Early in her teens, Grace Lee had her portrait done by a street artist in Montmartre. When he finished, he asked her to draw his portrait. Grace didn’t hesitate. “I studied the negative space around his features and the proportions of his head, and sketched for ten minutes,” she remembers. “This is good,” he said, “this is very good.”
The encouragement gave Grace “license to be spontaneous,” starting her on a path that led to the 2007 establishment of eikcam ceramics – pronounced “eye-cam” – where she is both designer and maker.
Grace caught the wanderlust bug early. As a child, she travelled all over the world with her family, who encouraged her subsequent adventures. Now, with a small child of her own, Grace has carried on the tradition by making travel part of her own family’s lifestyle. She says, “I’m intrigued with different cultural approaches to craft,” she says. “I like to believe that artists and designers are in fact contributing to a larger cause: to create freely and without boundaries.”
Eikcam’s Evil Eye wall sculptures had a number of catalysts. The evil eye image is “a universal symbol of protection from evil energy across many cultures,” Grace explains, “so turning it into small works of art seemed a thought-provoking idea.” In addition, she loves the blue-and-white palette on porcelain, inspired by Delft-blue china and indigo dyes.
She enjoys the process of creating the work, too. “Each eye is illustrated and painted freehand with a tiny brush,” she says. “I find it a meditative exercise in working fluidly and spontaneously.”
Grace has a special attachment to her Marie Antoinette series, gratifying to create because “each one has its own personality.” She hand-draws every face: some have lashes; some, freckles or moles; and, lately, some have moustaches. “As they are filled with plants, this silhouette creates the hair – the bigger the better! They are an homage to the pastry-loving queen who lived life to the fullest, with much vigor.”
Being a Canadian artist, to Grace, means being part of a huge diaspora of culturally influenced design. “My work reflects intertwined roots: my Korean heritage, with Japanese influences from my grandmother and her experiences,” she says. Add to that Grace’s own childhood, growing up and going to school in the Pacific Northwest. “The sombre grey skies and heavy wet weather in Vancouver have directly influenced more muted, natural tones and minimal, fluid lines in my work.”
Grace likes creating usable pieces: vessels, platters, mugs. Her education (she earned her Industrial Design degree from Emily Carr University in Vancouver in 2001) and self-confessed “preoccupation” with ergonomics leads her to design items that are “functional and feel like an extension of the user.” Proportions such as the Fibonacci sequence are subtly incorporated into all her work. “There is artistry in everyday objects through usability and interaction.”
The name of Grace’s company, eikcam, is the name “Mackie” spelled backwards. Mackie was Grace’s childhood pet dog, a trusted sidekick in her younger years. “Also,” she admits, “graphically, I liked the look of this atypical grouping of letters.” You’ll find Grace’s beautiful and anything-but-typical pieces on her website, eikcam.com.
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