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