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Pasadena’s Hidden Gems

Every day we have a choice. We can support an up and coming podcaster, try a new family-run restaurant, join a boutique gym started by a local fitness champ or we could keep giving away our money to the handful of giants who already control so much of our commerce. Our daily decisions impact the kind world we live in; if we want a world where small businesses are growing and artists and creatives are thriving then we should support them with our time, money and attention. We’re proud to highlight inspiring creatives and entrepreneurs each week in Hidden Gems series.  Check out some of Pasadena’s gems below.

Jane Shi

I was born and raised in Singapore and never even realized that a career in the art industry could be a reality until I was about 20. Even though I have always loved to draw, I always stuck to the “safe” classes like the sciences, maths and economics (which I hated), partly due to familial pressure and partly because this was all I was taught and knew. Naturally, though I tried my best, I did poorly for my A levels – sorry mom and dad! and they finally allowed me to pursue art. It took me another couple of years to learn about the industry because it was so scarce in Singapore. I took a one year course in 3D Animation and modeling but quickly realized that anything post-production was not my interest. I realized that the 2D drawing and design classes were what I looked forward to the most, and so I finally decided on illustration and design. I knew I didn’t want to have an arts education in Singapore, so I started looking at schools all over the world. Eventually, I narrowed it down to USA and UK and applied to nine different art schools (I had back up schools for my back up school :’)) It was definitely a challenging but also exciting process trying to research and figure out what even is an art portfolio. Eventually, two years of basic drawing classes and fumbling around in the dark, I got into 7/9 of them! One of them was Art Center. Read more>>

Tyler West

I started my career as a Concept Artist in video game development in 2004. At that time, digital painting was a relatively new medium and very few people knew what a Concept Artist did. It was an exciting time where video game graphics were becoming much more realistic and there was an ever-growing need for skilled Concept Artists to help game developers visualize their games. I co-founded West Studio with my wife in 2008 with the intention to take what I learned as an “in house” Concept Artist and provide those same services to clients from all over the world. West Studio’s mission from the beginning was to focus on quality. There were more and more outsource studios with a reputation for inconsistent quality and a lack of design fundamentals. West Studio was the first in the game space to build custom creative teams for each project to deliver on the specific creative goals set out by our clients. This was at a time when most outsource studios relied on only “in house” artists and whatever creative ask came in they would just hope their fixed team of artists could deliver. I knew that the best way to deliver on quality was to hire the perfect team of artists for each specific project. Read more>>

Ariell Harrison

I’m a Redlands local and have a love for the city and its history. My husband and I both saw a need for a unique space to host weddings and parties. The search began and we were brought to a beautiful building that was just finishing up restorations. We knew right away that our hopes and prayers had been answered. I’m Ariell Harrison and I’m the owner of Speakeasy on State. This venue is run by myself and my amazing Speakeasy on State team. My husband Chris is behind the scenes on doing maintenance around the venue when he’s not busy with working as a Fire fighter. I’m a mother to a wonderful little girl and she definitely keeps me and my husband on our toes. On my spare time, I love traveling, making itineraries and always love finding the local places to eat at. I’m a foodie at heart, so I’m always on the hunt for the best restaurants and coffee shops around. I love working with each of my clients and the personable communication is one that sets us apart from any other venue. I personally love talking on the phone with our clients and check in to make sure wedding or party planning is going great and am always there to answer any questions for each client. I would love to meet you and hear your story! So come on by, let’s chat, and let us show you why Speakeasy on State is such a special and unique place. Read more>>

