Roxy Lee believes in making things from nothing. In both aspects of her creative practice—the ceramics she makes from her shared North London studio and her job in fashion design—this idea is central. “The idea of making everything from scratch is what I like,” she explains. “And this is what links my different creative practices. Knitwear starts from yarn. Pottery starts from clay.” Beginning her career in knitwear design (her designs have been worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Adele, and Cindy Crawford), Roxy started her ceramics practice in 2016 under the name ‘the status of zero’. Her initial focus was tableware; ceramics which serve an obvious purpose, which add an aesthetic value but go almost unnoticed in their utility. Yet this idea of thoughtfully-crafted items made from scratch was at the root of these creations too. “I love tactility, texture, colour, and also food,” she tells us. “I began making tableware with food-plating in mind, imagining homemade meals with homemade ceramics for friends and family.”
Meaning Made from Scratch
Continuing to work two and a half days a week at her fashion job, Roxy dedicates around four days weekly to her ceramics practice. A member of 24-hour ceramics collective Cernamic in North London, she finds herself in the studio a lot. “At busy times, I cycle there after dinner and stay until after midnight to finish work,” she explains. “Other members said they thought I lived in the studio! But ceramics need time and patience.'' Inspired by Cernamic founders Nam Tran and Susi Huang, Roxy started to branch out from ceramics with an identifiable utility, to creations with a less straightforward purpose. “They inspired me to work more on artistic practices beyond utilitarian work,” Roxy says. “I am now working on both strands.”
For Roxy, these less ‘useful’ ceramics aren’t to be locked away or kept safely out of reach, but for playing a role in daily life. About her work, Roxy writes; “The objects we create have no further meaning without people interacting with them." Having been made from nothing by a human creator, the objects are pushed back into nothingness unless they are granted continued significance by human interaction. And this is equally as important whether the object is a bowl or a piece of art. Roxy expands on this, saying, “Often an object reminds you of a feeling, a moment, a place of your past, or a relationship. Over time, objects accumulate memories that give them meaning.” She continues, “It matters where we bought them, used them, lived with them. I want people to interact with my pieces, so they become part of their memories.”
Her own self and memories are imbued most obviously into her beautiful series, The Hybrid Collection, which she began to make in 2021. Inspired by the way that light throws aspect, colour, and shape into effect to create singular contrasts and character, each piece in the collection is unique. Different glazing techniques are used to enhance contrasting elements, combining rough matte texture with slick sections of brightly glistening colour. “In my pottery, the notion of the hybrid is represented by contrasts – matte and glossy, bright colours and muted tones, rough and smooth,” she explains. “It needs light to reflect colours and contrast.”
But this idea of the hybrid, of mixing contrasts and seeming contradictions is even more personal for Roxy. “It starts with myself,” she explains. “Growing up in Hong Kong while it was still a British colony, I learned about traditional Eastern values alongside lots of Western cultural input. Having worked and lived in London for more than eight years, I still see myself as a kind of hybrid.”
Compositions 1, 2 and 3 of Roxy’s Hybrid Collection embrace this deeply intimate consideration of identity. Roxy sees Composition 4 as the beginning of something particularly personal, calling it the start of her memoir. With stark edges and precise lines, it contains a clear suggestion of a cityscape. “I wanted to create the impression of my home city’s harbour skyline,” Roxy says. “As I worked on it, I was thinking of the ‘Symphony of Lights’ light show held every night in Hong Kong along all the skyscrapers’ architecture, which highlights the beauty of the modern city.” Roxy plans to continue and evolve her Hybrid collection, creating from nothing exciting new ceramics that will come to tell their own stories.