A few years ago, I had the honor of meeting Roger Lee as he and Kat’s studio were a few doors down from Ryan’s art studio in Lincoln Heights. I was always so enamored with what he was up to—as he worked under Adam Silverman at Heath Ceramics at the time—and was amazed when he and Kat finally introduced their personal line, Kat & Roger, to the world. This ceramicist + artist duo, and couple, create unique ceramics combined with perfectly painted shapes and color giving such a wonderfully, retro mid-century Los Angeles vibe. I’m so inspired by their humbleness and respect for the work they are creating. Meet Kat Hutter and Roger Lee and get a peek into their beautiful home and studio nestled in Mt. Washington.
GIVE US SOME BACKGROUND ON YOUR PARTNERSHIP AND HOW YOU MET
We have been working creatively for all of our adult lives with different materials. We met in graduate school at Clemson University in South Carolina, where I (Kat) was studying painting and Roger ceramics. Roger has been working in ceramics for over 20 years, and I have been painting for almost as many. We have always had a similar work ethic, and passion for many of the same things, even though we are from opposite ends of the U.S. This is how we are able to work and live together as partners, we are true best friends!
WHAT INSPIRED COLLABORATING AND CREATING KAT & ROGER
When we met 7 years ago in graduate school. We had similar work ethics and felt studio time was the most important thing to carry on. We would always say, “We are artists first” no matter what. After living in many different places, and many attempted collaborations, we finally decided to put our ideas out into the world. We both felt the time had come, and we had the support we needed to feel confident to launch our dream. So, coming up with this collection was only a matter of time for us. We have had a lot of different jobs but would always make time to create (painting, sculpture, pottery), thus K&R was born! It really took us until now to figure out the right combinations of form and surface before we felt we had something that expressed our aesthetic. This was not something we just woke up one day and decided to do. It has taken a lot of research and development.
TELL US ABOUT THE PROCESS AND UNIQUENESS OF MATERIALS
We collaborate as much as we can, but our knowledge of materials is more independent. We like to talk about the big ideas together, forms, color palettes, and overall aesthetic of new work. When in the studio, Roger creates forms that act as canvases for me to paint on; and when I paint, I am always considering the form and what will work to show off his beautiful shapes. Roger throws all the work on the same wheel he has had for over 20 years. I use layers of underglaze to paint the patterns by hand. The work is then fired, glazed, and fired again in a cone 10, high-fired gas kiln. We are always pushing ourselves to try new things and wanted to see how far we could push the material. It was A LOT of trial and error (I mean years of different combinations and firing techniques) but all very worth it. We like to look back and remember all of the different things we have tried. We usually just laugh, and can’t believe some of the things we did. But it is all part of the process.
CONCEPTUALLY, KAT, WHAT INSPIRES THE SHAPES AND COLORS YOU CHOOSE
The patterns are constantly changing, but come from my love of repetition. The history of pattern and decoration crosses boundaries of time, culture, and human expression. Specifically, K&R patterns stem from an understanding of geometric shape that has followed me throughout my entire artistic career. I try not to use any inspiration that is too specific to one thing or another, more-so looking to the study of different patterns and how I can push myself to create different combinations with as little “clutter” as possible. Trying to keep things simple, and letting the complexity exist more in the process and how I think about things. Together, we find the spirit of the California lifestyle, inspired by the oceans, the beaches, mountains, and the vibrancy of the city is always at the heart of what we do. Our color palettes are drawn directly from what we feel Los Angeles has to offer. There is such a vibrancy and life that exists here culturally, conceptually and visually. I have taught color theory, and absolutely love everything about color, so it is something I try not to think about too conceptually, more intuitively based on my surroundings. Color is so complex so there is always something I am learning about it as we visit new places and test out new combinations.
BIGGEST OBSTACLES YOU'VE FACED WHEN ESTABLISHING YOUR BUSINESS
At first we kept saying, “We don’t want to run a business”. Now, we run a business. But it is a means to do what we love! Finding a balance between creativity and production is the biggest continuing challenge. Our goal is to maintain that creative spirit that keeps us going. We are still figuring it out, as this type of business has to keep changing and growing in order to keep up. We would say that the most important thing is to really know what you are creating and how you would like it to be welcomed into the world. It is very easy to get swept away into the business of creative production, but making sure your vision and voice are clear is a difficult thing to sustain. We are so grateful for the opportunities we have been given and all of the wonderful people who have helped support our dream.
WHAT ARTIST(S) INSPIRE YOU MOST
Hmmm…. there are so many! It really depends on what we are working on, as we always go back to our library of books and magazines to remind ourselves of what we love. But more broadly to name a few: Ken Price, Hans Hoffman, Ernesto Neto, June Wayne, Josef Albers, Beatriz Milhazes, Ryan McGuinness, Wayne Thiebaud, Pierre Bonard, Isamu Noguchi, Ellsworth Kelly, Bridget Riley, Karl Bejamin, Elizabeth Murray, Rene Magritte, Julie Mehretu, Christine Streuli, Eva Hesse, Allison Miller, Tom Nozkowski, Oh man…there are so many! Of course we look to other design couples in history such as the Ackermans’, the Eames’, Otto and Vivica Heino, the Natzlers, Edith and Brian Heath as examples of others who prove it can be done, that is always inspiring.
FAVORITE EATERIES IN LA
If it were up to Roger, he would eat at Rick’s everyday. Being from LA, he usually goes to places he can chill and relax.
Top 5: Canter’s, The York, Los Feliz Café, Mexico City, Beachwood Café, Village Bakery, and the taco guy around the corner.
Truth is, we usually eat at home.
FAVORITE PLACE TO DAY-TRIP
Most often we try to get way to the beaches, usually Ventura. A short road trip north, sunny days, quiet beaches, thrift stores and Nature’s Grill.
A PERFECT DAY OFF WOULD BE
…A day without a schedule. Some days we will hop on the Gold Line and see where we may end up. Those are the days when LA inspires us the most.
SNACKS YOU CAN ALWAYS FIND IN YOUR STUDIO TO KEEP YOU GOING
Coffee and tea, a must! And whatever TJ’s snack aisle will bring.