Apiece Apart Woman: Virginia Sin
Photos: Erica Gannett
Interview: Leigh Patterson
It’s hard to concretely define the work of multi-disciplinary designer Virginia Sin, and perhaps that’s why we like it so much.
From her Brooklyn studio, Virginia creates ceramic works that challenge familiar forms and push the limits in material and utility (we are fans of her abstract re-envisionings of fruit bowls — speckled, beautifully rough hand-formed ceramic coils designed to allow fruit to “breathe”). Her practice bridges the gap between the functional and the conceptual, and reminds us of the magic that can come from reading between the lines.
We are always curious about how fellow women begin and build businesses, particularly ones that start from a tiny personal passion and evolve in organic, expansive ways. Here, a conversation with Virginia on being yourself (sans apology), her stress-busting rituals of choice, getting better at failure, and more.
What rules or practices do you have for getting in the “zone,” particularly on projects that require a great deal of focus?
I never was a morning person until I started pursuing SIN full-time. (I was working in advertising for 10+ years while keeping SIN as my side hustle on nights and weekend, but that’s a whole separate story). For projects that require deep concentration, I like to wake up super early and make myself a big pot of coffee. Then I set a timer for two hours and completely disconnect from all devices — sometimes shorter or longer depending on the task at hand. If I need to use the internet for some reason, I allow myself to have only one tab open at a time since I get distracted very easily. I prefer working in either complete silence or by drowning everything out with the loudest classical piano music you’ve ever heard.
What advice would you give to yourself ten years ago?
Self-love is not selfish or self-indulgent. Your feelings are information, so listen to yourself: you already have the answers to most of your life’s questions.
What is your relationship to failure and how has it evolved?
I used to really fear failure. But time and age and clay have all taught me that we cannot grow if we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable to missteps. Plus, the more you fail the more comfortable you get with the idea that the temporary discomfort will not actually be your undoing. I have by no means mastered this concept, but I can say I’ve come to accept it as a part of the process and part of life.
What I don’t have a ton of patience for is when I make the same mistakes over and over. If I am repeating failures, that means I haven’t learned my lesson and grown from the experience.
When you feel overwhelmed, unfocused, or uncreative what do you do to get out of your head?
I clean and organize a physical space. This can be anything from my junk drawer to my closet.
I will knit. Generally, I will aimlessly knit and unravel it once I run out of yarn. I am less concerned about the outcome and more drawn to its meditative, relaxing qualities.
I will prepare a meal. I love cooking and since eating is an essential part of life, I figure I may as well use my restless energy to make something delicious.
What are some of your tried and true tactics or products for avoiding dry / overworked hands?
As you may know, working constantly with clay gives you perpetually dry and cracked hands. Before I leave the studio after a day of clay, I make sure to exfoliate. This step is crucial! I use the Coffee Body Scrub by Palermo Body. Next I swear by O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Cream. It’s super healing, non-greasy and you only need a drop the size of a dime. Works like magic. Before bed, I like to indulge myself with Susanne Kaufmann’s hand cream.
For hand stretches, my fellow ceramicist friend recently introduced me to Acupressure Finger Massage Rings. They are often used by rock climbers. It really helps with your circulation and any tenderness or tension built up from the day.
What’s something new, outside of your career/medium that you are interested in learning more about?
Child psychology, the art of ikebana flower arranging, and French culinary techniques.
Something that is absurd that I love anyway is:
Being Chinese-American, I grew up eating Dim Sum for Sunday brunch. At the very young age of 5, I was introduced to Braised chicken feet, a cantonese delicacy. And to this day, I absolutely love chicken feet, despite the fact that I also happen to have SEVERE bird phobia. This phobia extends to all birds, excluding penguins, puffins and maybe hummingbirds, supposing they’re not in close range to my head.
We are all formulating and gathering life hacks all the time. What are the some tried and true tricks that have stuck with you?
Be unapologetic about who you are. This includes accepting your shortcomings and not comparing yourself to others.
In times of high anxiety or stress I like to remind myself that everything is temporary and that learning to sit through the discomfort is going to make me more resilient.
Make time to celebrate your wins. Big and small! Practicing gratitude helps me to not take life for granted. It’s SO easy to focus on the things that go wrong. It’s also a great way to keep the mind positive! This last sentence assures me that I am turning into my father, who I’m sure texted me something similar this week.