Apiece Apart Woman: Janaki Larsen

Apiece Apart Woman Janaki Larsen
 
For Vancouver artist, business owner, and mother Janaki Larsen, the line between working, living, and creating is blurred, or perhaps nonexistent. Among other roles, she is owner of the Le Marche St. George cafe and market, as well as a new showroom, 7E7. Creatively, her focus is on her own ceramic practice, where she creates beautifully functional (while intentionally irregular and "imperfect") vessels and dinner wares.
 
Janaki is an astute observer of these roles, treating her experiences like one would the process of working with clay: surrendering to the process, the imperfection, and the discovery that comes from each. 

Photos by Gillian Stevens

Apiece Apart Woman Janaki

Can you share more about your upbringing — where you are from, what your childhood was like?
I am the daughter of a painter/ potter mother and a painter/stonemason father. My childhood was spent either outdoors, catching tadpoles in ditches or in the studios of parents and their friends. I grew up in two different landscapes. One the Alberta prairies and the other the coast of British Columbia. Both have had significant impact on my aesthetic. Alberta with its tasty colors and shadows and the coast with its tide pools and eroded cliffs. Mostly people are curious where my name comes from — Hare Krishna parents!
 
You are involved in many different businesses in Vancouver. How do you manage your time between these roles? 
The work/life balance doesn’t really exist for me. We have a café which is managed by an amazing team and we recently opened a new showroom 7E7 that sells my ceramics and other art and objects. My studio is adjacent to that space. It’s busy running three things and also having a family! Mostly I consider myself a full-time potter now, which makes me extremely happy! I am doing what I love so I don’t feel the need to separate things in my life.

Apiece Apart Woman Janaki

What are some of the current themes or projects that are holding your main focus right now (either in your work or in “life” more generally)?
I have been preoccupied with the concepts of control. In particular, self control. I have never felt that much of a desire to control my ceramics; I’ve always challenged what I was taught to be the “proper” way to make something and always loved the unpredictable nature the materials. I love the way clay responds to your body and in turn your thoughts.
 
I feel a very intimate relationship to some of the things I make. They are little manifestations of my thoughts and feelings at the time I am making them. I have been practicing making very free and unselfconscious forms without too much emphasis on control or a preconceived idea of what it should be. This is definitely tied to my life at the moment as well. I find as I become older I am become more feral and wonky and I am happy about that.

Apiece Apart Woman Janaki

How has this evolution manifested in your life outside of work? 
I’ve always loved the concept behind Wabi Sabi: “all things are impermanent, all things are imperfect, all things are incomplete.” I’ve appreciated these qualities in objects, in nature, and in other people…but not in myself. In the past I haven’t afforded myself the same forgiveness for imperfections and unpredictability that I do to other things in and around my life. One day I became aware of this and made a conscious decision to apply this philosophy to myself as well. I guess it comes down to accepting myself in all my forms. In ceramics one of the first things you must do is “center” your clay. Once it’s centered you have the freedom to make it as free and loose as you want but it must be centered in order to hold itself together. I find this very helpful metaphor in my own life. I can be as wild and wonky as I want as long as I remain “centered.” 
 
What “non-negotiables” do you hold in your daily or weekly routine? In other words, what things are required for your own quality of life/health/wellness?
For a lot of years my studio was part of our house. It was in the yard, the closet, the garage…While it was convenient, it was also very public and I was often interrupted by visitors and staff from the cafe. Once I moved into my current studio it became very clear that I was missing solitude in my life. That now has become my favorite times, the times where I am alone and have time to let my mind wander freely instead of constantly reacting to situations which I find exhausting.

Apiece Apart Woman Janaki

What makes you feel most alive? 
I think the elation of being inspired. That’s my favorite feeling.
 
What are some cultural touchstones you consider a part of who you are today — i.e.: what specific films, books, artists, places, etc., have been most influential in shaping you? 
It’s funny because I don’t think it’s people or manmade things that have influenced me as much as nature and particularly light. I am visually insatiable; I constantly see things and make visual associations between objects and words and feelings.

Apiece Apart Woman Janaki

What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
Since having my daughter seven years ago my motto has been “this too shall pass” and more recently while I was preoccupied with someone else’s business I told myself to “mind my own happiness” and that struck me as pertinent! 
 
What recent feelings or ideas have held most value to you? 
I have been trying to practice acceptance. Acceptance of all of the feelings, the situations and just let them be what they are without trying to manipulate them, change, or control them.