O-M Ceramics

Maker Spotlight

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O-M ceramics is a studio based in Los Angeles by designer Carrie Lau. Since starting her studio in 2014, Carrie has been creating minimal and functional ceramics that are both unique and modern. Her interest Hong Kong and Los Angeles culture, particularly when it comes to their artistic and handmade heritage, have inspired her collections.

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Melissa Holden Art

Maker Spotlight

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Melissa Holden is a Bay Area artist and block printer, whose play with tension and harmony results in beautiful abstract art. Using a specialized relief block printing method developed by Melissa herself, each print showcases crisp lines and shapes as well as the natural texture left from a hand pulled block print.

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Easy to Breathe

Maker Spotlight

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These ceramic pieces are a breath of fresh air! Easy to Breathe is the clay collection by Mariana Abaroa, an LA-based ceramicist who mixes in her creative intuition with ancient Native pottery techniques.

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Where is the history behind your business name?

About a year ago, I had an urge to fully pursue my creative work, so I sold a number of my belongings that cluttered my garage. Soon after, I took the plunge – bought a ceramic wheel and began to throw in the empty garage. The moment I centered the clay, I realized I had been holding my breath the whole time and thought, “Isn’t this supposed to be meditative?” I realized how easy it is to just breathe so we can feel grounded and centered. Since then, clay has been one of my greatest teachers. That’s when Easy To Breathe was born.

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Have you always been passionate about design?

Growing up I was influenced by my dad’s architectural work, where I learned to appreciate structural design and three-dimensional art. I found myself working with my hands; building and making things come to life from my imagination. Picking up a camera at a young age and seeing life through a lens also stimulated my eye for design.

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Why did you start working in this particular craft?

After leaving Texas in 2012 and moving to Los Angeles with no plans, I decided to reach out for a job in a ceramic studio. All I knew is that I liked the feeling of clay but had very little experience in this craft. I worked in the studio for 2 years, teaching and learning all about the process. My connection to the healing elements of using self-expression through clay flourished. I couldn’t give it up so I decided to dive deeper and fully commit.

What do you think sets your designs apart from others?

My designs vary and depend on what my mind and soul are traveling through in each season of life. I like to describe each of my pieces as an object with a purpose, as soulful expressions with intuitive symbols, soothing tones and culturally influenced shapes. I think it’s safe to say I have a love affair with simplicity and detailed patterns, and I think that’s what makes my offerings unique.

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Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?

Clay and trial + error are the best of friends. If there’s anything clay has taught me, it is to let go of expectations and overcome unexpected challenges or failures. Working with a fragile material and glazes with a mind of their own has made me more gentle and accepting in the studio and in life itself. When we embrace imperfections as beautiful surprises, nothing lets us down.

Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?

I’d have to say the only thing I’ve sacrificed is my free time. Some days get overwhelming but I continue to remind myself that it’s all a part of the journey. Being creative with how I balance my self-care and my work time has helped me out a lot. I enjoy every inch of energy put into my work and have learned to slow down and appreciate the time-consuming nature of clay. I’m grateful to love what I do every day, no matter what time or day of the week it is.

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What has been your favorite moment since creating your business?
Meeting the people who take home my work will always be very special. I love listening to the stories that come up when buyers connect with my work. It fills me with gratitude when making a personal connection with someone who relates to my creative language and wishes to make it a part of their home and daily life.

How does your city influence your work?

Los Angeles has played a big role in my work. I never thought I’d settle in the speed of a city, but the motivation that thrives here has been extremely encouraging. From the innovative sense of community, to the wonderfully curated markets, to the hours spent in traffic enjoying the palm trees swaying and the mountain range glowing, I continue to find inspiration everywhere I go.

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What valuable experience did you have before starting your business?

I had very brief knowledge on how to run a business or any of the logistics that come with it. All I knew is that my passion was strong and I was willing to learn the how’s and why’s along the way. Staying devoted to my practice and the lessons within has nurtured me as an artisan and a business owner.

What are some inspirations for your work?

My inspirations are driven from culture, nature and symbols. I’m always moved by the primitive craft of native pottery – from the ancient techniques, to the Navajo symbols and the Barro Negro aesthetic. I enjoy creating vessels with symbols as an offering to that sacred moment when you slow down your day and have a cup of tea. The sun impacts my work physically and intentionally, so I’m drawn to embrace the sun into my work, as well as the moon, the ocean, the mountains, the desert, foliage and the never-ending beauty of California’s terrain.

