How This South Carolina Ceramicist Is Redefining Mindfulness


Headshot of ceramicist Sonny Sisan

2 cream and black ceramic vessels sitting on a white cloth backdrop.

Ceramic mug sits on a Utility Ceramic side table.

The term “practice” does not refer solely to ceramicist Sonny Sisan’s work in stoneware clay, but also to the rituals he uses his pieces for every day. A self-described “design geek,” the Charlestonian initially sated his passion for ceramics via collecting—until a pottery class taught by local great Susan Gregory changed his course. “The moment I sat down at the wheel, everything felt right,” he recounts. In 2020, he formally launched Studio Sontosis, today comprising a small-batch assortment in tactile satin glazes: vessels, planters, dinnerware and, more recently, decorative furnishings. With his next seasonal release perfectly timed to his birthday in September, Sisan shares his philosophy, his next creative pursuit and why form should always follow function.

Tell us about the ritual aspect of your work. I make minimal objects that inspire you to slow down and show yourself care, to be present with your thoughts, to taste the flavor of what you are drinking. I have a hot lemon water first thing every morning and a specific vessel that I use for it every time. I love that repetition; the reminder that throughout the entire life of that vessel, it’s been used for the same purpose. 

Although your heritage is Laotian and Thai, you are inspired by Japanese ceramic traditions. What are your other aesthetic influences? I use a lot of earth tones; they’re tranquil and relate to nature. Human scale is also really important to me. Ergonomics, the way you hold something in your hand—you cannot relax if you are uncomfortable.

Your Utility Ceramic side table suggests a new direction. That table is part of my morning ritual; I put my phone in the compartment while I drink my coffee. This year I’m excited to make more furniture, developing the kind of high-design work I want to do for the rest of my career. I’m currently collaborating on some pieces with Charleston woodworker Benjamin Paul.