Design in Community
The Seattle Design Festival tells a story. This story culminates in an annual celebration of our design community each summer, but the connections we forge within that community, and the stories they have to share, last throughout the year. Follow along with Design in Community as we highlight some of the design stories from our community through photos and sound.
Lauren Ko does not particularly enjoy sweets. The Seattle-based artist, baker, Instagram influencer and cookbook author finds fulfillment from her baking practices.
“I don’t sell anything,” she says. “But what I do make has to go somewhere.”
Those baked goods find their way into friends’ homes and help form all sorts of relationships throughout Seattle and even with herself. The journey started shortly after she had relocated to the area.
It all starts in her kitchen. “When I have stuff, I shoot out an email.”
From there, Ko’s latest creations and some of her familiar favorites find their way onto the countertops of friends, neighbors, and new acquaintances.
“People call ‘dibs,’” she explains. “They come pick it up. I don’t waste food. They get to enjoy free pie.”
Ko enjoys the ways her tastes influence and intersect with an audience that has grown since her experiments in baking started to gain traction. “[It’s] built from a curiosity about what will happen if I get to make stuff in my kitchen and share it with people.”
She sometimes finds it hard to believe that she has found a voice in this manner. Ko has no formal training as a baker. Her practice emerged from allowing herself to feel inspired by beautiful posts of pies on the internet. It resulted in a traditional plaid lattice apple pie.
“It was fine,” Ko says. “It didn’t change my life. I did not instantly transform into a pie lady.”
The simple joy of creating through baking became an outlet. She used social media to share the results of her newfound practice with friends. But in 2017, Ko finally determined that she wanted to establish a dedicated social media account for her baked creations.
“I felt like I was becoming that friend who was posting too many food photos on my personal Instagram. I was becoming that annoying person,” she admits.
That simple act of self-awareness led to the creation of the Instagram account @lokokitchen, which has, in fact, transformed Ko into the pie lady. But even if that has been what she has become, Ko maintains that she primarily bakes as a way to express herself as an artist.
Inspiration often comes from the unexpected. “A lot of my inspiration sources are not food-related,” Ko says. Architecture can lead to design ideas. But they can emerge from other things, such as fashion or the way light may cast interesting shadows.
Her heritage also leads her baking in compelling directions. Tastes and traditions from China, Honduras, and the constant ways her family has adapted to new cultures while retaining the familiar notes of home.
“I am ethnically Chinese,” Ko notes. Her palette, however, draws from family experiences that mirror the complicated journey from one region of the world to another. “But my family had immigrated to Honduras, and my grandma still lives there,” Ko adds. “There’s an interesting mix of languages, flavors, tastes and personalities that play into personal preference”
The constant pressure to create baked goods and content for her social media account sometimes feels overwhelming. As a former social worker, she occasionally struggles with an identity and a profession partly forged by the hunger of social media companies and audiences.
But then Ko will have another batch of baked goods on her countertop. She sends another email to her contact list to see who might be interested in her latest creations. And she never quite knows where they will land.
“You never truly know where life will take you,” Ko likes to tell others whenever they ask her about her journey. “You don’t have to be good at something to pursue it, or to be interested or to dabble in it.”