Studio Visit : Mother of God

On a rainy Friday afternoon we visited the ceramics studio of Amanda Rivera + Diana Welch, the creative team behind Mother of God Ceramics, and returning vendors to the fall FELIZ sale. Their space is nestled inside an artist compound in east Austin. From here they collaborate on one-of-a-kind pieces for commercial and personal use, with a focus on creating objects that allow for self-guided rituals. From custom light fixtures (seen at Better Half Bar) to hand sculpted incense burners + pipes, each MoG piece embodies a tenderness of hand and reverence for the material. Continue on for a glimpse into their studio and practice.

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Can you share a bit about your origin story. What brought you two together as makers? 

The idea to work together came from being studio mates, actually. We have such a similar aesthetic and approach, it just felt right for Amanda to join MoG as Diana's partner. 

How do your own unique perspectives co-inform Mother of God's aesthetic? 

We both love the imperfect and unexpected. We love to challenge ourselves to create new shapes, and we both have a really relaxed approach to our practice. If we were forced to find a difference in our approaches, you could say that Amanda brings a more feminine eye, while Diana's might be considered more masculine. It's hard to explain, but that duality is kind of there. 

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Describe a typical [and by 'typical' we obviously mean non-typical] day in the studio?

We try to be in the studio together once a week, but our  schedules can make that hard. We both have our own little rituals that we use to create that mental shift when we walk into the studio. But lighting incense or a candle and taking a puff seems to be a shared routine.

Is there anything in particular you like to listen to/watch while you work? 

When we work together, we often find ourselves working in silence, which feels really special in a way. But, solo, Amanda is more of a podcast listener while she works, and Diana tends to listen to music more than talking - Alice Coltrane, Ethiopian jazz, or a Spotify radio based on whatever song is in her head. 

 
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What draws you to clay as medium? What does the material – and process of working with the material – offer you space to say, to capture, to comment on? 

We love the unexpected nature of clay, the flexibility of form, and the lack of ego the practice requires. Working with clay is a meditative practice in and of itself - you just have to let go of expectation so much of the time. It really is so much about the process for us. 

 

As makers, we’re constantly balancing disparate priorities. What system, routine, non-routine, practice, and/or discipline best helps you center? 

We both have too many ideas! We can't keep up with ourselves, literally. Both of us just want to be in the studio all the time, but both of us have other jobs and responsibilities that prevent us from being able to do that. We are constantly having to re-prioritize, and we put a high emphasis on communicating our feelings with each other so that we don't get confused or resentful as we go. 

How do you manage and work with creative ennui? 

We try to be kind to ourselves and each other. We remind each other and ourselves that Mother of God is an art practice more than it is a business. While we really do want to build something sustainable, we are allowing ourselves the space to do so in an organic, relaxed way. 

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Are there any books, podcasts, TEDtalks, or personal heroes, that help guide you through a creative lull? 

Going to Brancusi's studio while we were in Paris was pretty magical. And we are always sending each other pictures on IG of work that inspires us. There are so many amazing designers out there, and we are always looking for positive examples of how we can grow and expand as a studio practice.

What's next for MOG? 

We are in talks to have another show in Spring 2019 and we are excited to see what comes of that. Otherwise, we are really focusing on our vessel families and our hand-built planters in the coming year. We're also looking into some art residencies to give ourselves time, space, and inspiration. We're just so happy to be making the work that we are making, and grateful that we get to do it together. 

Stop by Mother of God’s booth on Saturday, December 9th at The Palm Door on Sabine.

 
 
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Meet the Maker: Esby Apparel

Meet Esby Apparel – FELIZ sale veteran and local Austin go-to for everyday, USA made essentials. Esby was founded in 2014 by designer Stephanie Beard, and features quality clothing for women and men, with an emphasis on the “menswear mentality,” aka. prioritizing comfort, function and wearability (this, we can get behind!). 

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We’re excited to go behind-the-scenes with the brand to highlight their *new* plus size capsule, the first installment of their extended size offering. Here's Steph: 

The plus size conversation has felt like a natural step for us but it honestly all started as a request from our wholesale partnerships. we have a few great accounts that extend sizes in their shops and asked us for our product in a bigger range. and while we were already happy that our size run extends a pretty diverse range with our extra small to large size scale, we knew there was a need for more and we need to be more inclusive.

