I met Janaki Larsen for the first time during her winter pop-up shop in 2013, after months of interacting with her only through Instagram. I got there at 11 am on opening day, an hour after it had opened, not expecting having to manoeuvre 'round throngs of people eager to snap one of Janaki's bowls.The crowds had already spilled over to the quiet residential sidewalk by the time I arrived. I saw it - this intensely fervid hunt for that special, one-of-a-kind, handmade piece of utilitarian art, coupled with that all-too-familiar and universally-dreaded, crazed holiday-shopping frenzy. It was a little terrifying to be in the thick of it, especially because I was expecting a somewhat idyllic and relaxed opening day. Le Marche St. George does not exactly bring to mind the hurried pace of big city life. The decor inside this much-lauded general store, for instance, evokes a certain type of nostalgia, charm, and comfort in the same way that pastoral settings, cobblestoned paths, English cottages, and penny candy bring to mind. The garage was freezing cold, and it was a freezing cold morning to boot, but all I had to do to momentarily escape the frenzied rush of people hunting for gifts was to marvel at the little details Janaki and her friends have created in that small and humble space.
I was standing in line holding two minuscule bowls - the only pieces of pottery I was able to acquire on that first day. Slim pickings after only one hour. I should have figured her pottery (and the pop-up shops she schedules only a few times in a year) have a cult following. Just before it was my turn to pay, I look up to see a woman smiling at me, punching numbers through a POS machine. I suspected she was Janaki, and I went to introduce myself, but she had recognized me too, she said, from one of the self-portraits I had posted on Instagram. We could not talk for too long, because there was a long line of people waiting to pay after me, but I remember feeling very pleased I could finally put a face to this person I had been following in Instagram since I first discovered her work.
Summer Camp is no different from that winter pop-up shop I first attended. Janaki moved the venue from the garage to the room above the cafe - a slightly larger venue this time. The result is a bright and airy version of a campsite, filled with natural details - driftwood, stones, florals, cords of natural rope, succulents. These decorative accents complement not only her iconic ceramic pieces, but also the vendors she has invited to show alongside her - Mandula Designs, Sausalito's CP Shades, House of Hudson Jewelry, the mixed media photographic works of Klee Larsen, the paintings of Patricia Larsen, Uashmama, Greybelle Designs, and a few others. These wonderful artists' pieces play off of each other's quite beautifully. Pure harmony.
Janaki sold us some pieces before she officially opened the pop-up shop to the public, and we were more than elated to be one of the first to own some of her latest pieces. This batch is definitely far more textural than the ones she had on her winter pop-up shop. Janaki is a self-appointed texture-fiend - texture is what drives Janaki's glazing process. Her pieces often mimic colours and textures found in nature and deteriorating structures and objects - melting wax, barnacles, peeling paint, and cracks in dry desert soil, to name a few. Who would not be inspired to make a meal in any of these?
Summer Camp opened its doors this past Saturday, the 31st, and is on until June 8. I visited again yesterday afternoon, and a lot has changed since Melissa and I previewed and photographed the pop-up shop before opening day. I was pleased to note new additions to the shop - House of Hudson jewelry, some mixed-media shadow boxes, and fragrant Woodlot candles.
Here's to Summer.