Home with Taste: Dens with Creativity in California
Creators' Spaces / California
Warm weather throughout the year, beautiful ocean and lots of nature. Architecture, design, and art galore. We wanted to visit the creators’ spaces based in the US west coast, which has them all. After Japan, we hopped over to the US west coast and we asked about their artistic lives and their work.
In downtown Los Angeles, where modern high rises and classic buildings coexist, there are many 1920s Art Deco buildings, especially in the area near where Ace Hotel transformed an old United Artists (Theater) Building into guest rooms. Amongst them is dosa designer Christina Kim’s home base.
Getting off an elevator and through the heavy steel door, an impressive space occupying a whole floor pops before our eyes. The entire top floor’s dividing walls were taken out, and the 600 square meter space is in the wide open. The ceiling is reduced to a minimum and brick wall exposed, while the window frames’ intentions are mere reminders of the well-constructed building from back in the day. This large space seemingly does not show much sign of daily life, but Christina insists, “I do live here.” Her kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom each suggest a daily function, but the “things” she lives with are not ordinary. Her past archives, ethnic costumes, denim and lace material collections, as well as process notes and books, rocks, shells, dry flowers, ceramics, glass pieces, artworks, and many historical reference books…
"This space holds all my inspiration sources so it’s almost like inside of my head. I lay them out so that I can pick anything up to look at it at any time. I love to work in a large space when I’m trying to figure things out, using installation. I do not separate work and my private life. To be precise, the concept to separate those two does not exist in me. Work and private, both are inevitable parts of my life.”
It may surprise you, but not everything in her space is a luxury item. She hardly buys any furniture, and the low table for display is used repeatedly by painting them over from time to time. The closet that holds Christina’s wardrobe is reclaimed from the United Artists building. At the dosa factory, no fabric is wasted, and all the scraps are saved and put back into production — a recycling practice dosa started in 1996 and has been committed to ever since. Christina has always been interested in working with artisans that have regional and traditional techniques, but it was Oaxaca, Mexico, that made her really think.
“I thought, ‘I cannot waste any piece of fabric that these artisans put in their time and care into.’ I reconsidered everything I could be doing to achieve that. That was around the time our new mission became part of what we do.”
Christina travels six to seven months out of a year. Mexico, India, Japan, and Marfa, Texas are the places she repeatedly visits. She also says that without these journeys, her work now would not exist.
“Often times, I don’t come up with an idea itself. The artisans are the “makers” and I’m, in a way, their student all along. I think my job is to take things I’ve seen and felt and compile them into different designs.”
She values making things with local artisans. “There is human relationship borne through those projects, something you cannot buy with money. That is my essence, a value you cannot measure.”
Christina is the designer of dosa as well as owner of the company. She’s proud that the workers average 18 years of employment with her. Most are women, a number of them single mothers. “Often they occupy an undervalued status in this society, but they work very hard and have many skills. It's not charity that they seek, but to have their ability valued. So everyone’s self-empowerment and integrity are my source of happiness. The world is chaotic, and politics and the environment have a mountain of problems. I may not have direct power to solve those issues, but in a grass roots way, I would like to think that I’m contributing to the world. To do something that will touch someone. Through work and my private life, I value the compilation of those efforts.”
Profile: Christina Kim
Born in Korea. Moved to L.A. when she was 15. Established dosa in 1984. She works with artisans worldwide, whom she met through travels. Her work, which creates an original world through design that uses traditional techniques, is critically acclaimed. She has been doing museum installations lately as well.
photo: Yoshihiro Makino
coordination and translation: Tamaka Takefushi
text and edit: Chizuru Atsuta
english translation: Aya Muto