Marcella Palazzo

I always loved watching dance as a child, but was too shy to take lessons! I would just dance to the Spice Girls in my mirror and envision choreography in my head. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I enrolled in my high school’s dance program and absolutely fell in love. Although this program focused mostly on performances rather than technique, I still got to learn all the basics of Jazz, Ballet, Modern, and Hip Hop. I then went off to community college not really knowing what I wanted to major in. After enrolling in a few dance classes at my community college, I quickly decided that I wanted to pursue a career in dance. My dance teacher at this school was also the head of the Yoga Teacher Training program and encouraged all dance majors to get certified as a backup. During my Yoga Teaching Training, I learned the deep benefits of Yoga and became passionate about teaching it to others. I then transferred to a four years university in hopes to get my Bachelors in Dance, in which I was told is the only way to become successful. This program proved to very emotionally abusive and limited student’s creativity. After one year of this program, I decided it wasn’t healthy for me to be in it any longer and I dropped out. At the same time that I dropped out, a space above my father’s car repair shop in San Francisco became vacant. I quickly insisted that it would be a perfect spot for a Yoga and Dance studio. Read more>>

Kirsten Evans

I grew up on the south coast of England and had a pretty normal childhood: ballet lessons, colouring, baking, but it wasn’t until later that I had the confidence to declare, to the world and myself, that I wanted to be a musician. I dabbled with steel pans and choir in school around the age of ten (and yes, you read that right… steel pans, one of which I dropped and it’s not extremely out of tune 14 years later, sorry everyone!) and I was never really able to play the recorder as was expected of most ten years old across the UK at the time. Instead, as I got older I repeatedly began and concluded a series of piano lessons until the age of 14 and from then on devoted myself to becoming an opera singer. I was set on singing classically up until I embarked on an academic music degree that simply wasn’t for me. It was this experience that shifted me to where I am now; a media composer and session vocalist. I made the snap decision to apply for a degree in composition and creative music technology at the conservatoire across the road from my current university, just four weeks into my new course. I didn’t really have any knowledge of composition or what it was to be a composer, so much so that I had been predicted to fail all of my previous composition exams. Read more>>

Ysabella Delgado

Kikay started in the summer of 2019 vending in person at @purenowhere shows. We had so much fun creating earrings and connecting with so many cool and creative people that summer that we decided to dive in and open up an online shop. At the time, we were rising sophomores in university. I was learning web design and my business partner Quinn was learning to code, so we thought it would be perfect to apply our skills to a new venture together. During my freshman year, I was dealing with a lot of anxiety, diagnosed with ADHD and was feeling really lost. As our little business started to grow Kikay became an outlet for me to channel my creativity and helped us to find focus in a productive way. It brought a lot of meaning and direction into our lives. Kikay is a really fast-paced business. We have very short turn-around times because we release a new line every two weeks which may seem a bit too hectic on top of our university course work, but the truth is that it’s the fast pace that really fuels our creativity and actually helps us to stay focused in all aspects of our lives. We are really lucky that as partners, we have complementary skill sets. Read more>>

RJ Bieti

I have always loved taking photos, but I really started to get into it my Senior year when I upgraded to a Canon 6d. After I got that camera, I was taking photos and filming everything. My best friend became a freelancer and would pay me to come around and help him. I learned so much, but instead of going into film or photography. I decided to go to college for Computer Science and get my degree. During college, I needed money and I found it was easier to take photos or work with video to make money than get a job on campus. All of this work led to an internship with a large YouTube channel called the Fung Bros. As I finished up my degree, they offered me a job to be the director of their YouTube channel. I worked them for a while but decided to become a freelancer so that I can explore the world of photo and video. I have been freelancing since 2019 and it has been an amazing experience. Currently, I am working with different clients around the world, but one of my main goals is creating interesting and impactful documentaries. I have learned that I really enjoy telling other people’s stories. It is definitely hard to make money on documentaries, so I will be continuing to work with clients. Read more>>

