Meet the Maker: Mariko Merritt of Beachcake
Get to know the local artist behind the tropical fruit and creature ceramics popping up in all your favorite boutiques.
PHOTOS: NICOLE OKA
A word of warning. Once you’ve encountered Mariko Merritt’s adorable ceramic creations, addiction is bound to ensue. We know. We’re there. Which is why we were thrilled to get the ultimate fix, a visit to Merritt’s studio to learn a little more about the maker and her charming designs.
At 35 the Rhode Island School of Design graduate has made a name for herself as a successful book illustrator and watercolor artist. But she is best known for the handmade, rainbow-hued magnets, jewelry dishes, bud vases and figurines (her sweater-clad pups are our fave) she creates under her brand Beachcake.
Born and raised in Mānoa, Merritt credits her parents for shaping her into an artist early on. She would assist her mom, an art teacher, with children’s ceramics classes, and dad, who was always building things around the house.
It’s clear from her Instagram feed that Merritt draws inspiration from the nature in her backyard, the beach and her studio assistant, her corgi Sophie. Hints of Japanese design sensibilities also play out in her pieces, simplicity paired with a wabi-sabi aesthetic.
Merritt laughs when we asked about her design process. “It’s simple, really,” she says. “No formal process. Usually I shape the pieces out of earthenware clay and fire them in the kiln. Then I add color with various glazes and underglazes and fire them a second time. If I use gold luster, I’ll paint that on after the glaze firing and the pieces get fired a third time. It helps to sketch, but I just keep making things until something feels right!”
To Merritt, having imperfections is important. “I think that’s why I want to make everything by hand and why I’m so resistant to using molds,” she says. “I don’t want everything to be the same.”
More of her popular pooches are on the horizon for 2018, a nod to the Year of the Dog. And Merritt plans to start doing high-fire pieces, so keep an eye out for functional creations, such as cups, with Beachcake’s signature whimsical touch.
Check out more of Merritt’s work on Instagram at @heybeachcake and at marikomerritt.com. Shop her designs at Sugarcane Hawai‘i, Miemiko, the Hawai‘i State Art Museum gift shop and the Honolulu Museum of Art gift shop.