An Uplifting Interview With Artist Kristen Saksa Juen: Bringing Nature-Inspired Ceramics To Modern Spaces.
This morning, as I was browsing through pictures of Kristen Saksa Juen's beautiful ceramics, I inadvertently landed on her Instagram page. A black and white image of clay pieces neatly arranged in a kiln caught my eye. The message adjacent to it made an even more powerful statement as it is a true depiction of Kristen Saksa Juen's journey through her artistic development. She says: " I'm grateful to call myself an artist. Not to say it isn't a lot of hard work that comes with some trade offs. And it took me time, a looong time to even have the courage to say the words 'I am an artist'. But I am so happy and grateful that I get to do this work."
As you'll discover in the interview with Kristen below, art was always present in her life even when she wasn't intently pursuing it. That's the thing about art- you don't choose it, it chooses you. A true artist doesn't actively decide to become an artist. Vise versa, your artistic spirit grabs hold of you and doesn't let go until it is explored and pursued.
Kristen Saksa Juen
She loves to work with her hands, free-forming and feeling the textures while creating a bond with each material at hand. Kristen sees accidental imperfections as beautiful. To her, what some might perceive as an "imperfection" she sees as a gift that comes from each individual artistic process, creating pieces that are always one-of-a-kind. As opposed to other ceramicists, she does not work on a wheel but rather prefers to hand-mold each piece to her individual artistic rhythm. Her connection to nature is prevalent in her love for naturally vibrant colors, creating unique plant potters, and hand carving nature-inspired prints which she designs to fit within a clean space, both modernizing and refreshing it. She describes her work as "a connection to nature in modern spaces".
It took Kristen years to discover herself and become the artist she is today. As you'll notice in her work presented below, she incorporates the natural color of the clay (and its color variations) into the finished product, resulting in pieces that feel earthy yet maintain clean design lines. In the interview to follow, take a journey into the life of a ceramics artist, from the everyday process of designing and making each piece to the challenges and rewards associated with this artistic exploration.
When and how did you become interested in pottery/ceramics?
I remember being fascinated with ceramics as a child, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I took a couple ceramics classes on the side for fun. My creativity was always something that I thought I would have to satisfy on the side. It took me several more years to have confidence in my artwork, appreciate the value of my creativity, and entertain the idea of working as an artist. When I got back into ceramics and started to develop my own artistic style, I started having so much fun I couldn’t stop.
Photo courtesy of Kristen Saksa Juen
There is a beautiful earthy, clean quality mixed with architectural structured edges in your work. How do you describe this unique aesthetic and what inspires you artistically in your work?
I am inspired by the beauty of nature and my love for the outdoors greatly influences my creativity. I particularly love getting inspiration from mountainous landscapes, and unique plants. I strive to create ceramics that spark a connection with nature for modern spaces. Additionally, I strive to express the beauty I see in the process of working in clay. I love to create items that grow into their own unique character, and to celebrate the beauty of handmade.
Photo courtesy of Kristen Saksa Juen
I love how you use color in your pieces- it makes a statement visually, yet still remains very earthy and natural. Can you describe what color represents to you in your work?
I love to use the color of the clay itself as a color in my pallet. Clay by its nature, comes in many earthy tones from white to tan and brown. I enjoy incorporating the color of the ungalzed raw clay into my designs which I think gives my work an additional connection to nature.
Luna Pines: A Unique Jewelry And Eco-Friendly Lifestyle Brand Featuring A Great Passion For Its Craft And Love For The Natural World.
Luna Pines is a jewelry and lifestyle brand sporting a deep connection to nature. Started by Amanda Lachapelle in 2012, it offers natural crystal jewelry that is thoughtfully designed and carefully pieced together to allow the natural elements to truly shine. Every crystal is lovingly handpicked by Amanda herself to create everlasting jewelry that is well-balanced aesthetically and energetically. The brand's name, Luna Pines, gives away the designer's love for nature, implying her strong connection to the moon (luna) and the beautiful pine trees of New England, where she grew up and began her artistic quest.
