SAUCE MAKERS: Welcome to the first installment of my new blog series, Sauce Makers, where I interview small businesses, creative entrepreneurs, and artists to share their stories. My first interview is with July Laban of JULY BKNY, a Brooklyn based ceramicist that I met through Instagram (sign-up to know first when her new website is launching, here).
So, how do you meet someone on Instagram? In this case, six months ago I decided to pursue a ceramics collaboration to do a limited edition collection of 10 pieces for Room Sauce. I put a call out in my stories and while I got a lot of responses, I knew immediately that July’s work would be the perfect fit.
I went to July’s studio last weekend to check in on the collection progress do a studio tour. Below are all of the photos from my visit. This is the first of two posts and I will share more photos the making of our collection and the final pieces in part two when RS x JULY BKNY launches in March 2019. Subscribe to my email list to get more details on this collection!)
July works out of a studio called Artshack Brooklyn in Bed Stuy. I was so impressed by the studio and was immediately struck by the wall of glazes below that you see right when you walk into the back members’ room. I hope you enjoy all of the photos below of this incredible space.
RS x JULY BKNY
Although I’m sure it’s not easy to have someone watch and take pictures while you make art, July was a great sport and let me document her process. She was also kind enough to share more about herself.
RS: Have you always loved ceramics?
JL: My earliest memories of working with clay are from summer camp, likely where most people are introduced to it for the first time. I made my mom a multi-compartment ashtray (that looking back) was clearly not functional. I also, took a hand-building class in college, but to say I always loved it? No, I didn't truly realize my love for making ceramics until I took my first wheel throwing class in 2017. Perhaps because this was the first time I really made functional pottery. And that is one of my favorite things about it. As far as loving ceramics in general (not just making ceramics), I don't think I gave it much thought, to be honest. I definitely have a much bigger appreciation now for the art form and craft because I know the work that goes into it.
RS: How long have you been making your own pieces?
JL: I took my first wheel throwing class in the summer of 2017 and never looked back. After 6 weeks of classes, I became a studio member and have been making ever since.
RS: You also have a full time job. How do you find time to do everything?
JL: When you love what you do, you find the time to do it. Ugh, that sounds so cliche. Honestly, I'm always tired. I work 10am-6pm at a law firm in Manhattan and come home, make dinner (or order seamless, let's be real here) and spend about 3 weeknights in the studio from 9pm-1am. (sometimes later, eek). I get much more work/play time in the studio on the weekends. It's definitely taken a toll on my social life. It's hard to find time for friends, and dating, and even household chores. I push them all aside because I'd rather just be at the studio creating. So, as I said, when you love what you do, you find the time, but you do lose out on other things in the process. But to me, it's worth it. Laundry can wait.
RS: What’s your best tip for someone that wants to start a creative business?
JL: Make, make, make. AND share, share, share. Social media has been a huge help for me. Like how we met! It's this whole network at your fingertips and you just have to use it. But really, I'm not quite sure I'm in the position yet to be doling out business advice (I could sure use some advice myself), but for me, I started selling my work, just to be able to afford my costly craft. Once I started seeing the outpour of support for my work from friends and strangers, I realized that doing this full time is totally a possibility. You just have to put in the time and effort, ... and maybe move somewhere with a lower cost of living. I'm still figuring it all out!
RS: What inspires your work?
JL: I'm inspired by so many things. I got a lot of inspiration from my recent trip to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. I'm now starting to use that inspiration in some of my newer work. I usually stick to neutrals, but I'm working on bringing in more color, but still keeping the pieces feeling like me. I usually go for a modern earthy vibe. And I'm always looking at textures and patterns I see in my every day. I recently went to the Jewelry Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and found so much inspiration there. Some patterns and textures are really so timeless. I think that's my ultimate goal, making pieces that are timeless. But I do have fun with it sometimes and make pieces that are more relevant to today like my "RESIST" tumbler and #tbh wine cup.
“Once I started seeing the outpour of support for my work from friends and strangers, I realized that doing this full time is totally a possibility.” -July Laban
RS: What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not making ceramics?
JL: I love road trips and camping with friends! I'm planning an epic road trip this summer. Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Washington. On shorter trips (like upstate NY), I like to bring my 2 dogs with me.
RS: What’s your favorite spot in Brooklyn?
JL: Prospect Park (very early in the morning). In the warmer months, I like to take my dogs to the park around 7 am so they can enjoy the off leash time and I usually walk a few miles throughout the park's trails. It's nice to be able to get lost in a park that's in the middle of a big city like New York. The first time I ever went to Prospect park during off leash hours with a friend and my dogs, I literally couldn't contain my happiness. It was the biggest ear to ear smile. If you've never been, just imagine (literally) hundreds of dogs off leash, having the time of their life. It brings me the greatest joy.
RS: What’s a random fact about you that people might not know?
JL: I was a competitive pool player, and at one point really wanted to try and go pro. Fun fact: I won the first NY 8ball championships in the Women's Leisure category in 2014. I started playing pool when I was about 15 years old and only really distanced myself from it after finding pottery. My dreams of a professional pool career actually being a viable option for me died a long time ago though. There's absolutely no money to be made in pool! But I continued playing for fun until pottery took over my life. The tattoo on my forearm is from a photograph I took of some pool chalk resting on the edge of a pool table. (Tattoo by Annie Lloyd @getfatbk).