Home Away From Home is a series that spotlights BIPOC brands that are adding a cultural essence to everyday items. This allows anyone to always have a piece of their culture in their own space without ever feeling homesick or out of touch with their roots. We're exploring the stories of the individuals behind the brands that have touched people's hearts through their products and have allowed people to feel at home anywhere.
In celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are highlighting AAPI owned businesses in the month of May to share their voices and recognize their influence on the Asian community.
What started out as a restorative hobby transformed into an expressive ceramic business that is bringing a new meaning to what work can be like—unpredictable and playful. Carrie Lau began her ceramic journey as a way to pick up a new hobby and simultaneously be connected to her professional creative roles as an illustrator and art director. Lau initially used ceramics to relax and to become more mindful in the moment of creating, but as she made more pieces, she decided to take her art to a craft market one day and from there, O-M Ceramics gradually grew into a whole brand.
Lau was born and raised in Hong Kong and lived there until 14 years ago, when she decided to move to Los Angeles. Attending business school and being in the fashion marketing field exposed her to various fronts of design, including graphic design. With frequent traveling, Lau's work was influenced by the diverse cultures of the places she visited.
A Meditative Moment
In creating her ceramic pieces, Lau explains that it is not only an activity she enjoys but is also part of her meditation. "It's very meditative to me," she says. "It's kind of like communicating your ideas to yourself through your hands and work, like a kind of expression." She notes the difference it can make when products are made with genuine intent and love, since it's willingly made and not forced upon.
Lau views curating ceramics as a creative outlet and meditative process since she makes every piece something that she, personally, likes or is drawn to. "I'm drawn to the colors, I'm drawn to the shapes, and I want people to look at my pieces and say, 'oh, it's a really happy piece.' I want people to feel the joy with my work, so that's one of the things that I want to translate from my work", she says.
Two other key influences that inspire Lau's colorful and playful pieces is the Los Angeles weather and its cultural, creative community. From the sunny, bright weather to national parks and beaches, the nature surrounding Los Angeles gives Lau ideas for the vibrant colors and shapes she can use in her designs. As an artist in Los Angeles, Lau feels supported. "You see a lot of people really doing what they like. So it is very encouraging and I like being a part of this. You don't feel like you're the only one doing it," she says.
The Creative Break Down
Lau's signature collection consists of structure, symmetry, and clean details, which was always part of her ceramic routine. Recently, she has been challenging herself and the concept of functionality through her new pieces by playing with clay and its movement. As she sketches each piece, she aims to create structure abstractly. "I move everything a little bit. I want to keep everything functional, but I still want to make it more fun to look at," she says. "It's also a part of my curiosity, like what can we make out of it?" By building her clay more organically with her hands instead of a pottery wheel, she is able to explore more with structure and create unique pieces.
I'm doing more abstract art...fun object stuff. It's changed a little bit of my routine, and I enjoy that part of it. It has surprised me because it's made not exactly like it should or exactly what I think which is the difference between my signature work and that kind of object work.
Appreciating the Small Details
As the last two years shifted many lives, Lau was able to still find and appreciate the small, joyous opportunities within the shift. She reminisces about the times when she would walk to the same places where she would drive to and how it gave her a new perspective on her neighborhood. She noticed the details she hadn't been able to beforehand and connect with her neighbors more face-to-face (albeit, at a distance).
The slowed down pace and connection to understand one another during an uncertain time inspired her. "It changed people. It allowed people to find something or anything to focus on in that specific moment," she points out. It challenged everyone, including Lau, to be present within the moment and in their thoughts, which seems difficult, but felt a lot less lonely and burdensome knowing everyone was going through similar emotions together.
Lau understands the frustration of feeling stuck on a problem whether it be a personal or art related one, which she finds doing the best she can in the moment and revisiting it once she feels less overwhelmed. "I think sometimes when you think about that idea too long, it's not going to help. So, I learned to step away from the situation and just not think about it for a little bit," she says. "I just do other things and that always helps like take a walk or have a coffee. Just something different. Change the mood and then come back, which is not that bad."
When asked about what advice she would give new ceramicists, she recommends going with the flow and not having a perfect image of your first piece even if you're a perfectionist. "Every piece in the beginning is certainly imperfect, so don't skip the uniqueness. Just don't be too judgmental on what you get in the beginning," she says. Lau further explains how it's easy to get lost in the vision of the final product but the process itself is what the beauty of ceramics is and enjoying it is part of the practice.
Enjoy the moment of fill the clay, creating the texture, and overall, the whole process instead of the end palette. I think that was what I enjoy the most for the process.
Lau is currently experimenting with new colors and formats for her upcoming thicker sculptures that are set to release soon. She hopes to continue collaborating with brands and creating pieces beyond ceramics to encapsulate her playful and colorful personality.