I'm very excited to introduce my friend, artist Mayumi Akin, as our Mien Muse. I met Mayumi through a mutual friend and have seen her at the same crafts fairs we were attending before the pandemic. I've since become a fan of Mayumi's work, adding several of her gorgeous handmade masks and leather pouchette to my collection. Her home is also an artist's dream - with a sunlit, floor to ceiling windows guest house that was converted from a former ceramics studio, flanked by an architect-designed and published main house with nods to mid-century design and her and her husband's minimal aesthetic combined with her Japanese heritage. It was the ideal setting to capture the transitional colors and styles of the latest Mien collection.
How did your brand Soba Studio come about?
When you hear the name "soba" the noodle comes to mind. There is another meaning for the Japanese word which means "next to" -- soba ni. I thought it suitable since my leather goods are designed to be with and next to you. I still don't really think of what I make as a "brand". I minimally mark my creations with a very small "soba" heat stamp and note that soba is all lowercase to de-emphasize its impact.
When did you discover your love for creating leather goods and art objects?
About 10 years ago my husband brought home some leather scraps from work. They sat at our house for a while and one day I decided to try to make something out of them. I started experimenting with a few designs and found out I really love the medium.
We'd love to learn more about you, such as your childhood, where you grew up, and what led you to become an artist and business owner.
I was born and grew up in Japan during a time before computers and cell phones took over. A time when your imagination was one of your main sources of fun - when you absorbed your surroundings and day dreamed.
I moved to the US in 2000. I have always loved art and music but being a busy mother of two never found an outlet for my creativity other than occasionally playing piano. When I started soba studio it was more of just a way to creatively express myself and the idea of business isn't what I had in mind. Even now I like to think of myself as an artist and some people want to buy my creations. I don't perceive what I do as a business per se.
Where do you pull your inspiration from?
A lot of inspiration comes from the simple traditional Japanese aesthetic that I grew up surrounded by where less is more. I also love the modern architecture of Shigeru Ban and Tadao Ando; and the art of Ellsworth Kelly, Isamu Noguchi and Ruth Asawa. I love evening walks where sometimes unexpected inspiration can meet me with how a shadow falls against a building or maybe a leaf has fallen next to a stain on the sidewalk. Lately the music of Haruomi Hosono has been my soundtrack and always puts me in a creative and relaxed mood.
If you had a whole day free, what would you do that day?
Oh boy... start it with some yoga stretches, then head over to my good friend Jee's cafe WIP in Costa Mesa for a pastry and matcha. Then head up to LA and spend time walking around The Broad, LACMA and MOCA - followed by a bowl of ramen in Little Tokyo then maybe a walk around The Huntington Gardens. Watch the sunset at Abalone Cove then an awesome sushi dinner.
What does the average week look like for you as a small business owner? How do you divide your time between work and personal life?
I am always creating in my studio or in my mind. I don't really consider it work so life and creating coexist side by side with no need for separation.
Your home is beautiful. What is the favorite part about your living space?
The relatively unknown architect Leopold Fischer designed an addition and a studio of our home in the 60s. Both spaces are so tranquil. The pavilion offers bright sunshine and the studio is a private wood paneled retreat. Guess it depends on my mood...
Sedona Jumpsuit in Ochre. Shoes by Allbirds
What is your go-to weeknight meal that's quick, easy and healthy that you love?
A hearty red miso soup filled with vegetables
What can we expect from Soba Studio in 2021? Do you have any events coming up?
Lately I have been experimenting with clay in mushroom shapes to serve utilitarian purposes like as an incense holder or weed pot. Expect more forms from me as I experiment further... TBD - haha. I always have something coming up - follow me at @sobastudio on IG for updates on upcoming events. Also sometimes you can find me helping out my friends at The Inconvenience Store in Costa Mesa.