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Meet Linda Ra of Jumie Ceramics in Lincoln Heights

Today we’d like to introduce you to Linda Ra.

Linda, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Born and raised in Northern California to two parents highly skilled in their own expressive outlets, I was destined to be a creator. My mom was an extremely skilled painter with charming practicality. She had a way of transforming overlooked objects and giving it a new purpose. Everyday items, such as cereal boxes, became striking magazine holders which held our daily drawings. My dad was a born builder, a farmer at heart with a deep love for nature and animals. He had what you called a “green thumb” and dressed our home with gardens and plants of all kind.

I’ve always had a penchant for drawing and handcrafted goods at an early age. My fondest childhood memories consist of coloring in my personal princess coloring books drawn and bound by my mom to keep us busy while she was away at work. Instead of the highly desired Barbies, I was rich in paper dolls and boxes full of paper doll outfits. I was the creator of an elaborate two-story paper house with fully furnished rooms and a kitchen filled with paper dining ware. I was also the owner of an ambitious garden where stalks of vegetables were inserted into cardboard slots.

One night we ran out of books to color, and I eventually convinced my dad to draw for us. My dad lacked the same feminine sensibility my mom possessed and completely left out their long, flowing hair and full gowns. I was both mortified and amused at seeing his bald and naked renditions. As the older sister of two, I took one for the team and referenced all my mom’s drawings and bound it for us to color. This night I learned two things: First, my dad was incapable of drawing the female figure and second, my love for drawing emerged.

Though there were some pushbacks in the financial stability and challenging attributes of my future goals, I found my instinctive path in the arts as I moved on from high school. In my efforts to grow with the fast-paced digital world, Graphic Design was a logical choice when it came to selecting my college major. It offered endless venues to showcase my work with the everyday consumer. I filled my extra units with classes in metal-smithing, paper-making, print-making, book-binding, fiber, wood shop and ceramics as a way to bring an organic element I desired in my digital work.

As a contracted/freelance designer, I designed packaging for cosmetics. I had a fondness for 3D forms and its relationship to the user and their experience. But as an entrepreneur, I found myself working endless hours. Managing the creatives as well as the business eventually became overwhelming. Working without sleep for four days in a row was a frequent occurrence. I lost sight of self-care and focus which reflected in the deterioration of my gut health, my relationships and well being.

As much as I initially loved my work as a designer, there was always undeniable ease in my ability to hand build. I soon found a communal space where I took a ceramics class to keep me accountable to break away from my draining design business. Muscle memory is a fascinating thing! I fell right back at home covered in clay and building with my hands again. If art was my first love, food was a close second. Intuitively, how my meals were packaged was equally thrilling for me. I consider dining ware to be the truest form of packaging for food.

Unlike the 2D landscape I designed in, dining ware gave the 3D experience I found most interesting. Meals always tasted so much better in my favorite mug or bowl. I never imagined what started out as a hobby would later become my primary focus. After over ten years of countless hours building my personal business as a graphic designer in the beauty industry, I’ve now found a renewed passion doing what I’ve always done best, handcrafting physical and practical things.

Has it been a smooth road?
I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t juggling between several jobs and my time consistently stretched between different commitments. Finding that balance between work, fitness, play, and relationships have been an ongoing life lesson. I used to feel a lot of guilt for wanting and needing to spend so much time with my craft that I overcompensated as a people pleaser.

As with any creative profession, the need for solitude seems to be a common shared thread and an absolute necessity, even at the expense of not having a traditional social life. As a single-person business, you are wearing many hats and managing your time within a short 18+ hour period, if you’re taking into account the disruptive need for sleep.

Aside from time management, one of the challenges I had early on as an artist was going into each project with a mapped out design in mind. You will quickly learn ceramics is about letting go because nothing fully goes as you initially planned. Your level of patience is tested daily with so many elements out of your control, such as, the speed at which your clay dries or how the clay reacts to the chosen glaze when fired.

You are forced to think on your feet, remain flexible and not fall apart when the piece you’ve worked on for weeks explodes in the kiln, warps or cracks. When you’re working with such a fragile medium, you have to accept letting go. I’m constantly reminded to trust in the process and go with my gut because it’s never failed. In the words of a wise sculptor and inspiring studio mate, Beverly, “You can always make another one.”

You are the creator and capable of making another piece, if not better than the previous. I tend to take excessive measures to leave little room for accidents to appear being that I’m a “control freak” always racing against the clock. But when one seeps through, it feels like an explosion of creative freedom.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Jumie Ceramics – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I specialize in modern, functional ceramics: dining ware, pet bowls, and planters. There’s always a seamless graphic element in my clay work, especially in pieces where I use hand-drawn typography or a blind embossing effect, which many graphic designers would appreciate. I am greatly influenced by the music and culture of the ’90s, from pager codes to artists like A Tribe Called Quest and TLC.

My ceramic forms are minimal but deeply personal with intricate paintings, hand carvings or marbling that sets my body of work apart and uniquely reflects me as an artist. My collection typically falls between two styles of work – meticulous and graphics versus raw and earthy. In my earth collection, I focus on displaying the clay’s unique textures and color with minimal glazing to expose its raw exterior.

Marbling is a common technique most reflected in this work where you mix 2 or more colors of clay to create a “milkshake” or color blocking appearance. This process first originated with my attempt to mimic the specific grains and organic blocks of color found in wood.

The piece I’m most known for is my pet bowls. My proudest moment came when an editor from the New York Times asked to showcase my “Food” and “Water” pet bowls in her Mother’s Day issue! In typical fashion, when it rains, it pours. The response and support that followed were and still is life changing.

Today, there is a large shift and appreciation for personalized, handcrafted work across every generation. I see this trend even in the food, fashion, and beauty industry. People are more aware of where their food and beauty products come from, whether a garment was ethically made and the growing desire to connect with the makers.

With the help of social media, this transparency is made possible with more opportunities to see into the creative process as well as the opportunities to collaborate with potential customers as well as other creators.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Los Angeles is best known as the mecca for entertainment. For me, it was the city where I found my independence, as an individual and as an artist. I moved to Southern California freshly healing from a broken relationship, questioning my sexuality and full of insecurities. It was here I eventually found my tribe of strong, like-minded friends who became my second family and my support group. It was within this community that I found inspiration, love, and growth. Los Angeles is full of reputable food destinations, which feeds my soul, with a thriving art community with countless opportunities to collaborate.

With this growing community of small businesses and entrepreneurs, large pop-up markets are also expanding in number to connect the creators with the consumers. I’ve had the pleasure of being one of the many talented vendors at the curated Unique Market three years in a row for their holiday event. It’s events like these that really bring people together, making Los Angeles such a diverse melting pot. Aside from the growing cost of living, the never seizing traffic and the lack of parking, Los Angeles is quite a gem I feel honored to call home.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Linda Ra, Stephanie Drutman

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