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Still Life Never Stand Still

Be prepared for anything

Photos by Jessie Guo

Still Life Ceramics is a studio and brand in Downtown Los Angeles, making functional ceramic art for our everyday life. It (@still_life_ceramics) is their first brick and mortar studio and shop that opened in April 2018.

Imagine seeing the swirls and patterns of a ceramic mug that inspires and provides its owner with a visual feast of color and life first thing in the morning. Why settle with what is normal and dull when everything we possess has the capability of becoming something remarkable?

The entire planet is covered with all shapes of life and various forms of inanimate things. There are things that physically move us from one place to another. Things that illuminate shadows and the dark. Things that enable us to sustain our existence. And there are even things that are designed to hold and house other things. With all of these people and all the things we share, use, and possess filling up the world, some of us are struggling to find new and interesting ways to share what we have to say. And even when you continue to struggle to find the words, you can express yourself in the works of those that have learned to convey it for you.

Ana Henton, the co-founder of Still Life Ceramics, once said,

"We're all trying to provide an environment. That's great to be creative."

As more and more artists and class participants that enjoyed coming to, they opened their first member studio Still Life Studio (@still_life_studios) in Santa Monic last year. This summer, they’ll open a new space in the Arts District at the beginning of July.

We took a chance to visit the studio at Santa Monica and have a talk with the founders of Still Life Ceramics: Ana Henton and Mel Keedle.

Talk with Ana & Mel

Transcript (A-Ana; M-Mel)


Q: Do you have a standard to find a co-founder?

A: Well, how many co-founders have you found in that?

M: None.

A: I'm your first co-founder.

M: Yeah.

A: I've had a few other co-founders. But we spend a lot of time talking about what would make a partnership work. Like a lot of time talking about it.

M: And we spent a lot of time working together as friends before we decided to start a business together. So that was helpful. We worked on a few projects together. And started to build up a working relationship before we ever dreamed of working together for real and started the business. So it was good to have that foundation.

A: And we spent time talking about what our personal plans were for the future. And I think that's important when you're going to start into business. So again, like I knew, that Mel was planning having kids, so you know, like nothing in life... Well, there's so many surprises in life. We talked about what we want in our life outside of the business, I think that helps make the business better.

M: Yes, I agree.

A: I think that was a good move on our part.


Q: Is there a big lesson from the past three years?

M: I think be prepared for anything.

A: Be prepared for pandemic.

M: Yeah, none of us knew... We knew to be prepared for anything before. But none of us knew that anything included a pandemic. So...

A: Every day is really a lesson.

M: Yeah.

A: It really is. Every day we learn something new about the business. We learn something new about ourselves. We learned something new about the people who are in the studio.

M: Yeah. And I think I've certainly learned to really invest time in getting a good solid team around us as well, because they wouldn't have survived the last three years that especially last year without having a really good team.

A: Team is key.

M: Yeah.

A: I think that's like, surround yourself with great people. I guess that would be the blessing.


Q: What else do you do other than ceramics?

A: So I'm an architect by training, and I still do architecture. And a lot of times my clients are like, "Are you doing ceramics now? Are you still doing architecture?" But for me, it's the same thing. It's design. So whether it's a home or it's a restaurant, or it's a plate, like I approach it in the same way. Sometimes that's a lot. I know. Approaching a plate like a project is a lot. But I have a good partner.

M: And I was a social worker. Before I moved to Los Angeles, I was a social worker in Australia working with teens. And then when I moved to Los Angeles, I was doing different things. I was teaching sex ed for a while to high school that was very fun.

A: Really helps when you're teaching ceramics.

M: So it really help. Yeah, you're right. Exactly. That helped a lot when we came to teach ceramics. I was very comfortable speaking on a broad range of subjects.


Q: Is there any difference between Still Life Studio and other ceramic studios?

A: I think everybody who gets into this business gets into it because they love it.

M: Right.

A: And they love clay. They like working with people.

M: Yes. Exactly, I was going to say the same thing.

A: We all try and do the same thing. We're all trying to provide an environment. That's great to be creative.

M: Yeah, in a great community space.


Q: Could you give some essential tips for startup success?

M: I think just be prepared to work all the time.

A: All the time.

M: Especially in the beginning. Be prepared, really to work all the time, more than you think that you should be prepared for.

A: And there's a business side to it too. So there's the making and then there's the business and the making is a physical toll on your body and then the business has a mental toll. So prepare to be tired.

M: Yes. I would agree with that.


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