Eny Lee Parker on Paying the Bills and Breaking the Mold

Eny Lee Parker ceramic objects

Eny Parker’s handbuilt Oo Lamp. Eny's mellow approach helps navigate clay’s unpredictable qualities. “I don’t get stressed easily. Like when things break or don’t work out, it’s not a big deal. I always try to involve my clients and explain exactly what’s happening and what our process is like. Anything could happen. They understand why our work takes so long and it’s priced the way it is.” Photo by Sean Davidson

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December 28, 2020

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Eny Lee Parker grew up in São Paulo and moved to LA when she was 13 years old. There she was reunited with her Korean mother who didn’t speak Portuguese, but with the help of friends she learned Korean and then English. “I had a typical immigrant experience in LA. I didn’t speak the language and don’t have good memories from there. I knew I didn’t want to move back there.”

After studying furniture design at Savannah College of Art and Design she ended up in New York City. “I fell in love with everything here,” she says.

Eny’s first New York City studio cost $2,000 a month. “I was terrified,” she says.

Her jewelry helped her pay the bills in the early days. But she didn’t grow up imagining she would one day be running her own design studio. “The American dream is a 9-to-5—having a salary and a 401(k).”

Eny’s playful furniture scale pieces made from clay, like her handbuilt Oo Lamp, earned lots of interest—especially on Instagram. “I have 20 to 30 open orders at any time,” she told me from her latest studio in Queens, where she now employs both a production assistant and digital manager.

Eny Lee Parker studio

Eny found the furniture world very male-oriented, with lots of woodworking. “They all had a material they really loved to work with, but I never found that.” A chance ceramics class changed all that. Photo by Sean Davidson

A version of this article originally appeared in Sixtysix Issue 05 with the headline “Eny Lee Parker: Furniture Designer, Queens, New York.” Subscribe today.