Today we’d like to introduce you to Alaina Thai.
Alaina, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Starting my own ceramic business was not my first idea or intention. Ever since I was little, I was always drawn to art and loved creating things. Eventually, I found a passion in creating clothes, so I went to FIDM in Los Angeles to study fashion design. After finishing my program, I started to design for many different clothing companies. For a while, it felt like a dream come true, but after working in the industry for 8 years, I realized I had lost myself.
I started to become very unhappy as a fashion designer and began to lose my sense of purpose. I felt alone and exhausted from being overworked. I would regularly have mental breakdowns from the stress and realized that I was not prioritizing my health. This, along with my personal struggles during the pandemic, caused a decline in my mental health, and I knew that I needed to make changes to be happy again.
As a stress reliever, I began to do pottery to distract myself from the negativity. There was something about getting your hands dirty and working with raw material that grounded me. I started to dedicate more and more time to it because it freed me from my anxieties that I had developed from work. Slowly, my creations were starting to improve, and people were starting to take notice on social media. I decided to dive deeper and impulsively bought a wheel. With my at-home makeshift pottery studio that doubled as my laundry room, I began filming more video content and made some new ceramics friends along the way. Soon enough, local and out-of-state shops started to reach out to me for wholesale inquiries. I could not believe it, but I have finally started something of my own.
After two years of having ceramics as a side business, I decided to quit my stable job to pursue ceramics full-time, and I have never been happier.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It definitely has not been a smooth road. Quitting my stable full-time job was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. I did not financially prepare myself for quitting or have a solid plan in mind; I just ran with my gut feeling. I knew that if I did not quit now, I may never do it, especially at a later age when there is less room for mistakes. This was such a difficult thing to do because of all the uncertainty. I did not know if I would be able to pay my bills or if I could make a sustainable living off of a ceramics business, but I knew that I would regret it if I never gave it a chance.
After quitting, I was faced with many challenges that have not crossed my mind before. Taxes were different now because I was no longer an employee but a business owner. Everything I was earning went straight back into business, so I wasn’t actually making any money. Running a business was way more work than a full-time job because I never actually clock out. It feels like a one-person team to run production, photography, marketing, managing my website, fulfilling orders, etc., but I remind myself that I would not have it any other way. I get excited to wake up now, knowing that I am in charge of my own schedule and can go nuts with creating anything.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
If you are familiar with my brand, Little Match Studio, and me, you know that I love matcha. I make functional handmade ceramics/pottery inspired by tea and tea-ware. I love functional art, so being able to use the pieces gives my work a second meaning. Little Match Studio is best known for the Little Match-a bowls that are the perfect size for a single or double shot of matcha. Its built-in spouts allow for a smooth pour, and they come in either a single color glazed or checkered design. Other popular items include the flower bomb checkered tea cups and the Yin Yang tea cups, which I spend a lot of time crafting to put the intricate details on the design.
I am proud that I trusted myself and decided to pursue my passion full-time. It was a big decision, but it taught me that if I set my mind to it, I can do anything.
If you are like me, I can’t function in the morning without caffeine, so making matcha has become a daily ritual that reminds me to be in the moment. I think the thing that sets my brand apart is how each piece makes you feel, when you hold it in your hands, drink out of it, or just if you are simply just admiring it. I hope that my work has this unspoken message of bringing calmness, clarity, and mindfulness just like when you whisk matcha. Tea really is the core inspiration of Little Match Studio because every piece is not only designed to be meaningful, but it makes the experience of making and enjoying tea a little more special.
Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
I think risk-taking has to somehow make sense in the end. If you are able to risk it and are willing to put in 100%, then go for it! If you are half in and half out, then I would suggest otherwise. I think when you also choose to risk it all, you have to be strong no matter the outcome.
I have taken risks in the past. Growing up Asian American, my parents wanted me to pursue something more practical, so they were not very supportive of my choice to pursue fashion design as a career. But things slowly started to turn around after I started working with many different clothing companies in LA. Of course, risk-taking never really stops, you have to keep challenging yourself and growing. When I felt like I wasn’t growing anymore, I realized it was time to start something of my own. I think that taking risks is a part of life, and sometimes you need to take charge in order to create great changes.
- Little Match-a bowl – $45
- Yin Yang tea cup – $35
- Checkered Matcha bowl – $60
- Wavy Cups – $35
- Loop Mug – $50
- Website: www.littlematchstudio.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/littlematchstudio
- Facebook: facebook.com/littlematchstudio
Self Portrait only – Ryan Chua