Today we’d like to introduce you to Joe Cariati.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Joe. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
At San Francisco State University in 1992, I knew that I would declare an Art major, even though I had no formal training as a “fine artist”. I grew up making things, lots of things, out of wood, found parts…I dug in the earth and made motorcycle tracks with a shovel and lots and lots of time on my hands. Later I built skateboard ramps and worked on old Chevrolets, rebuilding them from the ground up. It turns out I suppose I would be classified as a “maker”, thank god for new trending terminology to help you find your place in the world!
Back in school, I saw (who became my first mentor) someone blowing glass, and thought simply 2 things “That’s GLASS?” and “I have to try that”. I broke into the hot glass class which was heavily impacted, only 18 blowers allowed per semester, and I was hooked. Every facet of blown glass held my attention, created an amazing sense of curiosity, difficulty, focus, attention to detail, and other people; glass is usually blown in teams of 2-3 people working on one object.
Flash forward 10 years and I am working as an educator in local schools and non-profit centers for glass, and running around town working at several private glass studio as a lead “Gaffer” the lead glassblower of a team. It was dreamy, and it all came to a grinding halt after 9/11. I made a move to begin my own line of work, and the Angelic Bottle Collection, which we still create today was born.
After some years of doodling around learning about my new business (wholesale), I moved to Los Angeles and created a cohesive line of work that I brought into the world via the New York International Gift Show, now known as NYNow. It has been 10 years this August since that show, and the brand that is Joe Cariati has never been stronger. It’s been a long road, and I have slow played the business as much as my craft of glassblowing.
People often ask me “what’s new this season”, my inner response is simple, “The work is far better than the last time you saw it”. Refinement takes years, not seasons to be realized; a nod to the complexity of glassblowing, for me to create what seem to be simple forms takes years and years of focused practice.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The company saw steady and fast growth in 2007, then in 2008, the economy slumped and my response was to simply weather the storm, as fading away was not an option. From there, I still grew the company steadily every year, until I felt I had reached a plateau. I was handling virtually all details the business, besides web, bookkeeping and photography. I was keen to give these things away at an early stage…
However, I was missing relationship building, general brand building, I mean it wasn’t until 3 years ago that I even had a proper brand mark or logo! I was fully caught up in the making and sustaining the internals of the studio. I never ship late, I never ship sub-par product; the day to day upkeep caused me to be delayed in areas that we are now fully caught up on.
We have a strong brand ID, excellent relationships with our accounts, and my creative development has caused me to introduce a full range of lighting and a new home collection focused on utility. “Giving away” portions of my business to key employees has proven to be effective, yet difficult. My team has grown from two part time members to over 7 full time staff plus a range of contractors. The struggles to day are radically difficult, yet rewarding. I have always been about creating community, and the platform of Joe Cariati is just that. We cook together, eat together, support each other, make insanely delicious espressos about 3 times per day, and work our tails off to make the best objects possible.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Joe Cariati story. Tell us more about the business.
I mentioned our company culture and the inclusion of people…that is really important to me and I am proud to be able to create a space for people to thrive and work at their very best every day. My work is not easy to produce, the action and craft medium of glassblowing is hands down the most difficult to master, yet, we have the space to create in s stress free yet focused environment. That produces a lot of joy for me as a maker and as a company owner.
In terms of our production, and the work we produce, the key here is that the entire process is “free blown”. No part of my process is automated, no blowing molds are used. Free blown glass relies on a calculated yet repeatable process that can only come with thousands of hours of practice. The antithesis of this is mold blown glass, it does require skill, but the form making is handled in the mold itself. Drop a gooey hot bubble into a mold and blow, and presto, same shape every time, predictable result. I call it “cold”. It’s stoic, has zero personality and practically erases the hand of the maker.
Our process of making glass “free blown” means we rely on very few tools and the human eye and hand to create the work in “space”. The properties of glass are simple, it is affected by turning, breath, gravity, wet newspaper for shaping and a couple of still tools. Now, best of luck, make something using only those key properties and tools with molten glass at 2150 degrees on the end of a piece of steel with a hole in it. Insane! However, the blowpipe has been around for about 2000 years, so, it is possible.
Finding truly handmade glass is difficult, it is often stuck in the “glass art” category. I am choosing to keep it focused on design and production. We create over 4,000 pieces a year, which sounds like a lot, but compared to automation or mold blowing, it is a fraction of what any factory in Europe or China produces in a given month. The other aspect of the free blown process which differs from mold blown, is that it is “transferred” in order to hand finish the top and lip of the vessel. In the mold blown scenario, the work is blown into a mold and then later, when cold, cut open and either fire polished or hand polished. Our transfer process allows for the extreme attenuation of the vessel form. This is one way that I can stay ahead of the competition and not be knocked off. One cannot create the extreme and novel proportions of my work in a mold, it must be transferred and hand finished.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t believe in luck as much as I believe that “timing is everything”.
I believe that you are at the center of all that you create and don’t create. I subscribe to taking the time to allow a clearing (space) for yourself and reflect on what is working, what isn’t and WHY. Then, and only then can you see if your actions and way of being are living into your vision.
- Angelic Bottle Collection from $235.00
- JC Home Collection from $185.00
- JC Lighting from $935.00
- Address: 141 Penn Street,
El Segundo, CA 90245
Visit our new on site showroom, by appointment only.
- Website: joecariati.com
- Phone: 310-462-9723
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @joecariati.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joecariatiglass/