On the Verge: The Emerging Designer Who Makes Both Furniture — and Jewelry
Accented with dusty pink carpeting and velvety elephant-ear plants, Eny Lee Parker’s exhibition booth at the Sight Unseen Offsite fair in New York last May was as modern as it was earthy; a Pantone time capsule of how we decorate now. The 28-year-old designer and ceramist filled the space with furniture that felt unattached to the whims of trend, however, with mixed-media pieces like a glass coffee table with juglike terracotta legs and a lamp with a cone-shaped ceramic base and an upturned metal shade. For the clay elements in her designs, Parker employs a unique technique: She applies a clear glaze, sandblasts it to remove the high gloss and finally coats the pieces with beeswax, which deepens their tone.
“I love that terracotta is so accessible, and that you pull it up from the ground,” says the Savannah, Ga., resident and graduate of its College of Art and Design. A self-professed “neutrals person,” Parker’s aesthetic is informed by a measure of Faye Toogood and Constantin Brancusi, as well as global references including her childhood in Brazil — “you see crafts there everywhere, and I wanted to use traditional methods of fabrication in a contemporary environment” — and an adolescence spent helping her mother, a pattern maker, in the Los Angeles garment district.
Recently formative was the trip to her parents’ native Korea two years ago, where at a market in Gyeonju City, the country’s oldest town, she fell in love with a traditional gray pottery tea set with white carvings and a round spout. She returned to Savannah intrigued and ready to try her hand at throwing. “I wanted to use the potter’s wheel to create furniture, which was very ambitious, especially for the size of things that you have to throw,” she admits. “It was a lot of YouTubing and asking actual potters that know what they’re doing, and trying to do my best.”
Beforehand, Parker was focused on welding, a skill she puts to use in some of her work, including spindly-legged steel planters and green-velvet-upholstered chairs with powder-coated steel frames, as well as a trim wabi-sabi vanity table with a sliding mirror. “I like to keep it geometric and simple,” she says. “The terracotta pieces are so much more about the forms, and the welded pieces, about the lines.” Her affinity for form has extended to a line of ceramic earrings – smooth links of bone, terracotta and black clay that put the earth-toned world she creates in the palm of a hand.
Next up for Parker is a collaboration with a brand that employs Filipino artisans to make sculptural wicker mobiles from banana fibers, and eventually a line of clothing for artists and designers, created in partnership with her mother and stepbrother. “I designed pieces that you could get dirty: a jumpsuit, a pair of pants, a tee and a work belt.” But her dream project? “Designing a home for Solange.”
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