Interview with Shawn Kam of Luvhaus Ceramics

POSTED BY: KAYLA CONYER

 

“Made by hand for your hand” is the staple of Luvhaus Ceramics. A longtime favorite of the Rare Device staff, these Berkeley-made ceramics are sure to capture the eye of any design-savvy connoisseur. Creator and founder, Shawn Kam, specifically creates his signature tumblers and mugs with both functionality and beauty in mind. They make the perfect addition to any coffee or tea lover's collection.

We asked Shawn to give us an inside look into his creative process and studio space.

'Frost' Signature Tumblers by Luvhaus

Kayla Conyer: As a beginner in ceramics, I find throwing on a wheel to be extremely difficult and end up with wonky objects every time. How long have you been making ceramics and what’s your artistic background? Did you go to school?

Finding your center at the wheel can take years, and can come back to challenge you long after you’ve found it. I apprenticed as a young teen back in my home state of Maine for a small scale production potter who made 17th-century colonial American reproductions. After high school, I drifted around the world a bit and then came out here to attend California College of Arts, where I studied painting. I didn’t realize how much I loved craft nor did I think of it on the same level as fine art at the time. It wasn’t until years later that everything started to click; all my years as a kid collecting cups and bowls, all my collections of home design magazines, etc. A lifetime of unattended interest finally clicked when I sat back down at the wheel. Suddenly everything just fell into place.

Throwing on the wheel. Photo by James Han

KC: How did you first discover your love for ceramics? How long did it take you to feel confident enough to put your work into the world?

I always loved ceramics, but it was a long time before I allowed myself to be in love with it. I spent about 4 years getting muddy again before I decided to leap into full-scale ceramic production. I wanted to make things that were beautiful but useful. Things that focused as much on functionality as beauty.

 

Luvhaus Founder Shawn Kam. Photo by James Han


KC: Tell me a little about the history of Luvhaus. Are you the sole owner, designer, and creator? How do you find the time to manage a small business while still remaining creative?

Luvhaus is all me, top to bottom. Honestly sometimes its difficult to keep up with production and still feel creative. I try to carve out some “free play” time each week to just sit at the wheel and see where the clay takes me. I just throw without direction or a goal, which is what I initially fell in love with. I sit at the wheel and the whole world disappears. I feel like that's the key: when you know you're onto something and you can completely lose yourself.


Dinnerware in the making. Photo by James Han.

KC: Where does the name Luvhaus originate and what does it mean? 



When I was in college I was really drawn to the Bauhaus school, the idea of combining all arts to create a total work of art in which every element is considered really resonated with me. I really love interiors and architecture so I combined Luv ( the playful way to say Love) and the word Haus meaning house. So Luvhaus literally means “love house” and to me means a love of the whole home, the physical space inside, outside and the greater meaning of home as a place for rest and reflection.

 

Ghost Shino (left) and Lavender (right) Tumblers.


Shawn working in his Berkeley studio space. Photo by James Han. 


KC: You’re based in Berkeley. What’s your studio space and creative routine like? Are there any particular things (music, time of day, etc) that help fuel your creativity?

I’m really lucky to have a dedicated space, its filled with natural light and used to be Richard Diebenkorn’s painting studio. I usually get up around 5 or 6 am, depending on the workload of the day. My studio is a few minutes from my home, I make a cup of coffee first thing and start on emails from the night before, sometimes the week before if I’m really behind. I lay out orders and plan the next round of firings, throw or glaze. I really try to create a consistent rhythm, I find that work flows easier when you have a solid outline for each day.

 

Soda Firing taking place. Photo by Jordan Vega.

 

KC: Many of your tumblers go through what’s called a soda firing. Can you explain what that process is and how it affects your glazes? 



Soda firing is a unique way to create a glaze while firing. The magic of it only happens in collaboration with the kiln. Each firing has its varied nuances. Its a process wherein liquified soda carbonate is sprayed into the kiln at 2,280 F through several ports on each side. The soda spray immediately vaporizes and is swept up in the path of the flame, painting on the ware and creating a glaze. Each firing results in completely organic and unique interaction of the flame and vapor. Essentially, I formulate glazes to have a matte finish and it's chewed away wherever the flames touch the piece leaving a glossy surface in its wake. The result is two contrasting finishes on one piece.

 

Lavender Signature Tumbler (left). Photo by Todd Wagner. Shawn Kam (right). Photo by James Han.

KC: What’s been your favorite Luvhaus creation? Has there been a specific object or glaze that you felt especially attached to?



I’m really proud of my signature tumbler. I spent a year dialing into the shape trying to get it just right, and it went through a long prototyping phase. It's designed to nestle in the palm of your hand, capturing that perfect moment of warmth radiating from your favorite cup of coffee or tea. The lip is designed as a catch to keep it from slipping from your hand and a great perch to grip when it’s just a little too warm. It’s an attempt to bridge the space between user and object. I feel similar about my handled mug, it's not as design-forward as the signature tumbler, but I spent a lot of time trying to get a really good handle feel.


KC: Do you have any future collections or projects coming up in the new year? 



My primary focus is to continue filling out my tableware line, but I’m really trying to make time to pursue fun non-functional pieces. Things that are more decorative and playful.

Collection of Luvhaus mugs and tumblers. Photo by Dave Medal.

You can find an assortment of Luvhaus products at both RD Divis and RD Noe Valley as well as online