Just the Facts
porcelain, sometimes stoneware
Primary forming method
wheel throwing, handbuilding for details
Primary firing temperature
cone 6 or cone 10
Favorite surface treatment
tinkering with slip, slow cooling, ash treatments
trimming tools and my hands
I bounce between 80s new wave, 90s UK alternative, and 60s Viet Rock. Plus Hikaru Utada played on repeat.
a proper kitchen
New York City is a place certainly not known for space. I’m a one-woman operation, creative with the compact. My workspace is an individual studio on the top floor of a collective studio, and the bottom floor is filled with equipment shared with other incredible ceramic artists. It’s a special place that centers on community. There’s a soft buzz of ideas bouncing back and forth, but there’s the quiet necessary to maintain focus too.
My studio embodies my physical and mental needs. My studio acts as a clean workspace, separated from the shared equipment downstairs where I’ll throw or fire work. I designate areas according to the circular stages of clay, mindful of what would lessen physical impact on me over time. (That fun feeling in your lower back and knees!) The shelving units are dedicated to live work—pieces waiting to be trimmed or to be loaded into a kiln. Bags of clay are on the lowest shelves for easier loading and access, and plaster bats are at chest height to minimize lift to a wedging table when ready. My desk houses bisqueware, providing me with more stability as I wax and glaze. When I ramp up production and have more bisque ready, they’ll usually go on the shelves above my plaster bats. I purposely keep some space on my desk clear. I’m also a designer and illustrator. You’ll find all sorts of pens, pencils, markers, and paper with varying thickness within arm’s reach. I aspire to incorporate more aspects of this two-dimensional practice into my ceramic work, so what better way than to be immersed with all of these things in the same space? Whether I’m sketching new forms or planning out stories for new character designs, I love being able to switch gears and ideate with varied mediums.
I’m a big believer in finding tenderness in the everyday. I embody that principle in my work as well as the spaces I spend my time in. I like to think of my workspace as having its own moments. There’s a corner where my toolbox lives, neatly showcasing my favorite odds and ends. There’s the way sunlight hits my bisqueware, surfacing its blush-pink undertones. But frankly, one of my favorite aspects is how it’s a place to celebrate the works of others I adore. My aprons are made by KAAREM and my friend Anthony. The prints sitting atop a shelf are by Oh Quao, Duc Luong, and Duy Vo. The shelf also holds cover art I illustrated for a friend’s record label, Mirae Arts. The candle is crafted by my friend Nhu Y. This glass jar I upcycled is from Doris Ho-Kane’s bakery. Studio Mondine’s ikebana book lies atop a pile of ceramic history publications. There’s a woven bag from my aunt in Saigon that holds packaging materials. There’s a little bit of everyone, everywhere.
I draw inspiration largely from people outside of ceramics. Particularly, people who are dedicated to shaping the infinite into something concrete. I’ll often turn to spaces designed by chefs, gardeners, or musicians, looking at how the placement of their things lives in functional and visual harmony (or lack thereof). It’s beautiful to see how others lay out their passions, how their brains are currently whirring on about something, and what’s been left to the back burner for later. I want my workspace to be just as honest for myself and so that others may get a peek into my creative process. You see that in the spaces I’m fond of—like my grandma’s kitchen full of cups holding utensils and knives. My studio always allows for fluidity and mess. I designed my space with this inspiration. Rolling carts, adjustable shelves, and room to build vertically allow my space to be ever adapting.
As my practice continues to evolve and expand, so does my intent with my studio. I’m constantly building storage upward to make room for larger sculptural works as well as higher quantities of wares as my client and partner lists grow. I also have plans to move tools to the walls. In my head, I need it to be utilitarian and simple to update, like a basic pegboard. But in my heart, I just want a large metal Uten Silo in bright red.