“A little bit more about our standard fits: we use a grading system that is a little larger than a typical grade between sizes of most brands. most of our apparel has a lose fit intention anyway, so it’s ok for us to have a wider range between sizes. however, this doesn’t include everyone and is harder in one pieces and pants. that being said, we think making a clear statement that we now extend into plus will also open up more customers to try our size large and size 10s. 

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This first "capsule" is super small! we wanted to make sure we are able to fit test before we increase to more units in the spring. each season we learn more about fit and are so lucky to have our shop as an incubator where we can test ideas and get instant feedback from customers. after this initial run we will go to 12 in all of our pants, and we will take a few pant fits up to 22. we will be offering more styles in plus each season as we learn more and more about our customers needs.

Currently, our plus size capsule is available on our website, in our shop, at Small Talk, and Hazel & Rose.

Make sure to stop by Esby Apparel at this year's sale. See you Sunday, December 9 @ the Palm Door on Sabine! 

Meet the Maker: Soele

Meet Soele — An Austin-based sweater company supporting artisan communities in the Andean highlands. Oh yeah, and another edition to the Fall FELIZ line-up! We're excited about their mission, commitment to fair wages and sustainable production practices, and reverence for responsible community collaboration. Read on to learn how the company was founded and what we can expect to see at the sale.

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We are excited to have Soele at the sale this year.! For those that may not be familiar with Soele, can you share a bit about what you’ll be bringing to the sale.

I'll be bringing the first three sweaters designed and produced by Soele. Two of which are made from 100% alpaca and the third is raglan-style pima cotton sweater. It's getting cold out and I'm confident that these provisions will help :).

Can you guide us through how you came to own your clothing line.

When I was 14, I lived in Germany for a year as an exchange student and went back about every year through college. Speaking German and having the freedom to explore the country via train has taken me to Berlin about a half-dozen times. Berlin is a crazy place because the post-war world was characterized by Soviet vs. Western tension and the city served as a kind of stage showcasing each side's resilience/ stubbornness. This meant that Berlin was never really ideal for big business, but was still the region's cultural epicenter, which underwent a kind of renaissance after the fall of the Wall in 1990. The city's culture embraced its newfound freedom with a sort of lawlessness in its fashion, party scene and ambience. When you spend enough time in a place like that, it's impossible to be satisfied with a "normal" job, so I started thinking of ways I could surround myself with more creative free-thinkers and leverage my background in traditional business to do some unique and impactful work that inherently deals with how people express themselves as individuals.

We’d love to know more about your mission for beautiful clothing with a global impact. How has this informed your approach to the design and the production of your garments?

November 2016 happened and I was pissed just like (what I had previously thought was) everyone else, but I spent too much time warring on social media and recognized that I needed to do something, so I tried to make a shoe in my kitchen. Seriously. My intent was to create a blueprint for how I could work with the disenfranchised and open a shoe manufacturing plant in Austin...once again, seriously. Obviously, this didn't pan out, so I went back to the drawing board. I heard about Fashion Revolution ATX- an event put on by Jen Lewis, founder of Purse and Clutch, to increase attention on how the fashion community must reorient itself in order to correct its dangerous history of wage abuse, environmental negligence, etc. There I met Jacquie Ring, founder of Moesel, and she took me to Peru and provided me with many of the resourced I needed and introduced me to the people I needed to know to get started. After this, I started doing serious research into sustainability practices and learned about how deeply entrenched alpacas are in the culture of many regions of Peru, which encouraged me to start working with alpaca fiber. Part of my research led me to Mike Safely, Alpaca Jedi and founder of the Quechua Benefit, a non-profit that has various initiatives (sustainable alpaca raising practices, a school in the Andes, and medical programs to help keep these kids stay healthy enough to remain in school and get their degree) to loop in the largely-forgotten people of the Andes. It's still a work in progress and right now a portion of the proceeds are going back to support the Quechua Benefit, but the plan is to include this organization more closely in the manufacturing and resource appropriation processes starting next year.

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How has owning your own clothing line impacted your personal style and/or your shopping philosophies?