Photo courtesy of Luna Pines
What stands apart in Amanda Lachapelle's work is clean design mixed with a pleasantly surprising twist. The attention to detail is evident in her design aesthetic, artistic process and careful branding. As you look at each individual piece, you will always find a unique detail, whether it is in the form of a sweet moon charm or an interesting chain extension, marking the jewelry as uniquely hers. Amanda's multi-faceted design aesthetic represents every element of the brand, from her thoughtful Eco-friendly packaging to her care for using environmentally friendly materials all around. She goes beyond aesthetics, inspiring a socially conscious change using Luna Pines as a voice.
Amanda Lachapelle of Luna Pines
Each piece is carefully crafted in her Clinton (MA) studio, where she spends most of her time designing, making jewelry and sometimes finding inspiration among busy days crafting and filling orders. Her studio is where she feels truly happy, motivating her to keep designing and evolving everyday regardless of the challenges or success she attains. As you'll find from the inspiring conversation to follow, Amanda of Luna Pines is a well balanced artist that understands the importance of paralleling her work with her family life, maintaining consistent love and care for both.
Explore a story of hard work, dedication and true passion for her work in this week's interview feature with Amanda Lachapelle of Luna Pines.
How did the name “Luna Pines” come about? What is its significance/meaning for you and the brand?
My friend actually came up with the name for me. I’ve always had a strong connection with the moon and celestial bodies and this has been evident in my work. She suggested “Luna” as a reference to the moon, and “Pines” to acknowledge my New England roots. I had just moved back to Massachusetts from Oaxaca, Mexico, so this name felt like a perfect fit.
Photo courtesy of Luna Pines
What is the greatest point of inspiration in your work and how does this connect to your design aesthetic?
My greatest point of inspiration comes from the natural world. I’m so fascinated by it! This comes through in my choice of materials. I draw inspiration from everything around me when it comes to designing. Currently, I’m very interested in minimalist style, mid-century modern furniture, and abstract gestural paintings. I think it’s really neat how this influences my work.
There is nothing more inspiring than a brand with a purpose. Madre Luna is an accessories brand with a special message that goes beyond the bottom line. Started by Alda Esco in 2017, it brings to market high quality, hand crafted products with a socially conscious purpose.
Photo courtesy of Madre Luna
The inspiration comes from generations of textile hand weaving in the highlands of Guatemala. It captures traditional Mayan techniques that are still used today in this rare and precious corner of the world. Alda's aim is to empower these communities and keep this craft alive by incorporating it into her unique designs. The end result? A breathtaking juxtaposition of color and texture all captured by a clean, wearable and somewhat modern silhouette.
Alda Esco of Madre Luna. Photo courtesy of Alessandri Photography
Madre Luna is a little gem in the middle of a crazy, mass produced fashion industry. Every fabric and labor process that goes into each shoe and bag design is carefully sourced and crafted to maintain the work of local carftsmen in Guatemala intact. As the industry becomes more driven by fast fashion with extremely fast turn-around times for design and production, coming across a brand that is conscious and rich in purpose and tradition is truly a breath of fresh air.
In the interview to follow, Alda Esco of Madre Luna gives us a glimpse of what it is like to take her beautiful, conscious designs from conceptualization to production, and the process behind keeping her handcrafted brand alive and flourishing in the fast-paced world of fashion.
Photo courtesy of Madre Luna
Designing and producing shoes and accessories is perhaps a dream for those that love fashion. When did you become interested in accessory design and what inspired you to pursue this path?
I became interested in design in childhood. I took an early interest in art and design while studying Fine Arts at California Polytechnic Universtiy. With an interest in designing and going back to my roots, I decided to create my own fashion brand of boots and accessories with an approach to a human-centered design practice that places emphasis on sustainable design. What inspired me to pursue this path was the opportunity to create an impact on social responsibility in Guatemala.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
Capturing a single moment in time, no matter how simple, how unimportant it may seem, can reveal something truly meaningful if you care to take a closer look. Photography doesn't just introduce us to a physical object visually, it is also designed to awaken feelings and sentiments we often cannot control. It is this core concept of photography as an art form that is prevalent in Connie Jang's work- a NYC based photographer with a style so individually unique, it stands apart in its juxtaposition of clean lines and emotional complexity.