As my studio grows, I’m also haunted by the need to build out a more streamlined shipping operation. It is a reality of the business. My goal is to optimize in order to ultimately reduce the time spent packing as well as the packaging waste produced in the process. The easier it is, the less I’ll agonize over it.
Paying Dues (and Bills)
I started out studying architecture and graduated as an industrial designer. I’ve had a love for illustration since the time I could pick up a crayon. So it’s no surprise that I’ve always been fascinated by what we live in, and what we live with. I opted to learn ceramics at a public community center—I never trained under a university program or an apprenticeship. I practiced without such formalities by doing a whole lot of throwing. Once I outgrew the center and needed room to develop my voice, my teacher recommended my current studio, where I’ve been practicing more seriously for the last four years. You can find me studying the practice just as much as I am making: researching the technicalities of firing and the chemistry of glazes while learning the cultural contexts of forms, color, and details. All of this to say I’m still piecing it together and figuring it out along the way!
Porcelain provides a rich historical and functional foundation for my work. I’m compelled by research on Vietnam’s ceramic history. In recent years, more archaeological excavations have been taking place in the country, revealing historic kilns owned by generations of families and outlasting dynasties. It’s exciting seeing a renewed dedication to carefully document historical works for the world to view and learn from.
My practice is rooted in the belief that ceramics are pieces of comfort and culture, reflecting the joys of being human. One of my goals is to surface Vietnam’s rich yet often overlooked ceramic traditions through my own contemporary lens. I aspire to connect the dots between Vietnamese contexts and design, translating them into emotional objects. Each piece works with the tensions of wall thickness and transitions in form. I shape every curve by hand without the use of traditional rib tools, allowing my touch to be the voice in my work. I’ll experiment with glazes that call to the past and present, and craft gentle forms that speak to my childhood nickname, Vy Voi. The name fuses “Vy” (my Vietnamese name) and “con voi” (the Vietnamese word for elephant, and a childhood nickname). Regardless of shape or size, all my works highlight a delicate, inverted opening—reminiscent of an elephant’s trunk.
Vietnamese ceramics characteristically combine spontaneity with technical excellence. Where other East Asian nations cared about meticulous exactness, Vietnam’s tradition embraced the bliss of imperfection. I appreciate the distance from intent to outcome. It’s cliché, but the most important thing is learning to let go. Embracing the unexpected firing result and laughing at crude mishaps have opened new paths for me on what’s next, and what I can look forward to in my work.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate that the demand for my work has grown steadily and organically. This has been the result of in-person events or through online introductions. As much as social media dampens my routines, it’s where I’ve fostered connections that have translated from digital to in-person. I treat my Instagram as a journal. It’s a place for me to be genuine and share updates on new work or events. I share finished wares, my process, and recognition from clients and the industry, aiming to show the quality of the wares themselves alongside a sense of scale with a person or in a home.
Thanks to social channels, I’ve been invited to exhibit work internationally, and I’m grateful for that. I engage in local design events too, meeting with designers and artists in and outside of ceramics. My very first newsletter is also in the works, and its slower pace will be more my speed versus the way social channels goad you to constantly create. My collaborations outside of ceramics have been greatly effective for building an audience as well. Maintaining relationships with florists, hospitality experts, architects, and more has been integral to expanding my network and gaining exposure with people who may not have connected with my work otherwise. I donate a portion of my work to grassroots organizations that need support with their initiatives; works are auctioned off and provide direct relief to urgent needs, such as grocery delivery for the elderly.
My work has found homes all over the world. The pieces have sold in retail and gallery settings, as well as through commissions, with commissions being the majority of my direct sales—and the most challenging to maintain. It’s wonderful interacting with collectors directly, but it can be overwhelming as more people discover my work. I truly appreciate the patience and understanding of my buyers, and I’m planning to expedite the acquiring process soon. It’s been such a whirlwind the last few years, but I’m thrilled about where I am now and where I’ll continue to grow.
Photos of finished works: Amanda Tho Pham.