Inspired is an understatement when it comes to the work of Virginia Sin: a ceramicist, art director and all around creative being. Meet SIN, the design company founded by Virginia that focuses on crisp, clean and functional products. Based out of our home turf of Brooklyn, we're eager to watch the growth of this thoughtful and nostalgic brand. Shop her work on Artists to Know.
What is your background?
Born to a stay-at-home Tiger mom who played senior pro tennis and a father who ran a jewelry store, I was raised on a peninsula that poked out into the Pacific Ocean in suburban LA. As a kid, I spent most of my time in my parents’ backyard, pretending to be a squirrel. But like all good things, my squirrel days had to come to an end at a certain point. And at that point, I started looking for other hobbies. Like ceramics.
By 19, I was ready to do something more serious with the arts. So I went to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California to study graphic design and advertising.
A week after graduation, I packed up my belongings and moved to New York City where I freelanced as a designer for branding agencies and worked as a personal chef for a guy who really liked tacos. Eventually, I landed my first art director job at McCann Erickson – an ad agency in Midtown Manhattan. Since then, I’ve been working with my copywriter partner in crime to build brands like Dentyne, Weight Watchers, General Mills, Kohl’s, Dream Dry, Speck, SweetnLow and others.
Although I’m a designer by trade, I’ve always had a strong interest in all things home - specifically pieces that are functional, artful and still able to cozy up a space.
How did you get into ceramics? What was life like before ceramics?
I took 2 years of ceramics in high school. Admittedly, I chose ceramics as my elective, because it was the only class that didn’t require reading and writing. But, before I knew it, I’d fallen in love with it. I later revisited ceramics when I moved to Brooklyn and was in search of a creative outlet outside of tacos and design. Life before ceramics was also fun. See the part about playing squirrel in the backyard.
Did you always think you'd have your own business?
Yes. At 5, I told my parents that I wanted to own an ice cream truck where I’d be in charge of all ice cream scooping. It made a lot of sense to me at the time. But that dream sort of melted away, when my math tutor and piano teacher took over my childhood. That just got really Asian, didn’t it?
What inspires you? Who is your biggest inspiration?
My friends tell me I am extremely sentimental. They might be right because a lot of my inspiration is drawn from my memories. I really feel like I can better hold onto my memories if I create something tangible to represent them. My biggest inspiration is my Grandpa. He dumpster dove, foraged his own seeds, and reclaimed wood way before the word hipster was born. He was a carpenter for 20 years when he lived in China before he decided to drive taxis in Hong Kong. Ultimately, he retired at the age of 50 and moved to California where he hand-built every piece of his house with only the help of my grandma. He is a problem-solver, a renaissance man and a bad-ass.
Tell me about the different pieces in your collection.
The Gluttony Collection was designed to feel lived in and effortless. The products are modeled after the traditional paper variety that has been bent under the weight of barbeques, potlucks and picnic favorites for years, leaving you with a taste of nostalgia. The forms are also designed in a way so everything is stackable and space efficient. The Slab Collection is a modern interpretation of the primitive era. The crude forms harken back to simpler times when form followed function. The glazes chosen create patterns and textures that mimic traditional firing and oxidations. Every piece is uniquely and lovingly hand-built.
Can you describe a day at SIN?
Since I still work full-time at an ad agency, a day at SIN usually starts in the evening. I spend most nights making prototypes in my studio, wearing some sort of very Brooklyn coveralls, listening to my music at a level that’s just loud enough to make the whole experience feel really romantic. My Portland, Oregon manufacturer helps me to produce the things I create. Hand-crafted and Made in USA are two phrases SIN values and holds up to.
How large is the SIN team?
The SIN team consists of my very smart friends who are generous enough to help me, solely because they believe in me and the potential of the SIN brand: Andrea Verenes, Head of Operations, Paula Lee, Head of Business Development and Gretchen Menter, Head of All Things Written.
What's your favorite music to listen to when you work?
Hip-hop music. Old and new. Reminds me of driving in LA, back in the day.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running your business?
Endurance. Building a brand that has longevity and cultural relevance. Having a strong voice, regardless of what the trend forecasters are telling you. Brand differentiation. What is it that your brand has to offer that no other brand can take from you and imitate?
What's next for SIN?
SIN has had much success in collaborating with Eleven Madison Park and therefore is in the process of doing more custom designs for NY chefs and restaurants. Separate from the food world, SIN is also developing jewelry and accessories for a men’s collection, which will be launching in the Fall 2015.