When you walk into Hsin-Yi Huang’s studio in Northwest Portland, you immediately notice many colorful, whimsical ceramic pieces hanging on the wall. A lot of Huang’s art features plants and animals, and much of her work is characterized by intricate details and patterns.
“I was told … my work is very detailed. Actually, it was a surprise. I didn’t think of myself as someone who makes detailed work,” says Huang, who moved to the U.S. from Taiwan 25 years ago.
Huang originally came to the U.S. to study nursing at the University of Wisconsin. During one of Huang’s summer breaks, a friend excitedly showed her the very first “wonky” pot she had made in a ceramics class. She told Huang it was a lot of fun.
“I remember thinking, ‘I am gonna try that too, and I can do better than you!’” Huang recalls. Then Huang took a class. “Guess what? My first pot looked a lot worse than hers … I had no idea the difficulty of centering clay … But I just didn’t give up. I just kept doing it.”
Huang pursued her nursing career while making ceramics in her spare time. When she found herself spending more and more time making ceramics, she decided to pursue her art full time. She moved to Oregon 15 years ago.
Many of Huang’s works are inspired by her love for nature. “I am just naturally drawn to shapes like that, organic form … I do a lot of observation … I pay attention to my surroundings,” explains Huang.
Huang says she picks up ideas for her art from everyday life, whether it’s hundreds of bats she encountered at the Oregon Zoo, bright lotus flowers she saw growing in a dark pond in Taipei while visiting her parents, or a story her friend told her about a photographer who places lizards on chairs to photograph them.
“To me, they are like metaphors. I use them almost like a format for me to express certain ideas or feelings,” explains Huang.
Huang not only loves to turn her ideas into ceramics, but also truly enjoys working with clay.
“You can make clay into anything. It’s really receptive. You press it against any texture, it will pick up the texture,” says Huang. “I thought it was a visual thing. More and more, I found out I really like how it feels in my hand. It’s a tactile sensation … I just love to work with clay.”
Huang’s work will be on display at Guardino Gallery from September 25 - Oct 28, 2014. Her exhibition includes more than 30 pieces featuring flowers.
“I love flowers,” says Huang. “I love the feeling they evoke in me. Their beauty makes me pause and look, like eyes being drawn to the light in the darkness.”