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MEET: Lyric Shen

Lyric Shen is a Los Angeles-based ceramicist, movement instructor, and tattoo artist. Her view of ceramics as part of a larger somatic healing practice and her dedication to ecologically-aware practices inspired our selection of her work for the newest installment of SPACE ⁠— our rotating online artist residency. We caught up with Lyric over the phone on a sunny afternoon as she relaxed at the park.

Interview by Ambrea Miller
Shaina Mote — MEET: Lyric Shen

How clay chose Lyric.

About a year after graduating from college, I got a job working for Providence ¡CityArts! for Youth, an after school program for arts and humanities. What was interesting is that I was hired as a drawing and painting instructor and they had mentioned that they needed someone to teach ceramics. I applied, and I didn’t think that they would hire me. But they did! During that time I was constantly thinking about lesson plans and so also how to contextualize ceramics in a contemporary way. At the same time something I think is cool about ceramics is the connection to a deep history of the way people have recorded life.










Tell us about your early influences.

I wanted to look specifically at Asian-American women who had been working as potters in the East coast. Just through browsing online, I came across this woman, her name is Toshiko Takaezu. After years of teaching she bought land in New Jersey which has since become her studio and legacy. It was special to find an artist who fit all of this search criteria for me. She was making commercial products casting hundreds and thousands of the same thing and eventually found her own path as an artist. I really related to that multidimensional narrative, of potters both in industry (laborers) and as artists.




Toshiko Takaezu throwing a ceramic pot / Toshiko Takaezu papers, 1937-2010. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution - Photographer Unknown







How has your relationship with your immediate surroundings and the environment at large adapted or changed through the years?

Since moving back to California, I’ve had the opportunity to return to the East coast periodically. A lot of the pieces featured in this residency are from a work study I did in North Carolina at a school called Penland. The potters surrounding the community are digging their own clay, mixing their own glazes, just going beyond the first step of being inspired by your environment and portraying it to really understanding your relationship to it and understanding every time you’re taking from it or giving to it. Going one step deeper from making work about your environment to making work with it. If I know there’s a way to do things more responsibly now it would be silly for me not to try my best to take that away from what I learned.














What distracts you? How do you remain centered?

Hmm, devices. Something I have been doing is making sure that I take breaks. I’m not the most organized person but I do love a to-do list or planner, crossing out tasks and having a clean agenda. If I don’t schedule in breaks, you know designated mind wandering time every couple of hours (especially during quarantine), then my mind will do that when I need it to be tethered or focused the most. I try to take into account everything that factors into feeling good - physical and spiritual nourishment, etc.




Toshiko Takaezu, 1974. Photographer unknown. Toshiko Takaezu papers. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.





Do you have personal practices for living or well-being that create a reduced environmental impact or are zero waste?

I personally think choosing a few everyday changes at a time to really stick with helps with the overwhelming feeling of responsibility as a consumer.
 I hang dry clothes and linens when possible. My roommate and I use microfiber rags instead of paper towels. I make my own green juice and raw crackers with a blender and dehydrator.





On looking forward to creation in the future...

Something I’ve missed is practicing yoga and movement in studio space. Even though the home practice has been interesting and cool in a lot of ways I really miss the people I practice with. I would love to just practice at the park with friends.


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