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What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?

Manifest your vision. Surround yourself with other like-minded creatives and build community support. Keep your eyes on your path. No one else is going to make anything happen but you. Be proud of your story. It’s okay to start slow – nourishing the seed you’ve planted is what it’s all about.

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All Things Easy to Breathe:

Website

Instagram

Yao Cheng Design

Maker Spotlight

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We’ve had our eyes on the color-packed prints and tea towels by Yao Cheng Design for a while now, and every time we see those watercolor designs we fall in love a little more.

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Have you always been passionate about design?

Yes! I first was exposed to painting and drawing when I was very small, around the age of 4. My mom took me to my first drawing class, and it really clicked for me how being creative with my hands can express my ideas.

Why did you start working in this particular craft?

Painting, in general, really started back in high school and all the way through my undergrad program at RISD. But working in watercolor and the style that my work is known for today, that started just a few years ago when I was still working in the corporate fashion industry. I needed to find a creative outlet in the evenings and watercolor was a challenging medium that I never familiarized myself with in school. So, I took some lessons from a friend and it just sort of clicked into place for me when I saw how versatile and fluid this medium can be. It’s such a delight to paint with, even now!

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What do you think sets your designs apart from others?

I think it’s the unique culmination of my various creative backgrounds, from surface patterns, to my love for nature and geometry, to my love for color. That combined with my background in traditional calligraphy has really made our designs stand out! I also make a conscious effort to make our work attainable by making them affordable, but high-quality products that people can not only admire but also use in their daily lives!

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Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?

Aside from our retail products, we are also a design studio in Columbus, Ohio. I can’t count how many times, even recently, I’ve underpriced our design services to prospective clients! Pricing is tricky for all small business owners, but it really is important to know the true value of the work that we do as artists. There are also other mistakes like not doing bookkeeping correctly or not understanding how to market ourselves in a strategic way. We only started planning out our marketing and product releases this year, I wish I had done this years ago!

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Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?

My personal life, in the first 2 years, was my biggest sacrifice. I was so focused on getting this business off the ground and doing it right, that my work hours completely merged into my personal life. I felt constantly burnt out and it really did have an impact on who I was outside of work. I do regret not placing a clearer divide on this. For example, I used to check my work emails when I wake up in the mornings. It motivated me to get out of bed, but then I was stressed from the very beginning of the day. That’s not a good way to start each work day, so now I make sure that I don’t have access to anything work related until I arrive at the studio!

What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?

My proudest moments are when I am at shows, like Chicago Renegade, and I see people immediately light up and smile when they see my work! It’s very gratifying to know that all of the hard work we put into our designs can touch people in that way. My proudest achievement was not taking out a financial loan or having investors involved in starting my business. The financial freedom has allowed me to take my business in directions that I am excited about. It has also taught me a lot about what it means to build a sustainable business by growing at a slower but more conscientious way!

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What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?

I was familiar and comfortable working in the textiles industry, and painting lent itself very naturally to starting my own business. I really didn’t know much about running a business, however, so there was a huge learning curve there! But, you take each day at a time.

What made you take this leap into being your own boss?

It’s really strange, but I have known from the time I was a teenager that I would be my own boss one day. I just didn’t know how I would get there, but I always had that confidence that this is what I would do for my career. I took the leap and left my corporate job because I felt like it was time. I knew I needed to take the opportunity and go back to doing what I love most, which is painting full-time. So yes, it was a financial leap, but it didn’t feel like a leap otherwise. It felt like a very natural next step in my career.

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What are some inspirations for your work?

Nature, color, geometry, and patterns. I use my Pinterest boards all the time for image references.

What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?

Make what you truly love, and make sure it’s always about quality first!

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All Things Yao Cheng:

Website

Instagram

Facebook

American Seat and Saddle Co.

Maker Spotlight

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Lorraine and Steve Davy set out to create American Seat and Saddle Co. in the hopes of bringing more locally made bicycle gear to the US. Their Honest Abe saddle is the ideal fit, embracing modern simplicity and classic construction.

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