Tell us about yourselves.
Aloha! We’re Peter and Juwels — husband and wife, creative partners, and above all, best friends. When we met, Juwels was a competitive skateboarder. She was sponsored by some pretty huge companies, appeared in magazines and flew overseas for photo shoots. In 2006, Juwels and I published a novel to great reviews. It briefly became required reading and then a banned book at a Los Angeles public school. We’ve had many creative projects over the years, but our most recent offering is a line of antique bottle-shaped beeswax candles. Now we make candles on our tiny stove in our big red honey pot.
About three years ago, Juwels and I left our fancy top-story loft and moved into a 1975 Winnebago Chieftain. We bought “Miss Winnie” and immediately received a lot of dubious looks from family and friends when we announced our plan to simplify our lives and expand our horizons. There was a lot to be sacrificed, no doubt, but I was taken by the idea, and continued to nibble away at her conventions. The idea of being able to travel easily finally won over Juwels, and we first exercised that freedom when we flew across the Pacific to enjoy our four-month honeymoon in Southeast Asia. You will soon be able to keep up with our adventures in our Winnebago Diaries.
Besides creating things, what do you do?
We’ve recently discovered an abandoned horse ranch near our studio. It’s a wonderland of wild edible plants, tree frogs, butterflies, raccoons, flamboyant skunks, and about a million feral cats and song birds. The footpaths of this forgotten ranch have become our local escape these days, but other pleasures include going to the hot springs to give the old birthday suits a soak, having friends over and spending the night making food, telling stories, creating new recipes, thrift store hopping, people watching, bargaining massages out of each other, researching child prodigies, sliding across our bamboo floors in our warmest pair of socks, being nostalgic about whatever season we just left, and all sorts of other things which keep us young and deepen the smile lines below our eyes. It’s a lot of work, but we’re like two friends in the same class, sneaking our little moments and passing notes all day long.
What would be the name of your memoir and why?
“Level Ground” because we believe that life is about searching for a balance.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Our inspiration comes from the great delight that we get from sharing. Whether it’s a new type of food, a piece of music, or a special tint in the sky, the instinct is always to nudge the person next to you and say, “Check it out!”. Creating things is just a wider reaching nudge.
Also, we’re always inspired by a good cause, and with this project in particular, there’s such a great opportunity for environmental and health progress. Most candles are made from chemical paraffin, a byproduct of petroleum. But honey bees produce an organic, smokeless, ionizing, sweet smelling fuel. It burns longer and brighter than any other wax, and these days with millions of bees falling victim to Colony Collapse Disorder, it’s very important to employ as many bees as possible. They say that we vote with our dollar, so vote for our buzzing bee boys!
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade is the cliff swallow, building a mud nest on a wall where vertical meets upside down. It’s about finding the patience to slow down and accept the pace at which one person can progress through many detailed steps. It’s the power that we all have to bring something into existence that just moments before was a fleeting thought or curiosity.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
From the finger paints and play dough, to the mashed potato snowmen and paper boats, we all start off as curious beings, makers and learners. The challenge, though, is having the courage and determination to sail into the “real world” in your paper boat amidst a swirling sea of cargo ships from China.
How would you describe your creative process?
Our creative process is kind of like a verbal, and slightly telepathic, game of ping pong. Ideas bounce back and forth across our little kitchen table, scattered with notes, tools, and materials, and when the ball suddenly unravels into a beautiful butterfly and floats around the room, neither of us know exactly who did what.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
It would be great to press an eye to the keyhole of Nikola Tesla’s laboratory. Yes, strange nights when he and Mark Twain would laugh and shoot spider webs of lightning from mysterious metal coils. That would be a sight to see.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
The Winnie is by far our most cherished handmade possession. Our stained wood counter tops began as a few sheets of furniture grade plywood somebody left out in an alley, and our little claw foot bathroom vanity was stuffed headfirst into a dumpster and covered with ants. The ladder which hooks to the edge of our reclining bedroom was pulled out of an old motor home in the junkyard, and our kitchen sink was an antique wok which we found in a small shop in northern Vietnam.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
We stop eating and start drinking. A good raw juice and smoothie fast can really cut the background noise out of your head. We seem to equal each other out through our combined strengths, but if we were to hit a rut, or if we just wanted to soar a little higher, simplifying the diet down to a rocket fuel would be the prescription.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
We dream of branching out beyond our little Winnie stove and studio space to someday find the Pollen Arts home base on a simple, green piece of land with plenty of plants and animals, beehives, solar power, spring water, and open airy work spaces full of good people chatting over the music.
We’re currently renting a large studio space at an artist collective. Watching thirteen creative people, from all walks of life, live and work together has given us some pretty unique ideas about what we can do to keep our future team happy and healthy. Juwels will surely be passing around some of her raw food snacks and smoothies. The idea of being able to offer a free on-site daycare and an arts and nature program for our employees with small children really tickles our family bone. This way our moms and dads can have lunch with their little ones and enjoy a visit to the goat pen, flower gardens, or watch the chickens scratching up the soil.