As a female-founded company run by two women of color, KIM+ONO has always celebrated women. And never more than this past year have we seen just how incredible women can be. From entrepreneurs to mothers to teachers to caregivers, women have worn all sorts of hats this past year. And in our mission to amplify inspirational stories of women doing incredible things, we’re so thrilled to introduce you to Emily Reinhardt of The Object Enthusiast.
Emily is a wonderful artist and entrepreneur whose work we actually feature in our brick and mortar kimono store in San Francisco. Because of the handcrafted nature of our own luxury kimono robes, when deciding what other wellness goodies and home decor to offer, we knew we wanted the pieces to have the same ethos and craftsmanship. That’s when we found Emily and her beautiful brand The Object Enthusiast. And today we’re sharing her story in the hopes it serves as inspiration for you as you find your own path and make your own mark.
I started The Object Enthusiast in 2011 right after graduating from Kansas State University. I started it as a blog, really as a way of talking about and sharing ceramics that I admired from other artists. I didn’t have access to a ceramics studio at the time and I wanted a way to feel like I was still connected with that world and didn’t know how else to do it. After my professor, Yoshiro (Yoshi) Ikeda retired from teaching, he generously gifted me his old kiln, potter’s wheel, and a bunch of other tools and materials. This is how I really got my start. This equipment gave me the chance to build a small studio of my own. I started my website and got busy making things again. I was able to quit my job(s) and devote myself to my business in 2013.
When he gave it to me he told me it was because of how hard I worked. He always said he preferred a student to have a strong work ethic as opposed to raw talent because he could teach someone how to work in ceramics but he couldn’t teach a student to work hard. When I was in school Yoshi and I worked side-by-side in the advanced students studio area. There were a lot of weekends when it was just he and I in the studio, and I will be forever grateful for those memories. Yoshi passed away in 2015. I know how lucky I am to have had a teacher who believed in me. I have a small shrine set up at my studio in his honor.
I’ve always loved things. For as long as I can remember I have been collecting small things that delight me or remind me of a person or a memory. Things that for no obvious reason, feel special. When I started taking ceramics courses, I realized I wanted to try to make those things for other people. A small token object or a cup or a one of a kind vessel.
I use a lot of different clay and glazes. What fascinates me most about ceramics is the chemistry involved, and how changing one small element, like the clay body or a material in the glaze, has major effects on the outcome of the piece. When I switch clay and glazes around, I notice those small details and I like the little nuances in between. So beyond function, I’m thinking about material first and foremost. The various materials at my disposal make ceramics so exciting!
Surround yourself with things that excite you and make you feel alive and appreciative. Take the time to discover the things in life that you love and find ways to bring that into your daily routine. One of my favorite types of ceramic things to collect are handmade ceramic mugs. Bonus if it comes from someone I know and love. I have so many mugs that oftentimes I see the artist first, and the mug second. When I’m choosing my cup I think to myself, “who do I want to have coffee with today?” This really livens up my routines!
I think the hardest part was feeling pressure to scale up and grow my business. At one point I had multiple employees and a larger operation than I wanted to have. Things became so much more challenging as the manager and it felt like I didn’t get to participate in the creation process, which was the whole reason I have continued my career in ceramics. Today, I’ve scaled back down to a one-woman operation. I am so much happier and realized that I am content with a small business. I don’t need to grow a giant business. Part of what makes my work special is that my hands are responsible for every part of the process. I hope that’s what people notice when they encounter my work.
I can get very hung up on the “have to’s” (I have to finish this order, I have to run my errands, I have to finish my taxes) which all feel very important. But one of the more valuable things I learned over the course of the last year is that making time for creativity and play, just for the fun of it, is so helpful and informative for the other parts of your life. Slowing down, resting, and playtime in the studio have all been essential to keep me going, keep me feeling fulfilled and keep me inspired.
Trust yourself over anyone else. In some of my more challenging circumstances surrounding my business I trusted someone else instead of myself. I remember there were moments when things didn’t feel right, and I hushed my instincts and told myself I was wrong. I hate the phrase, “it’s nothing personal, it’s just business” - my business is personal and I’m trying to keep it that way.
The springtime in the Midwest almost always brings with it a bit of hope, so I think this spring I am thinking about all of the things I am grateful for. Tentative plans for future travel are also giving me a lot of hope these days!