change with the same urgency.


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