The Chronicle

Q+A with Designer Pat Kim

Pat Kim is an interesting hybrid. Born in Virginia, educated in Germany and New York, and now based in Brooklyn, he's a woodworker with a designer's eye; an artisan who's somehow managed to apply a common visual language to everything from toy rockets and dinner bells to extremely sophisticated one-of-a-kind vases and sculptural works. His pieces are in demand, yet often hard to come by — and he never makes any single object for very long. 

That's why we consider ourselves lucky that Kim recently developed a new collection of handmade smoking goods for Tetra, which includes an airtight container and a tray and brush set, all painstakingly hand-carved on a lathe. Like all of his works, they're minimalist, thoughtful, and timeless — and they won't stick around forever. Get to know Kim and his process below, then invest in one of the new pieces (shown below) while you can. 

Did designing toys cause you to fall in love with wood, or was it the opposite?

When I began working with wood, toys seemed like the most natural place to start. Wood is innately warm, familiar and comforting.

What’s your favorite property of wood, and what’s one thing it can’t do that you wish it could?

These days I think a lot about the sustainability of the materials I work with; the energy required to obtain it and work with it. Wood is renewable, versatile, and sequesters carbon. The fact that wood is a living material makes it a challenge to work with. Sometimes I wish wood would stay still, but it’s going to move and change with the weather no matter what you do.

What’s the hardest thing about working with your hands, and what’s the most gratifying?

A long day and on your feet or hunched over the lathe is hard on the body. Couple that with wearing a dust mask and ear plugs for hours on end, while concentrating intensely on the work in front you, and it makes for a draining work day. It makes it hard to be motivated to do anything after work. But I will say, I never have trouble sleeping after a hard day in the shop.

What’s been inspiring you lately?

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the water — sailing, canoeing, walking the Red Hook waterfront. I see a lot of interesting things happen on the edge of water and land. Forms eroded and polished by water and waves, things that look intentionally shaped but are incidental.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

A typical day in the studio involves cleaning up the previous day's mess, a quiet period to contemplate the day's tasks, slogging through the work that needs to be done, distracting myself with something fun to make, and then a mad dash to finish everything else.

What’s your smoking ritual?

When I smoke, I like to clean. Cleaning becomes a relaxing, almost meditative activity. Smoking is also the only time I think to light incense or candles — being a visual and tactile person, sometimes I forget to indulge the other senses.

Click here to shop Pat Kim's Rib Containers, Brushes, and Trays for Tetra

Inspiration: Seashell Shapes

When the Oregon couple behind The Pursuits of Happiness told us they were releasing a pipe modeled after a seashell, we weren't terribly surprised — shell shapes have been in the air this year, a likely consequence of the overlap between two of design and fashion's biggest ongoing obsessions: organic forms and '80s Golden Girls vibes. Check out some of our favorite examples of the trend below, including the aforementioned Pursuits pipe, which is now available for purchase on Tetra.

The Del Mar Pipe by The Pursuits of Happiness, $95 at

Seashell Totem vase by Los Objetos Decorativos, 100 Euros at

Shell Brooch and Pendant by Sophie Buhai, currently sold out

5321 table lamp by Paavo Tynell for Gubi, 509 Euros at

Vintage glass shell bookends, $120 at

Inspiration: From Bauhaus to Your House

An original Tetra favorite — Object and Totem's Bauhaus Box — is now back in the shop. As its name indicates, the piece, with its raised geometric forms, is inspired by the Bauhaus, the enduringly influential design school established by Walter Gropius in Germany in 1919. (Pictured above is his office, featuring a rug by Gertrud Arndt and wall hanging by Else Mögelin.)

Until it was closed by the Nazi Party in 1933, the Bauhaus championed a radical approach to object and furniture design — utilizing unadorned geometric forms and industrial materials — that feels every bit as fresh and relevant today. Many of its talents went on to become icons in the U.S., including Mies van der Rohe, Josef and Anni Albers, and Marcel Breuer. (Fun fact: the first woman to study metalworking there, Marianne Brandt — who went on to run the metal studio — created one of Tetra's most popular ashtrays.)

Here are a few of our favorite objects and interiors created by the school's designers.

Cradle by Peter Keler, 1922

Bauhaus furniture by Marcel Breuer and Bruno Weil. Copyright MODERN XX/ Galerie Modern Design Berlin


Fruit bowl by Josef Albers, 1923

Chess set by Josef Hartwig, 1924

A Bauhaus interior featuring chairs designed by Marcel Breuer

House of Dr. Rabe (1930-31) by Adolf Rading, with interior decorations by Oskar Schlemmer