You’re an illusive character on your IG, but we were lucky enough to get a couple of snaps of you in our workwear. Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
Yes, I tend to be more comfortable behind the lens rather than in front of it, but I’m Jess Laureano – the owner and maker behind Studio Éter!
Can you tell us how your Portuguese heritage influences your ceramics?
Many artisanal practices are intrinsic to Portuguese culture. Ceramics are no exception. I understood from an early age, the importance of quality made goods that were made with love, and the intention of permanence which bare cultural endurance. Ceramic objects stood out to me as they involved eating and drinking around a table, a place where family gathered and the objects had a story.
You fell into candle making over Victoria’s extensive lockdown. How did this hobby turn into another business?
Early on I believed that 'Studio' was broad enough to eventually expand from ceramics. It was always intended that I would expand into other objects as my operation grew.
During lockdown I also became interested in beekeeping, eventually getting a hive and learning the practice. As beeswax is a natural, renewable source that involves no chemical processing it was already my preferred choice for the candles, having context to how honeybees create it and its many applications was further motivation. Beeswax has been used since antiquity as a light source, amongst other things, it has health and environmental benefits, and a plasticity which allows limitless formal opportunities.
As I was unable to access firing services for my ceramics during this time, beeswax candles became my primary focus; I began experimenting with traditional hand dipping techniques in an attempt to avoid using plastic and silicone moulds, until I was able to create a small curated candle range!
As a woman, and a creative, what has your experience been in the workplace and running your own business?
My workplace/studio is serene, I make executive decisions and continue to learn new ways to make production easier. Running your own business is very challenging, it takes away from production and makes things bureaucratic. The justification is that it benefits me solely and not a larger enterprise that exploits its workers. Small business and sole-trader work structures challenge capitalism in a way, and that makes the difficult times worth it. Of course tax and governments still exist, but that's inevitable.
What brings you joy in your work?
Being able to express myself formally and explore the history of my culture through objects.
What is difficult and how do you overcome this?
Getting numerous large wholesale orders at one time can be challenging. The only way to overcome this is to put my head down and work. Thankfully I find candle dipping to be particularly soothing.
Do you have any tips for others wishing to turn a profit from their creative practice?
Do it as a hobby first then pursue it commercially if the demand is there for your work. Always love what you do before you commit to it as a job, as small business is simultaneously difficult and rewarding.
Jess works from her studio on Wathaurong Land.