Joanne Paek of JO AND CLAY is a ceramicist based in Orange County, California. We had the pleasure of meeting Joanne through a photoshoot a few years ago. Shortly after the shoot, we learned about her passion and skill for ceramics and were impressed by her work.
If you've attended any of our sample sales at ROWDTLA this past year, you've probably paused to glance at Joanne's beautiful assortment of handmade cups, tableware, and planters. We always enjoy inviting her to our events because she's always equipped with a warm smile and ready to share wisdom about her craft.
We accompanied Joanne for a studio session at Still Life Ceramics to learn a little more about her and her journey with JO AND CLAY.
When and how did your relationship with ceramics begin? How did JO AND CLAY come to life?
I first started ceramics back in 2017. At that time I was looking for a new and challenging creative outlet, preferably in a 3D medium, because I had only worked with 2D mediums prior. So I began by taking some weekend classes at a local pottery studio, and eventually moved over to OCC (Orange Coast College) to continue learning. I finished their two-year program by fall of 2019 and started building a small studio at home.
It was honestly never my intention to start a small business. It began with setting a goal for myself that in 2020, I would start selling pieces that I made. But one thing led to another as I put together my website, and thus JO AND CLAY came to be.
Your pieces are described as being designed with an honest focus on traditional and contemporary influences. What’s been influencing you lately and why?
I think something beautiful about pottery is that it’s been around for centuries. That means for centuries, humans have been working with mud, water, and fire in this way. So naturally, I took some time to study and practice forms and techniques used in Korean pottery because of its connection to my heritage. As a result, I discovered that one of my favorite forms to make are moon jars. Something about their fullness, surfaces, and silhouettes really resonate with me and influence the more contemporary pieces I make today.
As a small business, are there any lessons you’ve learned?
I’ve learned so many things since I decided to sell ceramics. It’s still weird for me to think of JO AND CLAY as a small business, because it’s always been more about my learning experiences with this medium. But if I could offer any tidbits, they would be:
1) There's no rush to make money off your art. It's easy to start thinking about monetizing your work as soon as you start creating. But the best part about making art is being able to enjoy it, so give yourself plenty of time to do that before thinking business.
2) Set the terms to what you're comfortable with. Be kind to yourself and draw healthy boundaries.
3) Make what you want to make! There's always room for some collaboration, but at the end of the day you're the one making it, so keep that in mind.
When you’re not busy throwing some clay on the wheel, what are you up to?
These days if I’m not in the studio, I enjoy being outside, taking photos, eating good food, and spending quality time with friends and family. I was doing a podcast with a friend pre-covid-19, and it was such a nice/different creative outlet my partner and I were pouring into at that time. Pottery requires a lot of my energy, so any time spent outside of that is usually doing something that rejuvenates me.
What advice do you have for people interested in learning ceramics?
I think everyone should try taking a class! Clay is such a unique thing to work with. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re having trouble getting the hang of it. As with a lot of things, ceramics is really just about curiosity and practice.
To find something meaningful to add to your home and stay updated about Joanne's latest creations and upcoming pop-ups, stay connected with her here.
If you'd like to see her work and say hi in person, she'll be joining us at our upcoming Sample Sale in November!
A big thank you to Still Life Ceramics for letting us use their space this afternoon.
Shop Joanne's outfits:
The Community is a new blog series highlighting some of our favorite creatives and giving you a glimpse into who they are, what they do, and why we love them. We're kicking off the series with our talented friend and one of the kindest people we know, Esther Lee.
Esther, also known as eslee, is usually found behind the camera noticing overlooked details and capturing something cinematic out of an ordinary scene. By nature she's a photographer and visual artist specializing in fashion and still life — but she's also one of our dear friends, trusted collaborators, and the eyes behind all of our lookbooks.
Once a Los Angeles native, Esther now lives in Seattle and works between the two cities. When we heard she was back in town for a visit we reconnected with her to chat about work, personal style, and other creative endeavors over this past year.
Can you tell us a little about your work and how your journey with photography and art direction has evolved?
My interest in photography started in high school. I always wanted to be in the yearbook club but I was too afraid. Fast forward to 2010, I went on a mission trip to Kenya and started my journey in photography with a Canon Rebel EOS R. As I learned how to use the camera, I fell in love with the process of photography. When I returned home I worked on building my portfolio for the next couple years and received small jobs through referrals. Then in 2012, I decided to take this career full time! I consider my style to be a bit surreal, minimal, and clean. The best part about photography is coming up with concepts and directing!
If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be? Do you think fashion would still play a part in your life?
I would want to be involved in anything related to production or design. I get excited about the process of bringing smaller things together into a bigger complete vision. I’m not sure if fashion would still play a direct part in my work but I think I would want to incorporate it in some ways.
How would you describe your personal style, and what are your favorite things to wear lately?
I am drawn to pieces that are unique but nothing that screams for attention. I love anything that’s versatile and minimal! In terms of styling, I prefer avoiding anything that makes me think too hard. And at the end, I always make sure to top my outfit off with a hat or accessories! I usually walk out of my house with an oversize T-shirt, loose fitting pants, a hat, and a statement jewelry piece. Since I move around a lot, I find myself choosing comfortable clothes. Comfort brings confidence!
You’ve been working on Indwell, an 8 step mental health guide. Where did the idea for Indwell come from, and how has the book-making process been?
Indwell was created in 2020, which was an overwhelming year for many people. I was feeling anxious and struggling with my mental health, barely managing to stay connected during a season of loneliness and isolation. I was unable to care for myself beyond the things that offered temporary relief. Then my partners, RJ and Hatty, reached out to me and we decided to create a book together in response to the need of greater mental health during the pandemic. We came together as a licensed therapist, life coach and visual artist to create the Indwell Guide. I got to know so much more about myself and my purpose throughout this entire process. It was definitely challenging but we wanted to create something that can really help people and take away the stigma of mental health.
What are you hoping that people will take away from the guide?
I am hoping that people will find this process of self-discovery more accessible and less intimidating. We want to help people start their inner wellness journey to recover from their past and cope in their present, but truly thrive by empowering people to pursue their dreams and live with a purpose that makes our world a better place.
Indwell is available to order here and you can find their official Instagram here. To stay connected with Esther, you can find her on Instagram.
Shop Esther's outfits:
Happy Earth Day from us to all of you!
It's a gloomy one for us here in Los Angeles, but we can't wait to find some time to go out and enjoy some nature this weekend.
In the meantime, we thought today would be a good chance to sit down and reflect on a few things.
Starting today, we’re happy to say that we’ll be implementing a 5% discount in-store whenever you BYOT (bring your own tote) to shop or opt out of receiving a brown paper bag. It’s a small habit, but its impact is substantial!
We aim to continue making progressive changes in the right direction. Sustainability has been a part of our mission since the very beginning — it’s why we focus on creating pieces that will last in your wardrobe for years.
The fashion industry is guilty of overproduction, overconsumption, and harmfully impacting the environment, workers, and consumers. In a world dominated by fast fashion brands, we want to be a better option that encourages more mindful decisions because how we choose to care for our environment matters every single day.
We still have a long way to go before we can truly start calling ourselves a sustainable brand. As we grow, we are compelled more than ever to not only consider the quality but also the entire supply chain, production processes, and afterlife of our clothing.
We are continuously learning about the negative impacts that our industry, as well as the packaging industry, has on our planet. We certainly don’t (and won’t) know everything, but our goal is to continually stay informed and gradually change our practices to cause less harm in the long run.
A Look Into Our Costs & Pricing
In addition to our sustainability efforts, we want to give some insight into our pricing and production costs. We believe it's important to know exactly what you're paying for.
While we try our best to keep our prices affordable, we must consider that the true cost of production includes everything from materials to making sure everyone gets paid fairly and so much more.
In order to cover all of the expenses shown above, we add a markup, which is an amount added to the overall cost to determine the final retail price. We set this price with affordability and quality in mind.
This is a very general glimpse of what pricing and costs are like for us, but we hope it provides a better understanding and appreciation of the things you buy from us.
Thanks for reflecting with us today!
Today, we’re excited to share Ref Studios with the world.
