We have a new accessory to introduce to you that is unlike anything we have ever released before, the facial mask bowl.
We spend a lot of time making facial masks in our office and they’re messy. Really messy. (You should see our group office chat about kitchen clean up duties, oh boy.) When we make them in our hands it’s hard to get the consistency just right or make enough to share so we always use our kitchen bowls… yeah that doesn’t go over so well with those of us that are especially active on the kitchen clean up chat.
We realized that if we’re having these issues, you probably are too, so we decided to make a dedicated mask bowl. Well, none of us are potters, so we partnered with an amazing local claysmith to make our masking dreams come true.
Our new partner in pottery is Kiyomi Koide, and can I just tell you that she’s amazing?
Kiyomi is from Japan, and it’s clear as soon as you step into her studio that she has strong ties with her familial heritage. Her shelves hold a myriad of differently shaped bowls and cups without handles and there were a couple of newly made ramen bowls drying next to her potter's wheel while we spoke.
She talked about being inspired by the way food is eaten, especially in Japan, and the practical uses of her pottery along with the different ways to shape a handle—being someone that is almost always holding a mug of something, this was a conversation I could really get into—she loves the idea of bringing a special moment to someone when they choose her handmade cups and she said, “this is my way of bringing happiness to the world.”
Kiyomi first fell for clay in Mexico in 2002. She said that she loved the natural red color and the texture of the pottery so she took a class and the rest was history.
Since 2005, Kiyomi has been making pottery seriously for individuals and wholesale clients (like us). She doesn’t waste any clay that is leftover from her projects so a lot of the sample work that lines the walls of her studio is made of stratifications of different natural clays and she works to bring out all of the natural colors and textures in the different clays. It makes every piece a truly unique experience.
Kiyomi is the kind of artist that can’t put down her work. She says that sometimes she falls asleep designing shapes of bowls and handles for mugs and although she typically makes practical things, when she wakes up with an idea (like marionettes) she makes it right away. She is open about her obsession and says that even though she has her own pottery all over the place, she still buys from other artists because there is something so special about knowing the people her bowls come from.
Kiyomi always works with the best intentions. She never swears or gets mad when something breaks or deforms. With a sweet smile she says, “clay has memory.”
The Memory of Clay
One of the most fascinating things about my time chatting with Kiyomi is how she spoke about clay as an entity and a tool rather than just a means to a practical solution. There’s this beautiful meld of art and friendship and pragmatism that radiates through the whole studio.
Kiyomi told me that clay has it’s own life and will. When she’s making a new piece, she tries to get it the best shape that she can but sometimes it remembers a different way that it wants to be and it will deform. Even when she remakes it back into the shape she wants, it will decide to change back during the firing process, that’s why not all of our new facial mask mixing bowls are perfectly round. She just says, “clay wanted to do that. You think you know what will happen, or how it will turn out but you never do – it’s a journey.”
Our New Bowls
It took months of trial and error to get our new mixing bowls just right. Kiyomi sent a whole slew of design and color samples to our design team and after much deliberation we decided on the color scheme you see.
What you don’t see is the tireless work that goes into these bowls. Sure, Kiyomi loves it and each face mask mixing bowl is filled with positive intention, but that doesn’t make it any less of a challenge—Kiyomi is a one woman show, after all.
Every bowl goes through the same process but not a single one turns out the same. She starts by turning each porcelain bowl on her wheel—sometimes they don’t want to stay perfectly round so she has to go back and make each one as circular as she can. Then she fires them in the electric kiln to set the clay—this is called bisquing and it makes the clay hard so that if you were to add water it wouldn’t go back to being moldable.
After bisquing, Kiyomi stains the bottom of each bowl with a black stain and lets them dry. Then she coats the black stain on the bottoms with wax so that the yellow glaze won’t set into the bowl there and it leaves the rougher texture of the clay. Then she dips each bowl into the yellow glaze that we chose and when it’s dry it goes into the gas kiln.
We spoke at length about the different types of firing and the different kilns. The reason we chose to gas fire the final product was because it is real fire and that means that no two mask bowls can ever be identical because no two flames are the same. We think that raw, unique power is beautiful.
That’s why we chose Kiyomi to make these bowls. We knew we wanted them handmade and unique, and we knew that every single mixing bowl would be touched and loved by you so we wanted to capture that love in the clay from start to finish. We never take shortcuts to quality and we couldn’t have asked for a better partner in this project than Kiyomi. She makes these in very small batches so know that they are truly special.