Photographer Connie Jang. Photo by Charles Caesar
Connie Jang's work depicts the essence of the moment. Her work opens our eyes to things that are so obviously in front of us, we actually fail to see them. In the spontaneity of her work, the mystery of the everyday is intriguing and positively overwhelming.
Some of her images feature clean lines that are strong and bold in their simplicity. Others, like her breathtaking portraiture, fill the viewer with captivating emotion unwillingly inspiring him or her to create a unique story behind each image. Photography that provokes us to think and relate back to our most internal feelings and emotions, whether they are positive or negative in nature, is the true essence of the word "art".
As you'll see in the examples of her work below, she loves to play with shadows and natural window lighting. As briefly mentioned above, her portraits are captivating, to say the least. She graduated from Parsons New School For Design with a bachelor's degree in photography, and is now working as a freelance photographer in NYC.
Perhaps what is most inspiring about Connie Jang as an artist is that she never stops experimenting. Creating work for just about all branches of photography, from fashion to food photography to retouching work, it is this multi-faceted nature that allows her to build depth in her work, regardless of the field she photographs in.
Most of Doina Alexei editorials and studio shoots over the years have been photographed by Connie Jang. In the interview to follow, she opens up a bit more about her artistic process and what inspires her most. Behind the scenes, behind each image, you'll find a person that is a genuine representation of her work- every image capturing a moment of her life or a thought pattern in time.
Absorb every image below and allow your mind to wander a little...
Photo courtesy of Connie Jang
What provides the greatest inspiration in your work?
The beauty and simplicity in the everyday motivates my work. I enjoy using photography as a way to answer questions that words may not otherwise fully express.
What are the greatest challenges for a freelance photographer working in NYC?
New York is very competitive and there is an overwhelming amount of talented photographers that are also working as hard as you are. It can be a letdown when other photographers are on the rise, but you always have to remind yourself that we are all going at different paces.
"I enjoy using photography as a way to answer questions that words may not otherwise fully express."
Is there a place, in NYC or any other corner of the world, that provides a great point of inspiration in your work? Maybe a place you like to visit that allows you to focus completely on your work and recharges you artistically?
Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we are all deeply connected to nature. In a world where technology has taken over just about every industry, discovering a brand that goes back to basics in the most thoughtful, user-sensitive way can be a gold mine. Incorporating a slice of nature into wearable items that you can take with you wherever you go in whatever assortment you desire is a concept that seems almost far-fetched, right? Not for Petal and Clay, a brand that has come up with a solution to bring you closer to the beauty of nature regardless of your location.
Rose Otter of Petal and Clay. Photo courtesy of Myray Creative
Nobody captures the vibrancy and essence of nature more efficiently than Petal and Clay, a jewelry brand that is sensitive to what earth and mother nature has to offer. Feminine with an outburst of color combinations, their beautiful necklaces allow you to take a piece of nature with you wherever you go. It is a concept born at the hands of Rose Otter, whose deep connection to nature, and especially flowers, originates from her childhood in southern Oregon where she played in its rich flower fields as a child. Petal and Clay is a user-conscious brand allowing you a canvas to mix and match assortments of flowers, leafs or fresh springs in a necklace style featuring delicate, handmade clay vases.
Photo courtesy of Candace Molatore
For those that are caught in the bustle and hustle of the big city, a little reminder of the beauty of live flowers you can actually wear and hold near to you at all times can certainly make the day a little better. The beautiful work you'll see below captures a dreamy, romantic quality that is bold yet feminine in a clean, pastel sort-of-way. Rose Otter, the brand's creative director, tells us a little bit more about her unique concept and the carefully crafted process that goes into building every piece from design to production.
How was the name “petal and clay” born and what is its significance?
I had been playing around with different names for a while but I didn’t have one that I loved. I spent a weekend with my childhood friend and she actually came up with it! We knew right away that it was perfect. It felt even more special that she came up with the name because her and I grew up playing in flower-filled meadows together.
Photo courtesy of Myray Creative
There is a special connection to flowers in your work. Can you talk a bit about where this passion for nature, and especially flowers, originates? What connects/attracts you to them?
If you are the kind of person that loves surprising loved ones with one-of-a-kind, special gifts, you are probably always going the extra mile in your search for unique products. What catches your eye is most likely something that is seldom available in brick and mortar stores and quite difficult to come across in general.
