Every once in a while, we feel blessed to meet people who feel more like creative luminaries than regular people. Virginia Sin, a Brooklyn-based artist in our LOCAL program, is one of them.

Virginia says she views her art in much the same way a nomad traveler would, just passing through as waves of creativity drive her direction and medium. Right now, her creative work is focused mostly on clay – a medium she picked up as a hobby and realized she had a unique perspective she could bring to it. Starting out making candleholders, fruit bowls, and “paper” plates made of porcelain, she’s now exploring ceramic lighting, furniture, and even a new chic linen workwear line.

In 2007, she rented a tiny studio in Greenpoint with a friend and a “make it work” attitude. Using an old-fashioned kiln (a furnace used for firing pottery) she scored on Craigslist for cheap, she has slowly built her brand within her means. Somewhere along the way, she was gifted the tool that would later influence her personal style of ceramics: a clay extruder, which allows for perfectly even cylindrical clay ropes. “A total game changer,” she calls it.

We were lucky to have Virginia Sin join the west elm LOCAL program this Spring and add her unique flair to the assortment with wall hooks, trivets, and planters.

We headed to Greenpoint to hang out with Virginia on a snowy morning in her studio. Read the full interview below!

Photography by Lindsey Swedick

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

Tell us a little bit about yourself and SIN.

I’m a Brooklyn-based multi-disciplinary designer. In 2006, I left LA for Brooklyn, abandoning, “way better tacos” in the name of making a name for myself. With my collections of overalls, small rocks and medium-sized succulents in tow, I set up a studio in Greenpoint and developed my first line: The Gluttony Collection.

The collection soon attracted the attention of Design Within Reach and received “Most Sustainable” in the Modern+Design+Function Competition. Nine years later, in 2016, it was acquired by The New York Historical Society Museum, where it became part of their 20th and 21st-century objects collection.

I’ve been focusing my recent attention on redefining ceramic coils, translating my graphic designs into weave structures and challenging the limitations of clay in the lighting industry, in hopes to bring some extra warmth into the world.

You left your career in Marketing + Advertising to pursue ceramics. What made you decide to focus on ceramics full-time and how did the skills from your previous job help you with your business?

I spent over a decade building brands and developing ad campaigns for other companies and realized I could apply these same skill sets to build my own brand. Since I was young, I always knew I wanted to work for myself and had a hard concept with bosses! Ceramics just happens to be the material I’ve chosen at the moment to express my ideas and products.

I’m able to apply my art direction, creative direction skill sets into my business. I also worked with many talented people in my previous career such as stylists, directors, account managers, project managers, producers and so on. Because we have very different budgets compared to large corporations, I try to apply what I’ve learned and observed from each of these different roles into my small team. I try to wear many hats when I can and outsource what I’m simply not great at doing myself. I’m working at such a different scale now, so not everything directly translates but there are still great infrastructures and foundational concepts that are still applicable.

Tell us about your studio space and your team.

We are a team of four women at the moment with two seasonal interns. Our space is divided into four studios: two clay production studios, one inventory/fulfillment room, and one showroom/office space called the “Sin Apartment”.

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

What project and/or collaboration have you been the most excited about lately?

I’ve been most excited about our ceramic lighting and some larger scale ceramic furniture. I’m also working on a workwear line which was born out of me designing “apron-meets-jumpsuit” uniforms for my team.

From where you stand, what’s changing about the ceramics and small maker market? Where do you hope to see it go?

I started making and selling ceramics back in 2007. The market has definitely become much more saturated since then. I love the challenge of having to find a unique and differentiating voice.

It excites me that the small maker movement has continued to grow and thrive in such a way. The community is incredible and there is so much talent that I think we all really inspire one another!

What was the first ceramics creation you were proud of?

The porcelain paper plate, which was the first product I ever sold. The first edition of them was made with porcelain paper clay which is a concoction I developed using actual shredded paper plates mixed in with a porcelain slurry.

After the pieces are formed, they are then fired and the paper shreds are then burned off—leaving beautiful paper shredded markings. Some of the originals can now be found in the New York Historical Society Museum in the 20th and 21st century permanent collection.

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about growing and sustaining your own business?

SIN wouldn’t be where we are without my dream team. I always get a little emotional when I think about how much everyone on my team cares and supports one another. How we all work so har and strive to always be better while having a fun time doing it all.

It’s a grind and very stressful every day. Outside of work, I also have an incredible support system – my fiancé is amazing, my friends, my family… I just couldn’t feel more grateful! Owning my own business was a long time dream, so I’m literally living the dream.

We love the concept of the Sin Apartment to showcase your work. What was the inspiration for the aesthetic of this space?

We are always figuratively talking about building a world of SIN, so we thought we would take it literally. It’s nice to be able to see all the products live in one space and to interact with them on an everyday basis.

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

What does a typical Saturday look like for you?

I was never a morning person until I started my own company. Ha!

Depending on the week ahead, I will wake up around 7:30/8am (I know! so early for a weekend!) I meditate for 15 minutes while my coffee is brewing. Then, coffee!!

Then, I spend the next 2-3 hours catching up on the week’s emails. I also like brainstorming new ideas and jotting down a massive to-do list (a great strategy when you feel overwhelmed) so I can feel prepared for the week ahead.

Once that’s done, I try to completely unplug from technology for the rest of the day and will spend it with my fiancé. Pretty basic stuff: brunch in the neighborhood, run errands, check out new shops — or if we’re feeling ambitious, we’ll hit up a museum. Saturday evenings are reserved for our friends. We love hosting dinner parties and trying nearby restaurants and bars!

west elm local — Virginia Sin

west elm local — Virginia Sin

What do you love most about working in Greenpoint?

It’s diverse. Some parts have tree-lined streets while other parts are still very industrial!

What’s next for Sin?

We want to do licensing work, collaborate with more interior designers, restaurants and hospitality groups!

west elm local — Virginia Sin

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