Studio + Shop Visit
Julie Pinzur is a breath of fresh, very talented air! Earlier this season she invited us to visit Mokuyobi’s studio and retail shop in South Pasadena, California, and we immediately took her up on her offer. It would have been extremely easy to stay in the rainbow colored playhouse, full of endless amounts of candy and the best backpack collection we’ve ever seen. But best of all, it was great to chat with Julie and learn how Mokuyobi came about.
Where did “Mokuyobi” come from?
Mokuyobi means Thursday in Japanese. I chose Thursday because it’s the best day of the week! I was actually just looking through an old notebook of mine from 2006 where I was documenting the process of naming my company. After doing months of research and working with a lawyer to officially trademark the name I finally landed on Mokuyobi on November 29th, 2006, exactly 11 years ago today! It was crazy to think that far back but also fun to think where I’ll be in the next 11!
What sparked your interest in textiles and illustration? How did this interest follow you through your life up until now?
I started sewing when I was 13. I have always been very interested in sewing, construction, 3D design, and how things are put together. After a few years of playing around with this using found fabric, solid color blocking, and developing my sewing skills, I decided that a finished product wasn’t truly my own unless I was designing the textile that it was being made with. I majored in Illustration at Parsons the New School for Design and was really able to find my voice while continuing to develop my sewing and construction skills. Since I was able to successfully merge the two together I continue to push both my print design and construction into new realms and see where these skills and my imagination will continue to take me.
Walk us through your creative process!
It all begins with a sketch or a doodle. A lot of the fun things I create begin as weird abstract forms and colors which I then study later and see different shapes or objects within them. Then I take these ideas and push them further into recognizable objects, figures, characters, or leave them as more abstract which I build upon with a similar theme. It’s always very fun to look back and see where a design began.
What has been your proudest moment since creating your business?
My proudest moment(s) have occurred during this past year where I many times over have been able to look back to a time when I was saying I can’t wait to do [this milestone] or have [this thing happen] and see that I have already accomplished so much of what I set out to do and see how far Mokuyobi has come. So much has changed not just in the past 11 years but even as each year passes, the growth is truly unbelievable.
Tell us a little bit about your new Funhouse collection!
FUNHOUSE is a way for me to get back to focusing on creating items just for fun and experiment with new ideas and crafting techniques that I feel I ran out of time for while running a business along the way. The whole reason I started Mokuyobi is because I love to make ridiculous things. The accomplishment I feel each time I create something new is amazing; bringing it from imagination to reality like some kind of fantastic idea machine. I wanted to make it a priority to get back to focusing on that alongside running a brand and not feel like I always have to produce everything I make.
What is the most important thing you do daily for your business?
Stay on task. There are hundreds of distractions in any given day, good or bad. It’s important to realize what the most important things that you need to get done are and to do them efficiently and then move onto the next important task.
What artists have most inspired you?
I’ve always looked up to Paul Frank in a huge way of how he created a brand our of sheer love for making things. From sewing gifts for his friends to much like me and as he grew he continued to pay so much attention to detail in every way he could. Making every piece feel super special. I hold this idea very dear and really enjoy pouring myself into every inch of what I do.
Mokuyobi includes almost every color under the sun. Which color could you absolutely not live without?
As you could probably tell by all of the mint shelving in my office, I love mint. It’s the perfect balance between refreshing blue and seafoamy green but also is very modern and clean.
During our visit you showed us the new 2018 line that features some awesome new characters. What interests you in telling these characters’ stories? Do you have a favorite?
YES! Our new Atlas backpack which will be available as a solid in all of our 35 nylon colors each has a unique character with a name and a backstory that goes along with the color theme. I love being able to offer a singular bag in every color that I play with when I make color block designs to really expand our line. My favorite is obviously the MINT bag who’s character is YERICHO, an alien explorer who came to Earth to enjoy a holiday in the Pacific Ocean. He always has his camera by his side everywhere he goes as this is his most precious item. I wanted to make a character for each bag to show each color really come alive, literally as this is how I view colors especially when I see them interacting and I think it’s easy for everyone to see what I see when the colors become personified.
Do you have any favorite pieces? What makes them special to you?
My favorite pieces are all of the fun attempts or first drafts of what I create. Maybe a detail wasn’t quite right or I changed the dimensions to make another version. This updated sample is what gets made so it’s always fun to have the first one that’s a sibling to the mass produced version which I keep for myself in my samples box.
What is your favorite part of your studio?
I love the entrance way. It’s super important for me that when get a visit from someone: a friend, a customer, even the UPS guy they’re not just stepping into our office, they’re stepping into our world. Whenever someone comes in, that look I see on their face of wonderment and even confusion and their thought of omg what is this place and how am I just finding out about it now?! That’s the goal. That’s where the fun begins.
What’s on the horizon for Mokuyobi?
We just released a collaboration with the candy company, Trolli which we launched at ComplexCon and gave out 20,000 bags of free candy to the attendees at our booth. It was quite an experience. It was really fun for me to make repeating patterns based on sour candy shapes and work with them to make something weirdly awesome. It brought a whole new level of fun to my process that I really enjoyed.
What are three things you’d recommend to anyone walking on the street?