The Poor Patron - Donut Alphabet by Phi Nguyen

The Poor Patron - Donut Alphabet by Phi Nguyen


The Poor Patron is a project meant to loosen the everyday strictures of the client/artist relationship. The artist is welcomed to create work based on any MarninSaylor themes or imagery with no creative input, due within a "when it's done" deadline.

We are pleased to offer prints of our Poor Patron collaborations. This is the twelfth in the series, titled Donut Alphabet by Seattle artist Phi Nguyen. These clever Pastry Pets™ have found a way to spell out MarninSaylor with their little donut bodies! 

This art is printed on high-quality, heavyweight, matte, archival paper, and measures 13"x19". Sold unframed, shipped rolled. Half the proceeds from the sale of these prints go directly to the artist.

Be sure to read our interview with Phi below.


There used to be a great little spot up on Seattle's Capitol Hill. It was called Black Coffee Co-op, and in addition to being a beautiful space to sit and drink a cup of coffee, black or otherwise, it also served as a gathering place for artists and creatives of all sorts. Frequent live music, a bookshelf full of local zines and anti-establishment literature, and a supremely relaxed and welcoming attitude were always offered at Black Coffee. They also hosted a well-curated, if tiny, maker fair a few times a year and when first asked to participate some years ago we jumped at the chance! We were able to set up at two of these little fairs before Black Coffee closed its doors. The first time we went we met Michael Heck of Pity Party, who has also done a Poor Patron poster for us. At the second, we were incredibly lucky to be just a table away from Phi Nguyen and his incredible spread of gorgeous ceramics. Phi's work draws you in immediately with its unexpected, playful textures and intricate, whimsical designs - all carved freehand and glazed in an explosion of vibrant hues. Dressed-up animals eating ice cream, a treasure trove of faceted and gleaming gems, nighttime moths hiding amidst curlicued foliage, or simply imaginative abstract shapes or the earthy beauty of raw, unglazed clay, marbled together in a dream of a desert sunset. Each of Phi's pieces is a world unto itself, as unique and brilliant as the next. Phi now has a booth down at Pike Place Market and teaches ceramics out of his home studio. We're incredibly happy and grateful that our creative journey has allowed us to meet so many other talented and kind makers (Phi certainly being one of the most talented and kind of them all), and we're so pleased to present his Poor Patron poster, created in one of Phi's other favorite medias - cut paper.

You're an artist who enjoys working in many mediums - ceramics, drawing, jewelry, cut paper, etc. How do you reconcile these different art forms and what is your underlying aesthetic that unifies them?

The boundaries between mediums in the arts really fascinate me. As a kid I started out drawing, enthralled by my older sister's drawings from her high school art class. I use chopsticks when I cook, and I draw secret shapes into my food. I draw with an x-acto knife into paper and I use a jeweler's saw to cut metal. I think of everything I do as drawing, really. The best part of working in so many mediums is that I get to learn how to draw with different parts of my body. On paper, on a small scale, it's just the hands, wrist, and arms. In clay, on the wheel, it's my body weight, grip, hand gestures, and grounding. With food in a skillet, it's a collage of shapes cut by the hand: timing, breathing, and smelling create the image here. I find myself striving to find a familiarity between the different lines that appear in my materials. I think of the patterns and shapes that I create as a working collaboration between the materials and my creativity.

I am currently working in clay. I think that clay allows me the playful, blurred boundaries I seek. Amidst the different techniques for throwing, sculpting, painting, forming, carving, drawing, and hand building, I find there's a freedom in the clay's capacity for creation which only physical laws can limit. In this boundlessness, I really thrive. I get to build my pieces from lumps of earth, infusing into them my self, my lines, and my history.

In addition to being a full-time maker, you're also a certified reiki master and instructor. How do these two passions cross-pollinate one another within your life? Do you feel that one informs the other?

In a way, working on the realization that I'm never 'just doing something,' that the activity before me deserves my best efforts, and that by giving my all, I can be proud of the work I've done ... this has changed my making life. I believe in the power of meditation. Reading, writing, breathing, singing, dreaming, waiting, making ... it's all meditation. All of it is what makes each person uniquely them. Yet, I find time and time again, that many people do not think they possess such a powerful tool for stress-relief, intention building, inspiration, and creative energy. I often talk about the process of making pots with my reiki students as an analogy for balancing and centering the self. I work with reiki when creating my pots too. Being mindful of my breathing, my posture, and the attitude of the clay I'm using really keeps my workflow steady and positive. I forgive myself for minor mistakes that a younger Phi might have agonized for days over. As a reiki instructor, I am seeking to learn what I can by carefully exploring why I make choices, the materials I gather around me, and the people that move into my life. As a maker, it's not any different!

Do you have any artists that have been of great inspiration to you? And do you have any pearls of wisdom to pass on to other aspiring makers?

Inspirational artists for me are Bjork, Marina Abramović, Beatrice Wood, Louise Bourgeois, Isabella Rossellini, and the list goes on! I was stubborn in my art history course about not learning the names of people, and I regret that because now I understand that the names we see in books, on slides, in galleries, on our friends' tongues - they're all artistic people like you and me. Makers who have listened to their intuition, experiences, and passions to create not just art, but an artistic, creative way of being and relating to the world. In the end, making artwork is what being an artist is all about. You can imagine this advice as a pearl sturdy enough to carry around in your pocket all the time: trust your beautiful artist self, do your work with integrity, and make as much stuff as you can.

There's a really interesting story that goes along with your birth. Would you mind sharing it? And how, if in any way, has this strange and auspicious entrance into the world impacted your life and work? 

I was born as my mom was traveling to America from a refugee camp for Vietnamese people in the Philippines. Widowed with two daughters, she met my dad there at the camp and came to love him in those two years. She had already been homeless and alone, save for my sisters Trang and Thao, for several years at this point, having been waylaid to a refugee camp in Hong Kong when she first hopped a boat from Viet Nam's southern coast. We were admitted to immigrate to America right before my birth. Extreme difficulty, a mother's perseverance, and a smattering of lucky coincidences brought about my humble life, and there is not a day that I do not think about it!

Ok, last question! What is your favorite crystal in the world, and why? It doesn't have to be one you already own - dream big!

There are so many crystals undiscovered, and crystals that will form millions of years from now that wouldn't be possible without humans and all we've done on this planet. I like to look ahead to that serene future and think of a cache of my pottery, ground back down by the Earth, included in quartz and calcite clusters that shimmer with the memory of this specific time. Yup, that'd be pretty dang sweet.

Follow Phi’s work on his Facebook page.

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