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Thinking with the Hands

Introducing Claudia Issa, Kornegay Design Visiting Artist

São Paolo-based artist and designer, Claudia Issa, in her studio.

"Sometimes I take a piece of clay, I knead it and the shape comes up. It’s my hands that ‘think' and I let it be to see what will arise,” describes São Paolo-based artist and designer, Claudia Issa. "I find it beautiful that something imperfect can stubbornly show itself as it is, imposing its own beauty, breaking with standards.”

Following renown ceramicist Ian McDonald, Issa is the second artist to bring new creative perspective and aesthetic vocabulary to Kornegay Design through its Visiting Artist Program. Her work often incorporates elements of intentional imperfection, creating nontraditional beauty out of traditionally discarded materials and organic, asymmetrical forms—a creative vision that draws on Larry Kornegay’s original artistic intent but also inspires a new direction for the brand. “Working with Claudia has been instrumental in our mission to grow and evolve the amazing brand that is Kornegay Design without losing the original soul that got it there in the first place,” says Kirt Martin, Chief Creative Officer of Landscape Forms. "I find the new piece that she’s currently working on to be quite moving and inspiring—it’s very Kornegay, very evocative of the brand, but also a fresh expression of Claudia’s artistic vision and global experiences.”

Claudia Issa is relatively new to ceramics as a medium, however, with her rapid international success as evidence, she is not at all new to professional creative endeavors. Issa honed her skills and distinct artistic vision throughout a successful 20-year career in art direction, fashion and graphic design, but moved on seeking new avenues for creative inspiration. "My previous career was fantastic, but when these tasks stopped offering me increasing challenges, I left in search of something new,” describes Issa. "In that search, I ended up discovering my own hands in a new way. That’s what being a ceramicist added to my creative profile—using my hands to enter a new third dimension, the dimension of the object.”

Soon, Issa was showing her work internationally to great acclaim from design industry leaders—one of whom being Landscape Forms’ Martin. “I was first introduced to Claudia at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in 2019. We hit it off, talked quite a bit, and it quickly became evident that she was a perfect candidate to help inspire new creative possibilities for Kornegay,” he says. “I was especially drawn to her Spindle Wheel vase which, as it turns out, was one of her very first forms. It combines elements of movement, balance, and intrigue—elements of Claudia’s unique style that she’s now bringing to Kornegay.”

In shifting from graphic design to ceramics, Issa was able to explore new aspects of her creativity and find new inspiration in evolving as an artist. "In graphic arts I frequently used a notebook to jot down ideas, drafts and create layouts—It was a very rational process, mainly a process of the mind,” says Issa. "Now it feels different. Today, my creative process is more intuitive, spontaneous and dynamic—embracing imperfection as style such that crookedness can suddenly be seen as original beauty. I will always be open to mistakes that happen in the creative process, and if they are interesting, I will absorb them in my technique.”

Claudia points to this malleable, ever-evolving nature of her creativity as one of the reasons why she connected so profoundly with Landscape Forms and Kornegay Design. She approached the project with a wealth of ideas, ranging from sketches to full-fledged renderings, yet throughout the collaboration, her ideas continued to evolve. “It was refreshing to engage in such a mutual, back-and-forth creative process with Landscape Forms’ designers,” says Issa. “Despite the fact that I was using materials and processes with which I was relatively unfamiliar, we were able to land on a design that I feel is very representative of me and my vision. This is in part thanks to the designers’ willingness to work with me, understand my artistic vision and maintain its integrity through true discussion and collaboration.”

Upon observing the organic forms and colors and use of recycled natural materials in her work, it is evident that Issa is inspired by the natural world and its preservation. “It’s important,” she says. “While I’m not always focused on nature as a subject, the way I see the world, environmental sustainability should be a universal part of life, a basic moral value. It is intrinsic to me, so it shows up as a de facto element in my art.”

Issa’s vision extends beyond environmental sustainability to include social sustainability as well. “I want to champion the local artisans and craftsmen and women who are facing increasing challenges in a world of mechanization and mass production. Preserving these skills and values plays a critical role in empowering and providing opportunity for younger generations. It’s so heartening to me to see that craftsmanship and artisanal skills are so alive at Landscape Forms and Kornegay Design."