Devoted Reformation drama stans might remember artist Katie Kimmel from a minor dust-up in 2017, in which her father (yes, Jimmy) called out the brand for allegedly copying his daughter's T-shirt designs. Reformation denied the allegations, but tbh, it's hard not to see the similarity. (It wouldn't be the first time a brand "borrowed" from a young artist!)
Two years later, the 28-year-old ceramicist and painter has redirected her talents into delightfully deranged, colorfully Insta-friendly works, from puppy vases to concerned shrimp. "Like everyone else on earth, I love food," explains Kimmel, adding, "I get really excited when I post a food ceramic on Instagram and people tag their friends in what's obviously an inside joke, and I feel really happy and connected."
Kimmel originally planned on being a children's-book illustrator, attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to study painting, but was quickly rerouted to ceramics: "A friend suggested we take a ceramics class together and I was like, oh yeah, I always really liked that as a kid. It immediately clicked, and I’ve had zero interest in doing anything but that ever since."
Kimmel draws inspiration from the artist Claes Oldenberg (he of the giant burger sculpture), and her interest in rendering food puts her in conversation with modern ceramicists like Stephanie H. Shih. However, while Shih's work delves into specifically Asian-American cultural memory, Kimmel focuses primarily on two "common connectors" she sees as being shared by nearly everyone on earth; food and animals. "I like the idea of ceramics that are just living in our world, and I’ve always been more interested in seeing work in domestic settings than a blank gallery," she says.
When we speak by phone, Kimmel is at her studio in Inyokern, California, near the epicenter of the recent earthquake. Luckily, Kimmel's house is a structurally sound dome, which means her prolific collection of ceramic wares is mostly safe, except for one piece gifted to her by her great-grandpa's ex-girlfriend, which she wasn't a particular fan of in the first place. "What else should I break and just blame the earthquake?" she wonders.
Aside from Oldenberg, Kimmel's inspirations include—in no particular order—antique malls (particularly one she visited in Michigan), ceramic artist Seth Bogart, Nashville-based sculptural artist Brett Douglas Hunter, and her friend Lorien Stern, whom she met on Instagram. Bizarrely enough, the common thread of Kimmel and Stern's friendship is, as she tells it, eggs. "My great grandpa had this deep connection to eggs; every morning he’d poked a hole in the bottom of an egg and do a caricature on it, and his room is standing as a kind of museum that's just lined with eggs," explains Kimmel.
"When I first went to Lorien’s house in the desert, she had all these painted eggs. It was really weird, and definitely the icebreaker of our friendship, we’re constantly talking about eggs," says Kimmel. One of her favorite current works, which she describes as her "top dog," is a ceramic rendering of her great-grandpa's ex-girlfriend, who "was kind of shaped like an egg."
Now, Kimmel and Stern are collaborating on an August show titled "Eggs to See" at L.A.'s La Luz de Jesus gallery, for which, Kimmel says, "it just made sense to go full egg."
The opening reception for Kimmel's upcoming show with artist Lorien Stern will take place on August 2 at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles. The show runs through September 1.