Lilit Melik-Bakhshyan

I was born with a God-given talent that shocks most people. I am part of the one percent population that is ambidextrous. Having the ability to write with both my right and left hands has been a metaphor in my life in many ways. I moved from Armenia to Los Angeles as a child and always strived to maintain my Armenian roots while being able to blend with my new environment. Throughout the years, I realized how important it is for me to not lose sight of who I am and to not get influenced by my surroundings. My interest in the career of mental health resonates with the traits I have had since young age. Being sensitive and empathetic to others’ needs always came naturally to me since my role in the family has been of the listener and an observer. My ambidexterity is another metaphor for my ability to see things from multiple perspectives. Whether it matches with my personal and cultural norms or not, I am able to empathize with people and help them navigate through their personal journeys. It is my honor to be a guide, as I strive to help people discover their true nature and to work towards living a healthy and peaceful life. Read more>>

Eric Barth

As a high school freshman with a passion for surfing, my number one priority was figuring out how to spend the most time at the beach. Ceramics was offered as a second period class, which timed out perfectly with my surf class schedule. Turns out, the class I took for the easy A ended up being the creative outlet I didn’t know I needed. Our high school didn’t have pottery wheels, so all our work was hand-built. This gave me an appreciation for clay and the time and patience that comes with this unique art. So, you can imagine the excitement when wandering down the halls in college, I spotted the ceramics studio – full of wheels! I spoke with the professor, Neil Moss, and joined the beginners class the next semester. The following two years shaped what started as just a creative hobby into a part-time job for the college. I was responsible for recycling clays and mixing glazes and the daunting task of loading and firing the kilns for all the student’s work. When I wasn’t taking entertainment lighting or guitar classes, I spent most of my time in the studio. I then got the unique opportunity to step into entertainment lighting on a full-time basis. Read more>>

Trey Woods

I started making music in high school around 2012. I originally started making beats on this website called beatlab. Unfortunately, that website ended up going out. After that small music interaction, I started to write to YouTube beats and record on garage band off a headset microphone. My mom bought me my first mic I still have till this day. It was a (USB Blue microphone digital spark) she was definitely my biggest supporter and one of the main reasons why I never stopped making music. Unfortunately on October 16th, 2016, she passed away from cancer. I was 20 at the time so I had to drop outta college and get a full-time job to pay for the bills and provide for my little brother who was a Junior in high school at the time. I had to man up and take some time to develop myself to adjust on being the man of the house. Months later, the apartment landlords tried kicking me and my brother out of our section 8 apartment for apparently not paying rent from two years back which was (illegal). Read more>>

Keiji Ishida

My first introduction to art was in preschool. I grew up in an immigrant family and our level of English wasn’t the best, and because of this, I had issues communicating with people around me so I decided to draw by myself. Fortunately, looking back now, I was a pretty good drawer and my drawing attracted other kids around me and that’s how I made friends. Subconsciously, I think at an early age I learned that making art could become a device to connect, communicate, and express your feelings. Fast forward to high school, I attended LACHSA (Los Angeles H.S. for the Arts) where I got to take art more seriously. I got to build my portfolio and work with other students who carry the same passion that I have so it was magical. After High School, I moved to Paris, France to study Graphic Design at Paris College of Art. During this time, I began to work on more editorial illustrations and skateboard graphics in my personal time. But two years into this college, I decided to pursue illustration for my education so I moved back to Los Angeles to attend ArtCenter College of Design to study illustration design. And that’s where I am today. Read more>>

David Diaz

I was born in the late 1980’s to two hard-working parents, Raquel and Jose, in Ensenada, Mexico. We immigrated to the United States with a dream; to create a better life and opportunities for our family. My parents raised me in the communities of El Monte/South El Monte where I made some of my best friends, memories and met my wife. My parents went above and beyond to provide economic security for myself and two siblings, working multiple jobs and creating a successful daycare business for over a decade. Their relentless work ethic inspired me to advance my education, be the first college graduate in our family and eventually receive a Masters of Public Health from Claremont with one goal in mind: Come back and serve the communities that raised me. Growing up in El Monte and South El Monte, my parents at different times in my life had to work multiple jobs. Working so much didn’t afford them the time to cook fresh, healthy meals and so I grew up eating a lot of fast and/or frozen food, picking up bad nutrition habits along the way. Read more>>

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