Whether you enjoy being the best gift-giver in your family or the smile on that loved one's face, putting some thought into that special gift, especially around the holiday season, can be truly rewarding. Needless to say, if you are reading this, you love to give that special woman in your life gifts that she is sure to remember. The good news is that while you love gifting them, we have the passion for creating them at Doina Alexei.
These fashion products (as we like to call them) have truly inspired us and are all about YOU. They are constructed with your needs, your passions and your little indulgences in mind. Whether you are searching for something educational, functional, unique, or simply aesthetically flattering, the special gift items we hand picked below might prove to be just what you are looking for this gift-giving season. There is a sense of whimsy and excitement about every single one of them.
It is worth to note of course, that every item is handmade and individually tagged and packaged with care to safely arrive at your doorstep right before Christmas (or that special birthday!).
Whether it is for a wife, girlfriend, mother, grandmother or your favorite aunt, here are the three fashion products that will prove to be some of the most one-of-a-kind, successful gifts this Christmas season.
The 11:11 Jacket- A Jacket Convertible To Shoulder Bag
The 11:11 Jacket- the convertible jacket to bag is bound to put a smile on the face of everyone gathered around the Christmas tree. The name of it has already partially given away its secret- As you might have guessed, it transforms from fully functional jacket to fully functional shoulder bag in just a few easy steps.
We've all been fascinated by convertible products especially in the apparel industry. Quite often however, we shy away from wearing them due to their heavyweight, hardware-rich characteristic. The goal with the 11:11 Jacket was to construct a piece of apparel with no overwhelmingly visible hardware which risks being heavy and aesthetically uncomfortable to wear. When in jacket form, it resembles more of a trench coat giving no impression that it is a convertible garment. If you do look very carefully, the separating zippers, which are sleekly sewn into the side seams, give you a little hint that this isn't just another boring jacket.
A clothing item that serves us in more than one way is always a great investment and worthy of becoming a life-long item in your closet. For that reason, the 11:11 Jacket offers a classic silhouette that is appropriate to style with just about anything in your closet.
It is not bulky or thick but rather lightweight, making it interchangeable through transitioning seasons. The length stops right above the knee featuring a subtly curved hem at the back which adds softness and increases flattery.
Now for the fun part: How does it work? How does a seemingly classic jacket with no visible heavy hardware on its surface transform into a fully functional, roomy bag? The secret is in the back panel.
The back panel itself provides for a hidden compartment that houses two light yet extremely durable D-rings. Once the side separating zippers are zipped fully to form the bag compartment, the back panel is simply flipped over the neckline and shoulders to expose the D-rings hiding the neckline underneath. This panel not only creates a straight bag opening edge, it also provides a clean look on the inside of the shoulder bag by hiding the neckline opening underneath.
Each clip on the bag strap, which is naturally housed inside the jacket, is then attached to each one of the D-rings completing the formation of the bag. Because no bag is complete without a means to close it, the bottom of the jacket folds over the bag opening in a unique fashion to create a beautiful ruffle flap. The curved edge of the back hem hides all the layers of the jacket's bottom underneath, which increases the authenticity and functionality of the bag.
As you play around with the conversion steps, you'll find that you cannot tell either item is of the convertible type whether it is in jacket or bag form. That was truly the goal in the creation of this design- being able to interchange the two whenever necessary without compromising their ability to fully serve their functional purpose.
When you are out on a walk, running errands, or simply going to work in the morning you may be faced with changing temperatures throughout the day. Start with the jacket during those cool early mornings and convert it to a bag as you deem necessary. We think that this simple idea of interchangeable products is the true beauty of functionality.
The Learn To Sew Box
The Learn To Sew Box is perfect for those that steer more towards educational gifts. It is just as enticing for a student as it is for the person looking to add an extra skill to his/her repertoire. How many times have you heard the phrase: "I wish I could make my own clothes..."? Well, now you can with the Learn To Sew Box as it includes all the basic necessities to get started.
A journey into our design process, sewing tutorials, fashion tips, and all the inspiring people and things we love.
Designer by trade and dressmaker at heart. I spend most of my days obsessing over new fabrics and daydreaming new ideas.
Executive Assistant &
Client Relations Manager