The idea for Ref Studios was conceived by our team’s collective love for music and brought to life through a surprising coincidence. We had the pleasure of meeting Mei, our first musical guest, when he wandered into our store one day as one of his songs was playing.
After this happy accident, we knew Ref Studios was destined to be more than just an idea. We felt inspired to give emerging artists a platform to showcase their music while focusing on the authenticity of their sound.
Mei, formerly known as Brandt Orange, is a Chinese-American singer, songwriter, and producer based in Los Angeles. We were thrilled to invite him to perform a mini concert for our team.
Watch Mei perform 3 soulful songs at our store below — two of which are from his debut album Supernova.
Damn Mountains - Mei
Frankenstein - Mei
Rudimental - Mei
We’re so happy to finally be able to share this new project with everyone!
We'd like to thank Mei, Hector, Enzo, Adam, Daniel, Donald, Max, and the entire Mod Ref team for making this first series of Ref Studios possible.
Stay tuned for more!
Shop their Common Market outfits:
Mei (vocal): The Rabbie Sweater, The Elias Top, The Terra Pants
Enzo (guitar): The Keaton Shirt, The Ethan Pants
Adam (drums): The Sloan Jumpsuit
To hear more from Mei, here’s where to find him:
While it is easy to fall into consumer culture and fast fashion, there is a refreshing movement that is taking over the industry: minimalist style. Minimalist fashion forgoes trends for timeless pieces that are both socially and environmentally ethical.
Fast fashion has been sighted as one of the largest polluters globally. The average consumer wears only about 20% of their closet and the United States sends textiles to the landfill at a rate of 21 billion pounds per year, and much of those textiles can take upwards of 200 years to decompose.
Minimalist brands are forward looking. By curating an ethically produced wardrobe with timeless style, we want to break the cycle of fast fashion and reduce the impact we have on the environment. Minimalist style is having the most functional wardrobe. Instead of buying, purging, and constantly rebuilding your closet, you will have long lasting pieces for every occasion.
It’s been raining a bit here in LA and there’s a lot of uncertainty circulating about the future of the fashion industry. Many wonder how long it’ll take for the economy to bounce back, and when it does — will people start buying clothes again shortly after?
With all the ambiguity, we're staying positive and moving forward. We’re taking this time to strategize a better outlet to produce our garments and packaging more efficiently from sustainable packaging materials to recycled & organic fabrication. Also, we’re taking this time to collectively find ways to assist and support our customers more accurately from trade shows assistance to customer service.
We are still operating minimally and taking online web, email, and phone orders with our team working from home. Our showroom & retail at ROW DTLA opening has been pushed back until things calm down.
If you need a friend to chat with or advice from a different perspective - feel free to give us a holler! We’re all in this together.
We believe in strong morals that come from family, and that family extends to our partnerships. We know that the invisible stories of individuals woven in the "Made in" labels are important. We are committed to ethical business practices and values relationships with those we work with.
Our partnerships with our factories range all over the world. 60% of our production is handled in China, Guangzhou, 30% in Vietnam & Bangladesh, and 10% of our production remaining in the US, right here in Los Angeles!
Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about where products are produced and the conditions in which they are created. With that, we want to address the misconception that "Made In China" inevitably translate to poor work conditions and/or inferior product. China is no longer considered the world's 'cheap factory', as the country as a whole has moved up the value chain — the people along with it. We want to shed light on a new generation of certified factories that provide fair pay, reasonable hours, and quality conditions.
Mod Ref | Comon Market
We are a brand that believes in Respect, Equality, and Freedom - it's what we stand for! We believe the best style is one of your own and are passionate about designing pieces that reflect and celebrate you. We aim to inspire and empower people as they evolve.
Created for the modern man and woman, our designs are timeless and enduring. In a world of fading trends, we focus on creating pieces that will not only last a lifetime but will get better with age, at an affordable price.
Mod Ref started as a women's wholesale clothing distributor and has progressed to Common Market Menswear. Based in Los Angeles, we have recently launch our first brick and mortar store at ROW DTLA. Housing a curated selection of silhouettes, we aim to help seamlessly transition your wardrobe through the seasons and develop direct relationship with our customers.