Emilie Halpern is an LA ceramic artist raised in France now living in Los Feliz with her young son. We first met through artist friends, and we instantly fell in love with her graceful urns. We began collecting her work and following along with her career. Emilie has a refreshing warmth and joy that permeates her ceramic works and her light-filled home. We visited her home and studio - filled with art and design- to photograph Emilie wearing our RCT Summer 2021 collection, and speak to her about her journey.
I was born in Paris. My father is French and my mother Japanese, but she was raised in France. Her father was a painter who left Tokyo for Paris in the 1920s. I grew up in Northern California in a house built by a Sea Ranch architect. I came to Los Angeles to study art at UCLA and then at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena for my MFA. I made photographs, videos, sculptures, installation art and sound pieces inspired by nature and romance. I also taught art to school children. Thanks to that I fell in love with clay, and took night classes at Glendale Community College to learn how to throw and mix my own glazes. At first, ceramics was something I was doing just for myself. It helped me to have something away from the public eye, from commerce and criticism. Eventually it became a complimentary practice to my conceptual art.
How has your process of making changed in this last year?
When my son was born ceramics became an even greater part of my life. I had a mommy brain and no time. I figured out I could just run to the local community center and throw for an hour or two. Eventually I bought a wheel, and a few years later a kiln. It’s all I need to have a home studio. Throwing can be really addictive. I lose all sense of time, and go into a flow state. This last year I’ve spent so much more time in my home studio in the garage. I feel grateful for it. I’ve had a chance to realize that throwing connects me to a sense of something greater, something spiritual. I also started meditating. I lay flat on my back and think about the Earth and how it’s pulling me down towards her spinning 1000 miles per hour without even me noticing. I think about her iron core that makes every magnet work and every engine spin. She’s the one making my wheel spin. The water and clay between my fingers are sourced from her rivers. It’s a pure divine practice.
What books have you read and loved in the last year?
After my husband killed himself and I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had a total life crisis. At first I ran from my feelings. There was so much fear and pain that I wasn’t ready to process. Now it’s been 4 years, I’ve gone from just surviving to living. When I was in the thick of it, I turned to the only tools I knew, addiction. Love addiction, fantasy addiction, spending money, anything I could throw at it. “It” was the fear. The utter terror that if I felt sad I would fall to the bottom of a pit that I couldn’t climb out of. Depression had come to mean suicide. My husband had made that so real. I was afraid I was going to die. Die from cancer, die from sadness. I ran the other way. I wanted to live. At least that’s what I thought. But really what I wanted was to feel nothing. To numb out. The most meaningful reading I’ve done this last year is the daily reader for Adult Children of Alcoholics. That shit is so wise.
Every morning I wake up to an email from ACA. Here’s one from Saturday, it’s titled Emotional Pain.
“On this day I embrace my healthy pain, remembering that I have a lot to release and process. I feel myself gradually becoming healed.”