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Conversations with Dani Iwami

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dani Iwami.

Hi Dani, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I guess my introduction to ceramics began when I was in high school. I told my friend who was in the class I wanted to try it and she showed me how to center the clay and what not and from there I was hooked. I took it my senior year of high school and loved it and then that was it for a while. I had some space in my schedule during my 5th year of college, I am getting my degree in environmental studies and double minoring in energy policy and economics. I wanted an outlet outside of school and basketball, so I took the ceramics for non-art majors class and I haven’t looked back since. During this past fall quarter (Fall 2020), I was in the studio throwing clay almost every day till sometimes midnight. I just wanted to practice and practice and practice, and naturally I accumulated a lot of pots and decided to sell them at the end of the quarter. [Quick rewind]: During the Summer of 2020, like many of us, I wanted to try something new. I started practicing digital art and a couple of months in I decided to launch an art Instagram for others to join me on my journey. I have since changed my medium of art from digital illustration to clay. I am currently a member at Burnish Clay Studio in Bellingham, Washington where I go to school full time and play on the Women’s basketball team as well. I am learning so much and loving where I am at in life. I see ceramics as a big part of my future.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
January 2020, I tore my ACL. I was absolutely heartbroken, and I went through a bit of an identity crisis. I had always identified as a basketball player because it was safe. I have been playing since the age of 5, and it is something I am pretty good at. Basketball is not forever though, eventually the ball will stop bouncing. I want to keep playing for as long as I can, but what else brings me that much joy? Ceramics has saved my mental health numerous times. It gives me a space to be fully present. Something that I only felt when I was playing basketball. Being sidelined from the game for so long, I lost that space, and it’s nice to find something I am so passionate about. The physical, mental, and emotional challenges I’ve faced from rehabbing my ACL during the pandemic has been one of the most rewarding and sobering experiences of my life. I don’t think I would be where I am at mentally if I hadn’t experienced that. This pandemic has given us all the opportunity to look within and think about what is truly important to us.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I’m a Japanese Chinese American born and raised in Seal Beach, CA. I am an aspiring ceramicist. I go by the artist name of DANI X KAWAII. Kawaii meaning cute in Japanese, and I thought it was just so sweet and fitting because I love to make things cute. A lot of my work is inspired by Japanese and Korean forms. I like clean and minimalistic lines. I think what sets me apart from others is my authenticity. The pieces I create genuinely bring me so much joy and each one is intentionally formed. I think people connect with those emotions which is part of the experience.

Do you any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
Growing up, I had this really strange habit of latching onto the back of my mom in the grocery store and singing really loud pretending that it was her. I don’t know why I thought people would believe the voice of a small child would be coming from my mom, but I used to think it was the funniest thing ever. I would laugh uncontrollably hard under the impression that I was fooling everyone that it was my mom singing but in hindsight, there’s no way anyone actually believed me. I used to be really attached to my mom, I would wave and smile at her while running down the court after every point I scored. She made my childhood wonderful, I am very lucky to be hers.

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