Design

Mt. Washington for Parachute: Behind the Design

Written by
Parachute Team
PHOTOGRAPHS BY
Morgan Pansing for Parachute

Behind Mt. Washington, one of L.A.’s most beloved pottery studios, is ceramicist Beth Katz. Inspired by traditional Japanese and modern Scandinavian design, Mt. Washington’s heirloom quality pays homage to her upbringing in the hippie enclave of Topanga Canyon. We have long been fans of Mt. Washington pottery and today we’re thrilled to bring you an exclusive collaboration that embodies the organic and simple elegance both Mt. Washington and Parachute have come to perfect.  Join us for a tour of Mt. Washington’s bright and inspiring studio in east Los Angeles – and watch how the Handmade Ceramic Vase and Alpaca Lumbar Pillow came to be.  

How did the Mt. Washington for Parachute collaboration come together? How did you approach the design process?

I received a call from Amy Hoban, Parachute’s Chief Creative Officer, reaching out, inviting me to a collaborate and I was thrilled. I have loved following along with what Parachute is doing and found we have a very similar, natural, aesthetic.  The design process was very collaborative, with both brands referencing the same fabric sample for inspiration. The textile design for the Alpaca Lumbar Pillow translated into the Handmade Ceramic Vase design. As I worked with the vase and played with carving, the design gradually became more abstract. Finally, once we landed on the color of the clay, we adapted the textile fabric to complement the vase.

What makes the Mt. Washington for Parachute pieces unique? How are these different from those you’ve made in the past?

All of my ceramics are hand spun on the wheel – and while the process remains the same, each vase in unique with slight variations from one to the next. I start with clay on the wheel, sculpt it and wait for it to dry before I trim and eventually carve. After the piece is individually carved I let it dry before it’s fired. From there it is glazed, specifically by dipping, then fired again. The white glaze and spotted treatment on the Mt. Washington for Parachute Vase is created by iron from the clay’s makeup.

What do you love about creating?

I love everything about creating. It’s something that I have to do; it’s part of who I am. I recently took a vacation over the holidays and was so excited to come back to the studio, which is a really fortunate thing to have in a career. My favorite thing though, is being in the studio by myself and allotting time to work with new ideas. I don’t sketch but I love sitting at the wheel, exploring what I’m doing with clay. It nourishes me – especially when there are so many responsibilities in running a business. If I didn’t let myself be creative in a childlike way, I wouldn’t be able to keep the business fresh and fun.

Before Mt. Washington Pottery, you had many creative careers: makeup artist, creative director and more. What inspired you to turn your love of pottery into a full-time career?

I reached a point in my career where I needed a refresh. After a lot of thought, I went to grad school for spiritual psychology where we often discussed the importance of doing what you love. In my case, that was pottery and ceramics – and still is. I originally thought it would be irresponsible to try to make this hobby into a living and spent two years of grad school debunking my beliefs before finally committing.

What was it about pottery that drew you to the art form?

I first started doing ceramics as a kid and loved it immediately. What I’ve always admired about pottery is its longstanding tradition – it’s a craft that is humble and ordinary, yet special. It gives significance to an everyday object and can bring joy to those interacting with it.

Mt. Washington Pottery is named after your L.A. neighborhood. How has the city influenced and inspired your work?

It’s an ancient tradition in the craft of pottery to name a studio after the location – hence Mt. Washington Pottery. Beyond the name itself, I have always loved L.A. I was raised in the hippie enclave of Topanga Canyon and it continues to influence my work. The landscape specifically – the plants, ocean and mountains – inspires me daily.

What does a typical day of creating look like for you?

I’m a morning person so I work best early. My typical day begins at 5:30am with a few minutes of meditation before enjoying a cup of tea while spending time with my dogs. I get to the studio by 7:30am, have lunch and wrap the day up around 4:00pm so I can walk my dogs and carve out time to spend thinking of new ideas. I need that time for my creative process.