Sunday, April 29, 2012

Buy Handmade vol 3

Buy Handmade; Behind the Scenes brings you:

Name: Peter and Juwels

Tell us about yourselves:
alOha : )

We’re Peter and Juwels - husband and wife, creative partners, and most of all, best friends. We’ve had many creative projects over the years, but our most recent offering is a line of antique bottle-shaped beeswax candles. We see this concept as a fusion between historic charm and organic craftsmanship. Juwels and I have had a lot of extra time to create and play with new ideas since we made a slight change in our living situation. About three years ago, we left our fancy top-story loft and moved into a 1975 Winnebago Chieftain. We bought “Miss Winnie” with the idea that we’d spend a few weeks fixing her up and then start living the simple life. This wasn’t exactly the case. It was a bit more like building the pyramids … on a shoe string budget.

We received a lot of dubious looks from family and friends when we announced our plan to simplify our lives and expand our horizons. Even Juwels wasn’t so receptive when I first suggested that we sell off all our anchors and set sail in a hundred square foot box. “Think how much more time and money we’ll have for art and travel and health and friends. It’s totally sustainable, and we can live anywhere.” She may have been thinking about all the lovely furniture she’d collected over the years, some of which she built by hand, or her chef’s kitchen or large closet.

There was a lot to be sacrificed, no doubt, but I was taken by the idea, and continued to nibble away at her conventions. “And if we want to travel abroad, we won’t be paying thousands of dollars to hold our cement box. We’ll just put the Winnie in storage, and she’ll rest up until we come back.” The idea of traveling abroad won her over, and we first exercised that freedom when we flew across the Pacific to enjoy our four-month honeymoon in South East Asia. We stayed in hostels and thatched huts. We ate dollar curries with the locals on the edge of town and rented Vespas in place of expensive tours, but we were alive and present, and everything was new.

There’s much history leading up to our winnebago diaries: When we met, Juwels was a competitive skateboarder. She was sponsored by some pretty huge companies, appeared in magazines and flew over seas for photo shoots. I opened a skateboard shop fresh out of high school and patented a piece of skate equipment which makes sliding handrails and benches smoother and faster. In 2006, Juwels and I published a novel to great reviews. It briefly became required reading and then a banned book at a Los Angeles public school. Crazy enough,we were on campus speaking the day it was banned. We have too many passions and stories and projects to list here, but if you want to come along for the ride, jump on over to the winnebago diaries, where there’s always room for one more : ) 

When did you start creating?

From the finger paints and play dough, to the mash potato snowmen and paper boats … we all start off as curious beings, makers and learners. The challenge, though, is having the courage and determination to sail into the “real world” in your paper boat amidst a swirling sea of cargo ships from China. 

How would you describe your creative process?

Our creative process is kind of like a verbal, and slightly telepathic, game of ping pong. Ideas bounce back and forth across our little kitchen table, scattered with notes, tools, and materials, and when the ball suddenly unravels into a beautiful butterfly and floats around the room, neither of us know exactly who did what. It just is. And we love it.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Our inspiration comes from the great delight that we get from sharing. Whether it’s a new type of food, a piece of music, or a special tint in the sky, the instinct is always to nudge the person next to you and say, “check it out!” Creating things is just a wider reaching nudge.

Also, we’re always inspired by a good cause, and with this project in particular, there’s such a great opportunity for environmental and health progress. Most candles are made from chemical paraffin, a byproduct of petroleum. There’s been a lot of awareness lately about the hazards of burning petroleum into the open air from our cars, but what about burning it on the kitchen counter, bedside table, or in the meditation room?

Honey bees produce an organic, smokeless, ionizing, sweet smelling fuel. It burns longer and brighter than any other wax, and these days with millions of bees falling victim to Colony Collapse Disorder, it’s very important to employ as many bees as possible. They say that we vote with our dollar, so please vote for our buzzing bee boys. They need you : )

What is your most cherished handmade item?

