I first knew Rami Kim as a painter. 9 years ago when I moved to Los Angeles, my friend gifted me a small print by Rami, purchased at an art fair. The painting is of three girls in rabbit masks. They all have medium brown hair in various stages of jumping or skipping or even flying. There are two intersecting lines in an otherwise completely opaque black background.
And even before the gift I had seen her work in CalArts circles (I was starting, she was leaving). I loved the work because it felt tight and loose at the same time, big washes of color against perfect, precise little figures. Often the paintings were vaguely narrative—
a girl sleeping while a tiger circles nearby, children miniaturized and climbing stalky vegetables. It always seemed to me that her work was building a fable or fairytale that imposed no ethics or conclusions—little moments in a story without order.
Since then we’ve become friends through the ever expanding community of creative women in Los Angeles. I’ve followed her work through animation phases, now in ceramics, and even further into sculpture. In its many iterations her work continues that specific tight/loose feeling. Her latest sculptures include “blob” figures that defy a kind of impulse to identify or project into an object. They are loose, substantial clay pieces made by quick repetitive hitting. It’s incredible to watch Rami use a stick and almost drum the clay into being. It’s both a process of chance and finesse.
From the beginning, Jaimie, Jeff, and I knew we wanted to collaborate with Rami Kim for Tenzo in some capacity. We were thrilled when she agreed to make two exclusive pieces to celebrate our launch. We floated the idea of a porcelain salt pinch bowl with a fox figurine and Rami immediately pulled out her notebook and started sketching little fox faces, thinking aloud and noting that the ears had to be pointy and the nose upturned so that it wouldn't be mistaken for a dog. The speed of her creativity was amazing to me.
For our second piece, Rami sketched out a footed clay colander with large lobe like handles with tiny, sweet details—an etched face on the handle, tiny dots of gold luster. Jaimie and I loved watching Rami hand sculpt these round bowls, slowly thinning the clay. I knew that she didn't use a wheel but seeing her labor with the material felt like a different experience entirely. It seems both familiar and incredible to me that a small tedious repetitive motion can make something so beautiful. This is both true in food and sculpture.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, one of the most rewarding things about Tenzo is the opportunity to collaborate with friends and foster a creative community. Rami likes to say that she loves working with good people and I truly appreciate this as a motivation for creative work. We've had conversations about the ups and downs of balancing an art practice with the unromantic necessities of living and the general endurance it requires. Making a living on art takes stamina and it speaks to me that we need to find value in the work through the friendships, collaborations, and relationships we build.
And I still have that first Rami Kim print, permanently stationed in my kitchen. It's a happy reminder that the Los Angeles is both small and large and rich with talented, good people.