How we designed our ceramics collection
At Material, we always knew we wanted to expand to the table.
It's where we bring our loved ones together, it’s where we get to take time during our days to slow down and enjoy what’s in front of us. We wanted to create pieces that feel like the building blocks of a personal collection, not a set that comes from a box. Which is why we reached out to Hye-Rin Yang, the designer, potter, and onetime chef behind the Korean ceramics company Soil Baker.
The story of Soilbaker begins at the intersection of food and design.
Hye-Rin studied product design at Parsons, and interned at the famed Eleven Madison Park in her off hours; later, she studied at the Institute of Culinary Education. “I’ve always loved making things,” she explains. “I love cooking—not only making food but also the way it gathers people and pulls them together.”
At Parsons, she had dabbled in mold-making; once she returned to Seoul, she began taking ceramics classes while working at an Italian restaurant. “Ceramics are like a design tool for the food industry,” she says. “When I design a piece, I always think about what it will look like with food on it, and how it looks when it’s stored or displayed.” She soon began collaborating on chefs in Seoul on serveware for their restaurants.
Hye-Rin chose the name Soil Baker in order to differentiate herself from the work being sold when she began her business in 2015: most of it was quite fancy, and reserved for special occasions. “I wanted to make something casual for everyday use,” she says, while still creating expertly designed, long-lasting pieces. She has a small studio in Seoul, but her factory and warehouse are in Yeoju, a city known for its rich ceramic history; ceramic artists have been producing here since the Goryeo Kingdom that ruled ancient Korea from 918 to 1392. As a company that likes to focus on the longevity of our products, and one founded by a Korean-American woman, this history is deeply meaningful to us.
For her collection with Material, Hye-Rin developed a custom blend of five different Korean clays.
When fired in Soil Baker’s gas kilns, it is lightweight but sturdy. The bowls and plates have a coupe edge, which Hye-Rin calls a “timeless” shape. Each glaze—one light and one dark—is exclusively designed for these pieces, and a soil called Masato is mixed in to add a gently grainy texture. Hye-Rin hand-threw the original shape for each piece on the potter’s wheel in Yeoju, a part of her process that makes each piece feel intimate and personal.
These pieces evoke images of dark stones worn smooth by a river, slate-grey skies, the speckled slate of a mountain’s face. They’re inspired by nature but informed by the time Hye-Rin spent working in restaurants, both in Manhattan and Seoul.
What we love about this collection of bowls and plates is that they are simple enough to let the food we cook stand out, but detailed enough to warrant a second look: we love the way the glaze changes under light, and the way the bowl holds a tangle of pasta. We hope that these will become a part of your own personal collections, just like your favorite hand-thrown mug and long-held wooden spoon. And we’ll soon be expanding into other tableware; we can’t wait to share them with you.
The Open Bowl
Created in collaboration with Soil Baker, our ceramics are crafted from natural Korean soils with human hands involved in every step of the making. Set of 2 for $80; Set of 4 for $145.Shop The Open Bowl