I've always expressed myself through my sweaters and have categorized the rest of my clothes as just necessity....I'm from Minnesota, so only the 5th outermost layer is ever seen. Since I try and wear Soele sweaters as much as possible now, I suppose I really don't buy many clothes anymore. In all seriousness, before involving myself in this process I was pretty certain that factories meant that clothes were made by machines. After learning more and meeting the people who would be working alongside me to make something special, it alerted me to how frighteningly negligent and short-sighted the industry can be. Everyone deserves respect and if this notion means something to you, it is crucial to look deeper into your buying decisions and how you interface with people, irrespective of context and personal comfortability.

What’s in the future for Soele?

I'm working with a designer, Erin, who has tons of experience designing and creating samples for some big-name New York brands. We're on the same page with respect to the ethics of the brand, but the key difference is that she actually knows what she's doing in terms of producing clothes ;). I'm excited to see where this partnership takes Soele. I received some funding to throw a launch party, which will be in December. Wane (manager of some really amazing local artists, such as "the Teeta"), Adrian (founder of Brown State of Mind), and Joaq.n (creator of Nu Wave and, in my opinion, the best damn DJ in Austin) are helping me put this together.

And to get to know you a bit better...

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Where is home for you? Austin, MN. Home of Spam and can be reached by taking I-35 all the way northward from Austin.

Astrological sign: Libra

Last great travel destination? Mexico City with Abby/ @notaxontampons. I'm very surprised more people don't go there more often. Relatively inexpensive to get to, awesome people, great food!

What podcasts or books do you return to as a business owner? or just as a creative?

Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. Check this one out if you haven't. It's an excellent exposition on how we have a responsibility to care about how we use and appropriate finite, natural resources.

Altruism by Matthieu Ricard (known for being the happiest man in the world)- I finished reading the first 1/20th of the book and decided to go vegetarian. As it turned out, the "go vegetarian for these reasons" part wasn't until much later in the book.

What was the last big risk you took?

My mom still harasses me about not going to med school (to be fair, she's never seen my college transcripts, which would undoubtedly dispel this wish), but I think it's important that everyone make their own decision about what they want from life. The only proviso I'd add to that is that I think that this decision should be made after considering how it affects the greater society. Soele has been a series of risks varying in size, but to be honest, the biggest and most recent was what put me in contact with Mike Safley (founder of Quechua Benefit). I didn’t know him, but read his book and cold-called him to see if he wanted to work with me on this project and he was far more open to the idea than I would have ever thought.

You can shop Soele’s first collection of sweaters at the sale on December 9th. Until then, learn more about Soele’s mission and browse the collection here.

Meet the Maker: PRIMARY

FELIZ is excited to introduce PRIMARY to the fall line-up. The Los Angeles skincare line is run by former Austinite, Jessica Olsen, whose focus is on creating the absolute best non-toxic, clean, and effective products. We’re sold. Read on to learn more how her popular mineral deodorant was created and some of the benefits of her newest ingredient, CBD. PLUS she has a killer podcast rec. list.

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How did PRIMARY begin and how has it evolved since? 
In the simplest sense, PRIMARY emerged from a natural tendency to question the status quo. After trying what felt like every natural deodorant on the market, and still not finding my holy grail, I felt like there had to be a better solution. I set out to create something that was non-toxic and at the same time, smelled and looked beautiful. Something that I was excited to use every morning and that felt like a delight to re-apply throughout the day. The belief that everyday routines can and should feel special is the foundation for everything that I do.  I’m in the process of expanding the line to include other simple, effective, beautiful daily essentials. 

We love the idea of a non-toxic solution to deodorant, one of PRIMARY’s staple products. Tell us more about how you developed the mineral spray.
When I started digging into the ingredients of most natural deodorants, I realized they’re all pretty much the same thing: baking soda + cornstarch + shea butter + common essential oils like tea tree or lavender. And while there’s nothing wrong with that at all, it does means that if one product with those ingredients isn’t a good fit for you, none of them will be. I started researching the bacteria strains that make us stink, and ended up learning way more than I ever thought I would know about sweat, bacteria, and the human microbiome. In the process I also rediscovered a love of biology that I’d somehow left behind in my childhood days. I started working on a formula that made innate sense to me and as I started sharing it with friends, I realized I wasn’t the only one on the hunt for a clean effective deodorant!