Easy! Maybe it’s because we’ve given so much blood and life to it, or maybe it’s because we live within it’s finished seems, but as a whole, the Winnie is by far our most cherished handmade possession. For one, she’s sustainable, turning sun beams into music or night time electric light. Many appliances such as this computer, our air purifier, and the motor which pressurises our water pipes are fueled by the warm and renewable rays of the sun. We developed ways to recycle dish and bathing water to our garden or to flush the toilet, and the refrigerator needs no electricity at all, just LP gas. Which means we can have a glass of cold juice in the middle of the desert. Besides functionality, she’s a museum of projects and ideas, little nooks where days went by shaping out a curve or building a secret hiding spot. Ideas kept reinventing themselves and surprising us. I remember standing in the torn apart gully of the girl, saying, “I wish we could just snap our fingers and flash forward to see what she’s going to turn out like.” That’s the fun, being the performer and the audience. It’s kind of like planting flower seeds with a blindfold and then waiting for that first flash of color come spring.

Part of what made the outcome such a mystery was that most of our aesthetic materials were salvaged or secondhand, so we never knew what we were going to find. Our stained wood counter tops began as a few sheets of furniture grade plywood somebody left out in an alley, and our little claw foot bathroom vanity was stuffed headfirst into a dumpster and covered with ants. The ladder which hooks to the edge of our reclining bedroom was pulled out of an old motor home in the junkyard, and our kitchen sink was an antique wok which we found in a small shop in northern Viet Nam. Thick picture frames became crown moulding and window dressings. We connected with contractors for scrap bamboo flooring and carpet, found close out slate tile, and old copper water pipes began living lives as curtain rods. Day to day it was an effort and a surprise to see what we’d hammer out next. 

Apart from creating things, what do you like to do?

We’ve recently discovered an abandoned horse ranch near our studio. It’s a wonderland of wild edible plants, tree frogs, butterflies, raccoons, flamboyant skunks, and about a million feral cats and song birds …it’s an easy place to make a single Sunday afternoon feel like an entire year. The footpaths of this forgotten ranch have become our local escape these days, but other pleasures include: going to the hot springs to give the old birthday suits a soak. Having friends over and spending the night making food, telling stories, and laughing way too loud. Strolling the farmer’s markets, creating new recipes, thrift store hopping, people watching, bargaining massages out of each other, getting lost at the Rose Bowl swap meet, researching child prodigies, sliding across our bamboo floors in our warmest pair of socks, being nostalgic about whatever season we just left, and all sorts of other things which keep us young and deepen the smile lines below our eyes. We never run out of things to do and see and learn, but honestly, since we launched our last couple of projects, creating has been pretty full time for us. It’s a lot of work, but we’re like two friends in the same class, sneaking our little moments and notes all day long. We’re blessed.

Where would you like to see yourselves in ten years?

We dream of branching out beyond our little winnie stove and studio space to someday find the Pollen Arts home base on a simple, green piece of land with plenty of plants and animals, beehives, solar power, spring water, and open airy work spaces full of good people chatting over the music and pouring as much love and positive energy into the candles as we do now.

We’re currently renting a large studio space at an artist collective. Watching thirteen creative people, from all walks of life, live and work together has given us some pretty unique ideas about what we can do to keep our future team happy and healthy. Juwels will surely be passing around some of her raw food snacks and smoothies. Also, as they do in some Asian companies, we’d love to offer our people a morning yoga class for a warm up of the body and mind. And the idea of being able to offer a free on-site daycare/ arts and nature program for our people with small children really tickles our family bone. This way our moms and dads can have lunch with their little ones and enjoy a visit to the goat pen, flower gardens, or watch the chickens scratching up the soil.

Handmade is about bringing something into your life and home that was created by happy hands. We have many goals, and if you want to hear about phase two of our Pollen plans, “The Blue Bird Project”, you can read about it in our shop bio. Or just go checkout our candle shop and help us get our wings ; )