One of my personal goals for this site is to focus on the process, not the product. The story, not the store. It’s easy to peruse blogs and websites and storefronts and see a beautifully displayed collection of objects, tangible whispers of the things we are or aren’t or aspire to be. Yet these days, I’m choosing to see the price tag as one small part of an artist or designer’s diary entry. The exclamation point after a long, hard sentence with many run-ons and misplaced pronouns and conjugated verbs. My e-friend Re Jin Lee knows about these exclamation points and today, she’s sharing a small, vulnerable part of her own story – not only about design, but about life and love and illumination.
Re Jin Lee founded Bailey Doesn’t Bark, a Brooklyn-based home gifts studio, in 2008. She’s a gifted ceramicist with an eye for creating everyday heirlooms that boast a touch of quirk (my kind of collection indeed). Yet shortly after the birth of her son, Re Jin hit a wall. She stopped working, dreading a return to the studio and conjuring up feelings of guilt and resentment and doubt. “My memory of the months post birth is of pain, exhaustion, frustration, feeling very hot, many tears and a constant reminder that I was supposed to be filled with joy and love,” she writes. “The routine (nursing, changing nappies, putting cream on my sore breast every 2 minutes, taking the dogs and baby for a walk in the humid NY heat…) was driving me crazy. I thought I was going to go mad for a while. I had many talks with my husband about sharing responsibilities, needing time for myself…but they all turned into fights. It was hard for him to understand what I was going through because at the time I didn’t even know why I was feeling that way.”
Re Jin calls this her “deep, dark, new mother cave”, one that I experienced as well as a new mother, and one that I think we can all relate to when we’re thrown into a whirlwind transition or life change. It’s as if we’re kids again, moving houses for the first time and waking up in the middle of the night to a new bedroom and new sounds and new monsters in our closet. We fumble around for a light switch, but that light switch has moved because we’re in a different space now. And so, we fumble and trip and sometimes fall until we – eventually – find the new light switch. The funny thing is, it’s never where it was before, in the comfort of our old bedroom or our old house or our old life. It’s in a different space now. Because we are.
Re Jin didn’t find her new light switch for a few months, but when she did, it was in a ceramics class – a birthday gift from her husband. “On the first day of class, as I sat on the bench and worked on my clay, I realized that I’d gone back to 2008,” she writes. “When everything was ‘simpler’ but so much more fulfilling.”
And slowly, one by one, new light switches illuminated her new bedroom. She learned to nurse in public so she didn’t feel chained to her home. She started pumping and delegating feedings to her husband. Her son began sleeping through the night. “I could feel warmth again,” she writes. “It almost felt like I was waking up from a very deep, heavy sleep. And just like that, I became normal again. I started to get inspired, motivated and wanting to make/create/work. I’m happy with my business now. More than ever. I’ve made it work with my life instead of the other way around.”
The beauty here is that Re Jin is back, yes, but in a different room entirely. Last month, she launched a miniseries collection as “a result of spending countless hours in the studio letting her new inspirations transform into functional art without limitations.” In other words, she’s learned to play. She’s found her light switch and is basking in the creativity that can only stem from illumination.
I think I’m still fumbling for my own light switch these days, but I know I’ll find it soon. After all, the moon only rules the sky for so long before the sun rises to illuminate the land.
Image Credits: Bailey Doesn’t Bark