ARTIST INTERVIEW: KAT PINO
Who are you and what do you design?
I’m Kat (Katherijne) Pino, a ceramic artist from The Netherlands, living in Vancouver since 2016. I design and make contemporary dinnerware and home goods with a focus on functionality and simplicity.
Tell us about your journey as an artist.
My journey as an artist started very early, although my focus used to be on classical ballet, illustrations, and a ‘corporate career’, for the better part of my life.
With an architect dad, music teacher mom and two brothers in arts and music, I come from a creative nest. Creativity has always been in abundance, and a big part of my life growing up. Like my brothers I went to art school, I studied Illustrations, but ended up with a University degree in Art History and Cultural Sciences in 2005.
I worked as a freelance copywriter and online project manager successfully for nearly a decade, before I tried my hand at pottery. It started as a way to “get out of my head and into my body”, but quickly turned into something that made me happy and steer away from the monotony that had taken over my life.
Early 2016 I ended my freelance career, sold my wheel and kiln, and moved to Vancouver with my husband. With no job or career lined up for me, it was here that I decided to give pottery a go fulltime.
If you could choose one word to describe your collection what would it be?
Describe your creative process for us.
My creative process starts with the design phase, in which I create and develop new ideas, sketch, and define technical and aesthetic specifications. The first idea for a new product often comes from a need, a problem that needs solving, or an aesthetic that, in my opinion, could be better suited to an object or is different from what already exists. Other times I simply make what I like making or what I would want to show off at my dinner table.
What a new product must look like in terms of shape, colour, and functionality, is something that comes to me very quickly. I often sketch out the idea first or create a technical drawing, which states measurements and key functionalities. I sometimes cut out a 2D sample to check if those measurements are correct, and to make sure the proportions are easy on the eye.
After that, it’s time to sit behind the wheel and create the actual product. And making ceramics is an interesting, diverse, but also time-consuming process. It can easily take 3 weeks for a lump of clay to become a finished product!
Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration comes to me in different ways. For instance, talking to other people about functionality and materials; I can spend hours brainstorming solutions for design problems and sketching out new products with my husband, who also has a creative background.
And of course, I also find inspiration in the work of various other ceramic artists. I love the work of locally-based MiMOKO. And some of my other favourites are Scotland based potter Jono Smart, Charmian Ong from Bisuketto Studio in Australia, Farmers Studio in South Korea, and Florian Gadsby, working out of London
Aesthetically I’m inspired by modern design, architecture, industrial design and interiors. What attracts me the most are simple and clean lines, shapes, and materials like glass, concrete, and wood. Think Bauhaus, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Charles and Ray Eames. I’m also inspired by the aesthetics coming from countries such as Denmark and Japan.
Have you taken any risks to land where you are now?
Essentially there was no risk. Coming to Vancouver meant not having a steady job or a career. Luckily my husband had landed a great job, which allowed me to ease into this new path and building my ceramics brand slowly. But choosing ceramics felt risky on an emotional level. In the first two years of living in Vancouver, I had a hard time shaking off my career-driven mindset. It felt like “playing with clay all day” wasn’t a “real” job. It felt like I didn’t do anything useful or legit. I discovered that in the previous decade, my identity had become intertwined with my career and the income that came with it. And making ceramics is not the most profitable craft; it often means investing quite a sum of money in equipment and materials before even getting started. And very often there’s more money flowing out than flowing in. I’ve had a few sleepless nights over it. I still take on a few freelance copywriter gigs each year, which helps financially and also makes for a nice change.
Is there a designer or brand with whom you’d love to collaborate?
There’s not one particular designer or brand that I’d like to collaborate with at the moment. Instead, I would like to collaborate with interior designers and restaurants that have a focus on high quality in terms of style and experience. I would love it if my ceramics could complement the overall concept and could add value to their interiors or dining experience. My recent collaboration was with Prototype Coffee, a high-end coffee bar that recently opened in the Strathcona area.
Looking ahead, what do you hope to accomplish?
In the future, I hope to collaborate more with restaurants and interior designers. There’s something very special about working closely with other people who have a clear design vision.
But, if I allow myself to dream out loud, I would love to one day own a ceramics shop. When I was still living in the Netherlands, I would cycle through the centre of my hometown, Haarlem, where tucked away in one of the small cobblestone streets, there was this gorgeous historic brick corner building with vacant retail space on the ground floor. It had beautiful large windows that were framed with the tallest hollyhocks and sunflowers. I used to dream that it could someday be my studio with a retail storefront. It would be a place where I would not only make and sell my ceramics but also showcase other design, literature, sell home-baked pies, fresh eggs and flowers from my garden.