I’m excited to introduce a new series: Meet the Maker. Every month, I’m interviewing one of my favorite makers. We’ll get a glimpse into their creative process and what inspires them to keep creating. First up, my friend Wen of Sora Designs.
I first met Wen at the Kindergarten drop-off/pick-up. I noticed her right away, because she’s got this fresh, effortlessly-cool style. Just standing next to Wen, I knew I wanted to be friends with her. Pretty soon our sons became good buddies (their birthdays are even a day apart!) and then we followed suit and became friends, too. Wen makes the most gorgeous, fun jewelry and sells it all in her Etsy shop, Sora Designs; and she does frequent markets and shows in the Bay Area (and beyond). I’m lucky to call Wen my friend, and I can’t wait for you to get to know her, too.
Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Wen and I make colorful jewelry out of my home studio in the sunny San Francisco Bay Area. In my previous life, I was a senior research analyst working at the Judicial Council of California. Five years ago, I quit my day job and worked full time for my business, Sora Designs.
How did you get started making jewelry?
I knew from a young age my path in life should be in the arts, but opted for a career in academics. I came to the United States for graduate studies and eventually got my Ph.D. in early intervention from the Joint Doctoral Program at U.C. Berkeley and San Francisco State University. While in the graduate school, I started making jewelry as an innocent creative outlet for my mom, sisters and friends. My hands would always be busy sewing or knitting or wire wrapping or baking goodies if not working on my dissertation.
Was it scary to take the plunge into selling your jewelry full-time?
You bet it was very scary to switch tracks. However, my Etsy shop was getting momentum and I couldn’t keep it as a “side job” anymore. In addition, my son was only three years old at that time, so a flexible work condition was very attractive. Luckily, my husband was very supportive of my decision. Or maybe he already know where my heart was. He couldn’t really stop me anyway.
Describe a typical day at your house.
My schedule is really revolved around two things: Sora Designs and my 8 year old son. I think American school system is not designed for households with two working parents. There is constant pick up/drop off and school holidays. Someone needs to be there for the children. I feel so lucky that my schedule is flexible even though I put more hours into my work than when I was working for someone else (ha ha). So our typical weekday is: wake up at 6:45am, make breakfast, pack lunch, get my son to school by 8am, walk 30 minutes and stretch for another 15 minutes, check emails and answer customer questions, print orders and make to do list. I have two part time assistants help me on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday by making and packing orders. Having help is a huge improvement for my business so I can have Tuesday and Thursday working on new designs and finding materials. All packing has to be done by 2:40pm. Then I go pick up my son at school and go to the post office to drop off all the orders. We do some grocery shopping or go to his piano lesson or tennis lesson depending on the day of the week. Then we go home and make dinner. I usually have to check Etsy convos and answer some more questions in between. I might catch some Japanese drama online after Tomi goes to sleep at 9:00pm.
What inspires you?
I draw inspiration from almost everywhere, but there are some central themes that are pretty constant. The first theme is floral and fauna. There is nothing like wandering through wispy branches, sculpted shrubs, and layers of blooming color and texture. I could lose myself in a garden or field for hours. They are the perfect juxtaposition of art and nature. You can see those components in my 3-D garden collections and all the critters and creatures in my designs. I also draw my inspiration from the hustle and bustle of city life. The walks in the park, cooking with family, shopping, stuffing my face with food from a new cafe in town, and always enjoying people watching. These have all inspired and shaped me to become the person that I am today.
What are some things you like to do with your family?
I like to cook with my family. I also like the fact that I am home when my 8 year old comes back from school. He also likes to make his own little craft projects while I am working on orders. The house feels so harmonious when both of us are working quietly on our own projects. On the weekend, I like to go hiking with my family and hang out at the coffee shop. We read our own books and doodle on napkins.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Believe it or not, I like to play with different materials for new designs in my spare time. I find I become stressful if I don’t have the time to just doodle on designs and experiment with findings.
Not only is Wen an incredibly talented artist, and a beautiful person, but she’s got the kindest heart I know. She threw the most thoughtful going away party for me and the kids. Her son is this darling ball of sunshine. He’s smart and funny and so polite. We miss them both very much. Take a look at Sora Designs, and I know you’ll find a piece you can’t live without; Wen truly puts her heart into every single piece she makes. Thanks, Wen, for giving us a glimpse into your creative process!
Find Sora Designs here: