The Dwell 24: Sunshine Thacker

The San Antonio, Texas-based ceramicist explores her love of clay in a new collection of planters, lamps, and other furniture.
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Sunshine Thacker doesn’t stray from a challenge. After co-owning a commercial real estate development firm in San Antonio for eight years, she decided to plunge into the one thing that has always brought her joy: clay. That delight is evident in her first large-scale collection of seating, side tables, planters, and lamps.

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The ceramicist’s work can have a decidedly Memphis feel (think chunky, rounded shapes and graphic patterns), but Thacker also finds inspiration in the color-saturated work of contemporary designers like India Mahdavi and Patricia Urquiola.

The Timpani Planter by Sunshine Thacker

The Timpani Planter by Sunshine Thacker

The Torpedo 3.0 Lamp by Sunshine Thacker

The Torpedo 3.0 Lamp by Sunshine Thacker

Lately, she’s been exploring a more ideas-based approach, including how power—from nuclear weapons to female sexuality—might be expressed in a seating collection. Thacker finds energy in these kinds of creative and conceptual risks. "I want to push my material to do things that people don’t think clay should do," she says.

Le Seat by Sunshine Thacker

Le Seat by Sunshine Thacker

Learn why Thacker takes a three-mile walk each day, plus read more of their responses to our Q&A below. 

Hometown: San Antonio, TX 

Describe what you make in 140 characters. Hand-built, one-of-a-kind, and fully customizable sculptural ceramic furniture and lighting. 

What's the last thing you designed? Carpe Seat'em, a new stool prototype. 

Do you have a daily creative ritual? A three mile walk, then I make my to-do list for the day while eating breakfast.  I try to take a 20 minute nap after lunch to re-charge.

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How do you procrastinate? Surfing Instagram. 

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? The hand-crank coffee grinder because it's too slow. 

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? My husband. He's the kindest, gentlest, most supportive person I know.  Also anyone who stands up against injustice - no matter how slight or egregious. 

What skill would you most like to learn? Two: welding and glassblowing. 

What is your most treasured possession? I'm not sentimental about things. I do, however, cherish my relationships with my high school art teacher and a favorite college professor, both of whom I talk to frequently.

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? I remember designing a "dream house" to scale before I was 7.   

Carpe Seat'em by Sunshine Thacker

Carpe Seat'em by Sunshine Thacker

What contemporary design trend do you despise? What do you call that style where people put up signs that say "blessed"?  That one. 

Finish this statement: All design should...make you happy. 

What’s in your dream house? A massive clay production studio.   

Did you pick up any new hobbies or learn a new skill while in quarantine? What was it? No, but I have been able to prototype new designs. 

How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? I think residential design will consider how each space can be multi-use.  People are going to want to simultaneously be able to sequester themselves for things like Zoom calls but also be able to open those spaces up and not feel cut off from the rest of the home.  I think a lot of offices will scale down their SF requirements at least for a few years.  The pendulum always swings.

The Gearhead Side Table by Sunshine Thacker

The Gearhead Side Table by Sunshine Thacker

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How can the design world be more inclusive? This starts in K-12 education. People gravitate to what they have been exposed to. If we are going to promote Black and BIPOC people in design fields we need to bring the joy of creating into lower grades and create pipelines from there to higher education. 

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? The value of the effort and creativity that goes into making that first prototype.

You can learn more about Thacker by visiting her website or on Instagram

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