Hong Kong designer Phoebe Ho first discovered ceramics in the art room at her boarding school in England. Ho, who was 13 at the time, felt an instant connection. “The ceramics studio at school was always empty, and it just felt like my safe haven back then,” she explains. “It was the only spot in the school that felt like it was just for me, and I absolutely fell in love with it.”
She took up ceramics as a hobby, while returning to Asia to pursue a degree in economics, followed by a short-lived career in finance. However, it wasn’t long before a quarter-life crisis pushed Ho to ditch the corporate world.
Portait Credit: Mada Pucilowska
“I didn’t envision myself being able to stay in it for much longer — certainly not the rest of my life,” Ho says. “I came back to ceramics as a way to work through that confusing period and realized how much I’d missed being soaked in clay, not needing to think about anything else. I became entirely hooked and started to rethink my whole life plan.”
Today, the recent Masters of Arts graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design sees herself as part of a new wave of ceramic artists. At the illustrious London art school (which counts visionaries like fashion designers Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and Turner-prize winning sculptor Richard Long as alumni), Ho honed her craft from after-work hobby to fine art.
“I didn’t have an art degree or any background in the art world whatsoever. But thankfully, I think they saw my passion and my vision for where I wanted to go with my creative journey,” says the 27-year-old.
Ho debuted her first collection — “Yarn_”, a series of experimental vases inspired by constantly evolving cities like Hong Kong, Shanghai and London — at Central Saint Martins last year. To craft the pieces, Ho bound the clay vases in yarn while they were still soft, causing them to bend and deform into asymmetrical silhouettes – imperfect, distinct, and one-of-a-kind. Ho says she also viewed the project as a metaphor for her own journey of self-discovery as an artist.
“The story that I wanted to tell is about trusting the process,” explains Ho. “Over a lifetime, we’re all shaped by influences – whether it’s parents, siblings, mentors, or teachers. It’s a constant pushing and pulling of forces that give us our different textures and define how the world sees us. But it’s beautiful by the end.”
Even though each vase started identical, the finished pieces showcase unique details and irregularities. These idiosyncrasies add another layer of meaning for the artist, who sought to integrate themes of connection and relationships by physically connecting the vases with a single thread of vibrant red yarn.
“My core message is about reconnecting with one another. There’s a saying in Chinese that we have to think of what brought us to now,” says Ho. “So we have to look back and be thankful to those people and those events that have led us to our present.”
Today, Ho splits her time between her Hong Kong studio and her home in London, where she partners with several contemporary art galleries. When it comes to starting a ceramic collection of one’s own, she suggests starting small and selecting pieces that not only hold meaning but also bring you joy.
“I love to hand-pick items with a good story and strong style,” says Ho. “You want pieces that will continue to grow on you over time, like a member of the family.”