Emily Reinhardt of the Object Enthusiast turns everyday pieces into art.
Emily Reinhardt is covered in clay. There are smears of it on her jeans, flecks of it in her long hair, remnants in the folds of her knuckles. She’s used to it, she says, after nearly a decade of working in ceramics.
Reinhardt is the Object Enthusiast. If you’ve frequented Coveted Home, Fable or Hammerpress in Kansas City, you’ve likely noticed her faceted planters — the honeycomb-shaped pots glazed white with accents of gold. Reinhardt’s product catalog extends far beyond those eye-catching designs, but they’re her flagship creation. Her other products — ring dishes, vases, cups, mugs, spoons, trays, platters, vases and other vessels — come in an array of shapes and sizes, but they all share a common aesthetic: a subtle compromise between the organic and the geometric, and almost always with an elegant touch of gold.
“I’m always interested in the objects that people live with — the dish that holds their rings when they wash the dishes or the planter that keeps their favorite plant or the cup they reach for to drink out of every day,” Reinhardt says. “I’m always thinking of everyday objects, and if it’s something that’s not normally made of clay, then can I make it out of clay? That’s how I arrive at the stuff I make.”
Reinhardt employs a variety of methods: slip-casting, hand- and slab-building, wheel-throwing. After it’s built, each product follows the same cycle: a few days of drying, then a primary bisque firing, then a first glazing and a second firing, then a second glazing — usually to add the gold touches — and a final round in the kiln.
“Each piece ends up in the kiln at least three times, and each firing takes about 10 to 12 hours,” Reinhardt says. “There’s a long cooling process, so start to finish, each piece takes about two weeks.”
Insight into this labor-intensive operation helps pull the blinds back on Reinhardt’s pricing strategy. Ring dishes start at $22 and are the least expensive item she sells — other pieces, like trays, platters and pots, range between $40 and $145, depending on the size and design.
“I do want to be affordable,” Reinhardt says, “but at the same time, everything I do is made one at a time. There’s nothing cheap or quick about my work, so I have to account for the time I put in.”
Reinhardt works out of the garage behind her house in Kansas City’s Brookside neighborhood. This has been her haven since December 2015, when she moved back to her hometown after spending five years in Omaha, Nebraska. On pleasant-weather days, Reinhardt hoists the garage door wide open. The evening’s setting sun casts a warm glow across the wares stacked on shelves. They are organized by varying stages of completion — still-wet pieces just starting to dry, greenware after its first bisque firing, pastel-colored vases awaiting their next glaze and one shelf full of finished plates and dishes, their gold accents glinting in the light.
Reinhardt’s work oscillates between art and function. She grapples with labels, because it always seems that her objects fall into a category all their own. Her work is not meant to sit on a pedestal against a white wall in a pristine gallery, and yet there is little chance of finding something as earnest and exquisite as her textured, eggshell-colored, gold-rimmed platters at Target. Reinhardt calls herself an artist but considers her creations home goods.
“In my eyes, a functional object can still be art,” she says. “And then, even though the things I make are usable, I do make a lot of things where people are like, ‘What would I use this for?’ But sometimes, what seems like an everyday object means something a little deeper. So, I’m OK being called an artist and a potter and a maker. All those things fit.”
Today, Reinhardt employs a single assistant to help her stay on top of her big wholesale orders, which includes shops in more than 10 states, online retailers, Urban Outfitters and, recently, a special dinnerware line for the newly opened Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room in the Crossroads Arts District. The Corvino order, she says, has inspired further dinnerware designs that she hopes to roll out soon.
Eventually, she says, she’d like to have a storefront of her own — a physical shop where she can sell her pieces, along with a few choice goods from other makers she admires. On the Object Enthusiast website, there are already traces of Reinhardt’s intentions: brass spoons, incense, candles, pillows and other soft goods are interspersed with her products.
“I’m kind of trying to beef up the website so that whenever the day comes for me to open up a store,” she says, “it won’t be a drastic change to see other products next to my work and within the context of the brand itself. I’m trying to include objects that would go in the home and could sit next to things that I make.”
For more information, visit theobjectenthusiast.com.