PRIMARY centers around elevating daily rituals. Tell us more about some of your own practiced rituals.  
My morning routine is pretty special to me. About a year ago I started slowing the pace of my mornings in preparation for the day. I don’t sleep with my phone (or a clock) by my bed, and consequently I don’t reach for instagram first thing as I open my eyes. Sometimes it means I end up sleeping until 8am or 9am. First thing I do when I wake is journal or read a chapter of a book. Then I have water with lemon, brush and floss my teeth, neti pot (is that a verb?), and oil cleanse / massage my face with a rose quartz gua sha tool (I never know if I'm doing it "right" but it feels nice :)  .. I practice yoga in my living room with my husband and play with my cat Medusa for a bit (if I skip this, she’s a terror all day) Then I make green smoothies for us and my husband and I share our goals for the day before I head out to the studio space behind our home to work on PRIMARY. On a good day, this will be the first moment I take a look at my phone.

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Can you speak to the benefits of CBD and how you’ve approached integrating the ingredient into your products? 
The benefits of CBD are wide and varied and still being discovered, but man, there is no doubt that cannabis belongs in the wellness space. The exciting thing about CBD is that because it doesn’t have the psychoactive side effects, it’s incredibly useful for those who want to explore the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without "getting high".  When I first started looking for CBD supplements to use for my own anxiety and hormonal issues, it was challenging to know how much to take, when I should take it, and how to find a reputable source. The way everything is labeled can be overwhelming and there's a lot of "weedwashing" out there - people selling hempseed oil but labeling it as CBD etc.  I went through a lot of trial and error to find what worked best for me personally, and did a ton of research before partnering with a producer and manufacturer of full-spectrum CBD for the products I've developed. PRIMARY +CBD products were envisioned from the same founding principles which guide everything I make: the belief that self-care is a precursor to good living, the strongly held conviction that making informed choices need not be a dizzying challenge — and the radical idea that both should be a total delight.

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What is your relationship to sustainability? How has it evolved over time? 
I can’t imagine starting a business without first considering the environmental impacts. I’ve made all of the packaging for PRIMARY with recycling and circularity in mind. For example, knowing that I would be selling primarily direct to my customer, it seemed frivolous to put PRIMARY into cardboard packaging when it would already be shipped in a box. Instead, each bottle comes in a reusable bag. I have a partnership with one store in Los Angeles (East/West) to offer a refill on Primary at a discount to encourage reuse. My dream is to be able to offer a trade-in program with more stores throughout the country.

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And to get to know you a bit better…

Where is home for you? After a decade in Austin, I've called Los Angeles my home for the past two years.
Astrological sign: Libra (I balance)
What podcasts or books do you return to as a business owner & creative?
One of the things about Los Angeles, is that you find yourself in a car a lot of time -- which is the perfect opportunity to power through podcasts! I find that I'm mostly drawn to solo format or interviews. Not sure why, but multi-host shows can stress me out a bit! I’m primarily drawn to conversations about society, culture, entrepreneurship, wellness, self care, and self help.
It's a fairly pedestrian pick, but man, 
Oprah's Supersoul Conversations always hits the spot. It’s super comforting and my favorite thing to listen to while I’m making PRIMARY. And I recently started listening to Jen Gotch is OK...Sometimes and I’m so grateful for it. Her vulnerability is super inspiring and I relate to her stories and the format of the show in a very eye-opening way. 

Others that I return to...

How I Built This
HBR Ideacast 
TED Radio Hour
On Being with Krista Tippett
Expanded with Lacey Phillips
Deep Dive with Dana Falsetti
Hey Girl with Alex Elle

“Let it Out” “Good Life Project”  “Love Alexi” Marie Forleo and “The Big Payoff” have been recommended to me, so those are all on the list.

 
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Finish the sentence: I feel most creatively fulfilled when... I’m formulating a solution to a problem that will have a positive impact on others.
 
Which vendor are you most excited to shop at the sale? Oh man that’s tough. High Sun Low Moon for sure. I’m super excited to see old friends like Era Ceramics, Hey Murphy, Realm and Miranda Bennett Studio. And to see new things from people I haven’t met before like Lago, Guten, and Unravel Co. (Gah! Did I pick too many?!) 

Shop the PRIMARY collection on December 9th at the Palm Door on Sabine.