"Come close to me, come closer. I promise you it will be beautiful." Ceramicist and artist Emilie Halpern once titled a show on this quote from influential writer Anaïs Nin. At the time, Emilie's conceptual art was about spotlighting and appreciating the extraordinary in small, everyday things. As we interview her during our Sense of Home campaign shoot, that line of thinking also overlaps with how the ceramic artist has designed and curated her Los Feliz home. Emilie is one of five makers and creatives we are partnering with as we examine how we experience our spaces through each of our five senses: smell, sight, sound, taste, and touch. In the home she and her young son share, she "wanted to be surrounded by beautiful things. My home and everything in it—I touch every day, I see every day, I use every day. I want that space to be beautiful, a space that holds me and surrounds me."
Throughout her career, Emilie has made all her work by hand, "Handmade to me means made with love." Yet, it is the medium of clay that has unlocked her creative process to become much more intuitive, grounding, and meditative. "What first drew me to clay was how tactile it was and how connected to the earth it is. And once I started throwing on the wheel, I couldn't stop. I was hooked." She taught school-aged children art when she started her ceramic work while also sharing her installation and conceptual art with a gallery. For a few years, Emilie divided her practice between her cerebral public work and the joyful private experimentation behind a potter's wheel. After the birth of her son, Harold, the artist chose ceramics full time because it is the practice that makes her feel so good and so inspired. She got a kiln and built out her garage as a ceramic studio. Incorporating her studio into her residence allows Emilie's home to be an extension of herself and everything she loves and creates.
"This house could be who I wanted to be. Like all the beauty I had in me could finally come out and be expressed in this environment, tangibly."
Your home is a place that is meant to hold you. For Emilie, the story of her home includes loss, grief, and reinvention. In 2017, her husband died, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer within one month of one another. That trauma and loss of control changed her perspective, and she poured everything into her son and her home. She explains that she spent a whole year not being able to do much "Except pottery at my house. And it really, it saved my life. And I don't know, like all the scariness and fear could recede because I could wake up, and everything I touched and looked at made me feel so good." It was as if "this house could be who I wanted to be. Like all the beauty I had in me could finally come out and be expressed in this environment, tangibly.” It became her refuge, a place that enhances her and Harold's lives and inspires her with beautiful things to touch and interact with daily.
The friends and artists who supported Emilie throughout these past few years have become part of her genuine community. One which has been and continues to be collaborative and encouraging. It includes Jessie Young and Emiliana Gonzalez, who are the principals behind furniture design house Estudio Persona. The two partnered with Emilie on designing and curating her wood-paneled mid-century home, imbuing it with striking designs and warmth. Along with Estudio Persona's furniture, the ceramicist loves styling her home with her artist friends' works. It feels like coming full circle, being able to support those in your community, but also having an extension of their artistic expression in your space. As Emilie explains, it's an honor to have a concrete piece that you can cherish and show off.