We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan Shoemaker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, what principle do you value most?
I think that my moral code all stems from integrity, I grew up in an extremely religious home–both for better and for worse–so growing up, being integrous was just one of those things that was a generational through line with lots of crossover into other values. As I transition into adulthood though, I’m realizing how honesty and integrity, if taken seriously, will take each of us on a particular journey, one that will cause us to ask difficult questions about our cultures, countries, and commerce, and how they have a hold on our day-to-day actions. In light of that, one way I phrase my “purpose” is to take responsibility for my agency, and to use my life and work to open up a dialogue with the folks I am in relationship with. Our company motto flows directly from that: “Care more about less.” I love the phrase because it’s a way to place emphasis what we can do, while still acknowledging we are surrounded by a culture of spreading ourselves too thin. It can mean many things to many people, and that sentiment alone is an important reminder for me to approach the world around me with an allowance for many iterations of what it means to “be good”.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The world of ceramics is simply the world itself, pottery was one of the things that made humans human, as it coincided with the ability to cook. So it’s simultaneously intimidating and liberating to engage with such a storied and sacred medium. There is nothing new about what we do, and its nice not to have that pressure. Our story began in a university ceramic class when we sat next to each other for 7 hours a week, it was in that class where we made the first run of wares for OB Beans. A year and a half later I moved into Michaela’s parents driveway in a truly disgusting ’92 Chevyvan that was purchased from a beach hippie in PB. Bear in mind her parents had met me on like 5 occasions before this, and did a lot of explaining to the neighbors on my behalf, their unwavering support of our idealism was kind of unbelievable looking back. For a couple years we took over about a third of her dad’s barn-turned-workshop where he ran his finish carpentry business, We had so much to learn, and lost multiple kiln loads to silly mistakes, but we took nice pictures and did our best to put people first and remain accessible to a younger audience than has typically been reached by a handmade ceramic company. Overall the early days were filled with lots of premarital commitment, trial by fire, arguing about business strategy, and collapsed pots, it was incredibly fun. At the end of the day, I think our business is successful because Michaela and I approach work so differently, To be honest, much of the most strenuous effort was finding a route forward both of us believed in and felt represented by. I guess the biggest lesson I’ve learned in that respect is that trusting who you have chosen to work with will suffice when you don’t agree. As a brand we can truly stand by that sentiment!
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Oh boy, this is fun. As much as the places you go are important, its also about the folks you roll with and the vibe you want, you can find a lot more than a pacific coastal retreat here. Architecture, animals, food, Chicano culture, native plants galore, museums… definitely pick a path that suits your interests from the start. Some of Our non-negotiables are: the Zoo, Supanee House of Thai, A wander through one of San Diego city’s historic neighborhoods (Hillcrest, Normal Heights, Barrio Logan, South Park, Golden Hill etc.), a culinary creation from Stella Jean’s Ice Cream, and a pastry or 12 from Wayfarer Bread. Coffee: OB Beans, Coffee and Tea Collective, and Scrimshaw are three of our faves. Food: Its Raw Poke, Ortiz’s Taco Shop, Buona Forchetta, and anything Chef Phillip Esteban has up his sleeve will leave your taste buds reeling. Sights: Balboa Park, Sunset Cliffs, a drive from Solana Beach to Leucadia on highway one, Petco Park (and its food), the Salk Institute (maybe a trip to snorkel the cove while your there). Cant really go wrong in SD, its pretty. Beer: Mikeller, Modern Times, June Shine (yeah yeah its kombucha), Thorn. But one of the other 300 or so craft breweries will do you fine. At the end of the day, make sure you eat at a taco shop (the sketchier the better), do something in the ocean, and drink beer.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I mean, we simply would not have had the safety and security to pursue this venture without the copious emotional, financial, and spiritual support of our parents. They offered us the freedom to finish our degrees (Michaela–my partner in life and work–has a masters in business) and then turn around and play in the mud because we believed in it. They have modeled for us what it means to work for what you believe in, and that it might create a non-conventional work-life. We also wouldn’t be here without our neighbors and supporters since day 1, OB Beans. they have taught us how important it is to have a relationship-driven business community. Almost the entirety of our business is working with other small businesses, not just because it works, but because its more satisfying to have a collective of people successfully working towards a world they believe in.
Nominate someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.