Eunbi Cho moved to L.A. from Seoul, Korea six years ago to pursue a career in the textile industry. Now 31, Eunbi is on a different trajectory that caters more to her self-discipline and alone time: ceramics.
Upon meeting the artist, she showed me around her 200 sq. ft. studio, which she just proudly made her own. Eunbi built the rows of shelves, window sills and the sliding door with wood all by herself. Unfortunately, the artist has to start looking for a new studio to bring along her ceramic creations because her entire warehouse is getting the boot.
Here’s Eunbi’s story.
Katrina Guevara: How many hours do you usually spend in a week at your studio?
EC: It depends, but I am usually in from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays. I used to come in during weekends, but now I have an assistant who takes a lot off my shoulder. I let my weekends be weekends.
KG: Can you elaborate on your transition from working with fabrics to ceramics?
EC: I started ceramics as an after school class when I was in 10. After that, I only took art classes until I graduated from an arts high school. I eventually got my bachelor’s degree in fiber art. That’s when I had to take ceramics classes, since it was tied under the craft major with ceramics. After college, I was working in the garment industry for a couple of years. I hated it, so I quit and I came to L.A. six years ago. I started working at a fabric company as an assistant to another assistant at a ceramics studio. It wasn’t really a job at first— it was more like helping around and fooling around. After a long period of that, it turned to an actual paid job. After two years, I had what I needed so I left to have my own studio.
KG: How does your past experience with Taekwondo help you with creating ceramics?
EC: Taekwondo is a self-disciplining sport that teaches you how to train your mind and body. It also teaches you to brush things off easily. Like any other sport or hobby, you can only improve your skills by training. You have to look back at every move you made, figure out where you went wrong and fix it by repeating the moves, until you get comfortable with them. Everybody learns differently. Training just became my life, so it’s the same when I create things. A lot of people have good ideas, but not enough skill or patience to execute them. I think I must have enough skills to bring my ideas to life. And those skills can only come from hard work and experience. Doing the same thing everyday until you get really good at it sounds easy, but it’s not easy when you keep failing or faking it. You really have to like something to be able to dedicate that many hours at it. Even though I liked ceramics, I had countless frustrating situations that made me want to give up. Very soon, I would brush things off, and I kept walking. I never knew I failed, until later. At that moment, I simply thought ‘Oh I haven’t practiced enough, I should do better, or I am a loser who cannot even be good at this ONE job I have.’ And that is embarrassing. Since I know what comes after hard work, I would work harder until I was satisfied. And I think I am the way I am because I learned that one of very few things I can have control of is self-improvement.
KG: When I joked about spirits in the studio, you mentioned the little elephant you made. Can you tell us more about the creature and its purpose. What happened to it?
EC: The elephant’s original purpose is to hold incense in its nose. The elephant symbolizes sacredness, so I felt like it could also be my kiln god that would create this shield for my pottery oven to protect it from any bad situations like explosions, cracking or even glazing failures. It could be my fault or an unpreventable accident. It might sound silly, but I think of it as a Greek temple for Zeus and other gods expecting him to protect them.
KG: Give us the backstory of a few ceramics.
EC: The mug with a built-in pipe “Bake Wake” came from an idea to make your morning more fun by starting your day off with coffee and a light bowl. I originally made a sippy cup. The sippy cup and my chillum have a similar shape. So while playing with these two, a light bulb flashed in my head, ‘HI!’
KG: What about the hanging pieces displayed as lamps?
EC: “Invisible Cities” came from the book “Invisible City” by Italo Calvino. The book contains short stories of everyone from Marco Polo to Kubla Khan and the cities they have visited. The cities all seem like different places, but the author is actually talking about one city. All the details of that tale made me see a city I always had in my mind. So I made it.
KG: Give us examples of a ceramics piece and the price points.
EC: So any funky mug or cup with a handle is $60. Whistles with an adjustable strap costs $45. Eggs are $90. Votives for candles and incense are $120.
KG: Can you tell us more about your collaboration with newly opened coffeeshop Giorgiporgi?
EC: One day the owners walked into the studio looking for custom cups. I normally avoid custom orders because there are a lot of adjustments involved. However, I liked their concept, and I liked them as well. In addition, they completely let me be in charge of the design, so I agreed to do it. Most of the cups were created by me. The rigid cups were created especially for them. They wanted cups of six different ounces, so it was little bit challenging considering that ceramics shrink once it goes through firing. I finished them, and I am glad I did it. I’m not sure if I want to do it again, though, haha.
KG: After living in L.A. for six years, have you noticed the change in sentiment towards ceramics?
EC: I think ceramics were not the most popular products for a while. They’ve been around for a very long time. However, the process is very messy, toxic and difficult to approach. It’s not the most delicate occupation. You had to have equipment and knowledge. There were not many facilities besides schools for ceramics classes. In the last few years, accessible information has exposed ceramic to the public very quickly. It made ceramics more approachable and very popular. Now, appreciate the art form. But I also think everything else is very accessible nowadays.
For more info., visit: www.eunbi.us/.