“I’ve been thinking so much about what I like, where the forms come from, and what’s their impetus,” Ziperstein says. “That funkiness mixed with quietness is definitely who I am. There’s a part of me that has all this manic energy and another part of me that’s sort of meditative.”

Bari Ziperstein, Ceramicist

To know a ceramicist is to see their test pieces, and Bari Ziperstein has the kind of overflowing studio that doesn’t happen in a minute, that comes from years of private experiments and the hard work of learning not to care so much. “I think of these pieces as sculptural doodles,” she says, referring to a series of small, accidental ceramic sculptures. “They’re such a discrepancy from how I usually work, something no more than two inches. It’s really free and immediate.”
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Nancy: “As kids, we used to sit and draw for hours next to each other, not talking to one another. I was obsessed with drawing factories. I’m obsessed with production. That sort of stuff will still make me stop in my tracks and my jaw drop.”

Kimberly: “She drew conveyer belts.”

Building Block, Accessory Designers

This time last year, Kimberly Wu was designing cars in Tokyo for Honda’s Advanced Studio and her sister, Nancy, was in Portland, designing shoes for Nike. In spare moments, Kimberly would visit hardware stores and collect the sort of everyday objects that seem to come into focus in other countries, and that somehow encapsulate the dilemma of being a transplant: how a change of scenery can sharpen your appreciation for the small details around you, and yet also remind you in their strangeness that it’s not quite like home. “The world can be as big or small as you want it to be,” Kimberly says, “And Tokyo is this place where you feel like the world is gigantic, but you also feel tiny in it. There are so many people around you always, but it’s so alone and solitary.” Meanwhile, across the choppy Pacific, Nancy was coming to a similar emotional conclusion, but drawn from a different set of observations. “Portland is like the opposite of Tokyo,” Nancy says. “It’s so small and quiet, and that can also be really lonely. I think we were both lonely.” So when Kimberly’s experiments combining those hardware-store finds with simple, pared-down bag shapes began to gain deserved notice, the sisters decided to leave their corporate lives and start Building Block together, trading too-infrequent visits for a joint move back to Southern California, where they grew up. “We’ve never worked together before, but in our heads we’ve always been working together,” Kimberly says.
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