Isissa Komada-John: The Artist Channelling Healing Into Her Art
For North Carolina-based artist Isissa Komada-John, there’s healing power in clay. The artist and designer – who creates ceramic pieces with undulating forms and pops of colour – envisions each work as part of a ritual or a period of heightened emotion. Her creative journey began with the idea of creating tools and practices for healing. “Just as a soup bowl is a tool for eating,” says the artist, she wanted to “create ceramic pieces that helped to hold space for folks going through major changes”.
Komada-John approaches her ceramics from “a place of stillness and inward-looking”. Though she primarily works in clay, her paper pieces are similarly soul-searching, with the self-portraiture created as “a collaboration with a number of younger versions of [herself]”.
After a decade of working behind the scenes in museums, curatorial departments, and exhibition design, she started to notice that the inspiration she got from other artists was growing her own need to make art. She received a fellowship from the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (part of the Wingate University Fellowship) and was a 2022 artist-in-residence at the North Carolina-based artist retreat Township10.
Elements such as “healing, growth, transformation [and] connection” feed Komada-John’s work. Her piece titled For Your Tears – a collaboration with medicine person Ekua Adisa – is a vessel that literally catches tears through its opening while a person processes their grief. For Heal, the artist created five pieces “to help in the process of healing a wound over the course of months or a year”. Explaining her process, Komada-John says, “I love to connect with individuals who are looking for something to help them grow in new and challenging ways, or to process and move grief that they’re experiencing.” She describes ceramics as a “big process in mindfulness” and for both herself and the people who experience her work, her aim is to use her vessels “to hold us in slowness, in self-examination and help us to change and grow”.
Eva Recinos is an LA-based arts and culture journalist and creative non-fiction writer