Friday Feature: Klai

If you walked into the Project Object space, you would have immediately noticed the amazing mural featuring 18 portraits of women. Klai Brown, the pop-up artist behind the Project Object mural, hand-painted each face with careful precision and attention to detail. A woman of many talents, Klai also creates and paints ceramics including mugs and sculptures. We are so honored to feature Klai and her work in Project Object. If you would like to see more of Klai's creations, you can visit her site here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi! Um.. I'm a little shy so I'll try my best to answer these questions without being super nervous! A little about me... I have a college-bound teen named Zolt. He's pretty awesome and my most challenging and inspiring art project :). I like doing yoga in my free time, cooking healthy eats and spending time in the studio making while listening to the radio.

Where do you gather inspiration?

I get a lot of inspiration from people in my personal history that I adore. For example, some of the features that I draw in my portraiture come from my memories of them. My best friend Susan in elementary school had crooked teeth. I loved them - it was a quirky part of her that I adored. My favorite aunt, Pauline, and best friend in middle school, Jackie, both have big gaps between their front teeth. I had a really good friend in college with a wandering eye. In a culture that emphasizes beauty standards of conformity and perfection, I just grew up adoring the charming things that make us look different from one another. I love to emphasize those characteristics in my portraiture.

What is your design/work process like?

My studio process involves eating up podcasts like "This American Life" while keeping my hands busy throwing, trimming, or drawing. Sometimes I binge-watch Netflix while making small batches of cups or sculpture! If I'm creating work for my line, I'll usually make anywhere from 20-100 pieces at a time. For custom work or larger scale pieces, I make one at a time. Either way the steps are the same: make it, trim it, paint/draw on it, if I'm using mason stain, then two firing's in my electric kiln (bisque + glaze). And if the piece has gold on it, one more firing! There's lots of steps in process for ceramics!! When I draw, it's really different. There's not that many steps and I usually freehand from my imagination. Sometimes I use references, like for the Project Object wall.

What events led you to illustration and ceramics?

I always loved drawing as a kid. I read a lot too and definitely remember being awestruck by illustrations that accompanied stories. Now that I think about it, I took oil painting lessons when I was in elementary school. In college, I got introduced to ink and really fell in love with brush drawing. It became my medium of choice as far as imagery goes. I found clay at Cypress College. I had an awesome teacher named Char Felos. She really inspired my love of clay and hard work in me. Anyways, I was hooked after the first time I threw. I loved that it could be a surface to draw on, functional, sculptural. I spent so much time in my ceramics classes that I figured I may as well earn a degree in ceramics. Today I combine drawing on ceramics surfaces and enjoy drawing on paper.

Describe your inspiration/creative process behind the Project Object mural.

With the Project Object mural I really wanted to show case different ethnicities of ladies, while still working with my fave style of portraiture, ink and brush. Project Object is about girls lifting girls up and women supporting women so I really wanted to get the faces of all kinds of women up on the wall to represent our diversity and show who Project Object supports.

What are your next steps?

My next step is to work on several large sculptural pieces which sadly were destined for Project Object's first pop-up but that blew up in my kiln. It's the only drag thing about ceramics, sometimes stuff doesn't make it through the firing process. It's definitely what makes successful pieces so satisfying to though! 

Is there anything you’d like people to know about the artwork you’ll have up for sale?

The artwork I'll have up on view and for sale at Project Object will be all original pieces painted with ink and brush. Sassy, weird, perfectly imperfect women with fierce gazes, wandering eyes and crooked teeth. 

Tell us something you’ve learned that you wish someone had told you as an artist, business owner or anything in life?

Words of wisdom.. that's tough since I feel like I still have so much to learn. There's probably two things. I heard a story once about a journalist who somehow got the idea that they wanted to interview people in hospice across the states and learn about peoples perspective on life at the last stage of it. The journalist discovered while conducting interview that a theme emerged when asking people what they would do different. The answer was that they wished they had taken more time to be more creative, wish they had taken more risks and wished they had stepped back to look at the big picture (like spend more time with their kids, instead of stressing about work projects or a clean house). I think that's really interesting that people from all walks of life across the US can have such similar points of view when asked about their lives. It was really impactful for me to hear that. Another one is Char, would always say "no deposit, no return", meaning you got put time and energy in if you want a result-for whatever you do.

Any special projects coming up?

A special project that I just finished up and would love to share is tile wall mural in a restaurant called Lido Bottleworks. It's in Newport Beach and should be opening up this Summer. It's my first large scale ceramic mural and I'm super excited about it. Besides that I'm excited to do another large piece in a gallery in the Los Angeles area, we are still discussing when it will go down but hopefully in the next few months! 

Oh, and one more thing. 
I'd also like to share that I've been working with The Democratic Cup. I'll have some new designs being featured for their next set of cups. It's basically a fundraiser organized by Ayumi Horie and Nick Moen aimed at raising public discourse over politics over a cup of coffee. Encouraging us to talk about issues that we care about and engage civics and politics.

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