Kim OtaPortland, Oregon


Kimberly Ota was born and raised in Portland, Oregon by a mother who encouraged an appreciation for classical music, art and gardening along with a solid work ethic, generosity, logical thinking and a touch of silliness. After earning a degree studying the growth and structure of cities and anthropology, Kimberly entered the world of non-profit affordable housing and community organizing in Oakland, California. Eyes opened and feeling burnt out, she returned home and worked at her family’s tofu shop before deciding to focus on an interest in pottery sparked by a ceramics class in high school.

Nurtured through community studios and the group effort of wood fired kilns, Kimberly’s path broadened with the opportunity to run a small community clay studio at the Oregon coast. Stepping into a leadership role nurtured a deeper sense of responsibility to create and grow – learning to fire kilns, mix glazes, share knowledge as a teacher and beginning to exhibit and sell work.This summer, Kimberly is excited and grateful to continue exploring her curiosity in clay through a residency at Red Lodge Clay Center.

Through clay, I am exploring contrasts: the physical feel and social connotations of earthy red terra cotta, gritty stoneware and smooth white porcelain; the geometry of sharply cut slabs, flexibility of coils and speed of wheel thrown orbs; the predictable practicality of electric kilns and the beauty of letting go in a community wood firing.The forms I create may feel pleasant but also contain contradictions – rocking shapes holding water, vases with tiny holes asking to be useful, soft round forms marked with hard lines.

Recently I have focused on making vases. Each vessel aspires to be enjoyed in its own right but made even more complete with just the right branch. I am drawn to and inspired by the lines and movement of ikebana flower arrangements and held by the emotional beauty of sharing flowers in a handmade vase. I like making small work that is a joy to gift, to hold and behold. I like to imagine that anyone can enjoy a little bit of art in their daily life. In a world overwhelmed by greed, injustice and hurt, ceramics is a vessel through which I can find and share wonder, joy and kindness.