Name: Joona (Jeanne Henzel Swartz)
Business: Owner of The Co-Sew, 1830 Embarcadero, Oakland, CA 94606
Neighborhood: Jingletown / Embarcadero Cove
Industry: The CoSew serves entrepreneurs in fashion, interiors, prototyping and costume
Local Inspiration: I’m greatly inspired by many of our local artists, however (many of whom I get to collaborate with!). Nemo Gould, Ivy Jacobsen, Matthew Passmore (ex of Rebar, now Morelab) and Torreya Cummings are just a few.
Local Accomplishment: I showed my first small sculptures in a local gallery last year. I made two art hats and an upholstery sculpture footstool. It’s funny, because I have had large work – both solo and in collaboration with others – in many local museums (SFMOMA [solo], San Jose Museum of Art [with Brian Goggin], BAM/PFA, OMCA and Chabot Science [all 3 with Rebar]), but [this more recent work] is more personal and closer to my heart.
FB: The Co-Sew
For our second (long overdue!) Meet the Maker interview, we reconnected with Joona to talk about Oakland Makers’ 4 P’s: People, Place, Product and Prosperity. Joona is the owner and main fabricator at the C0-Sew and an active member of Oakland Makers.
Here’s what Joona had to say:
Who are you and what do you make or manufacture?
I have two maker businesses: The CoSew, a membership-based co-working studio for sewing-oriented entrepreneurs that provides industrial cutting, sewing, and pressing equipment, as well as classroom space, lockers, mailboxes, and a conference and fitting room for meeting with clients in a professional setting. And my personal maker practice, Joona Design Playground. JDP offers design, education and fabrication services that include curtain making, upholstery, furniture making and other specialty sewing. I offer classes and private tutoring in textile arts like upholstery, upholstery sculpture, lampshade making, hat-making and specialty sewing.
How did you get started?
I have a BA in Studio Art, [and a DIY MBA!] worked professionally in costume fabrication and design for several years, crafting: hats, shoes, jewelry, textile design, metalwork. After a few years in the not-for-profit theater world, a friend offered me part-time work in her interior decoration studio making slipcovers and pillows and other beautiful things. I eventually bought the business from her in 1999 and rebranded as Joona. The CoSew came about as a result of my desire for creating a community of sewing professionals and the crazy rental market here in the Bay Area. It seemed like a logical solution to a bigger problem. I like to think of it as the “real” sharing economy.
Do you work with other local Makers?
The CoSew is all about working with other makers, of course, but in my private practice I work with woodworkers, machinists, blacksmiths, painters and other artists and artisans.
What keeps you on your toes and focused day-to-day?
My Calendar and LOVE for the work!
What makes Oakland’s Maker Movement unique?
We have a concentration of art and tech happening here that is simultaneously wonderful and economically oppressive to growing makers. Makers can draw from Oakland’s historic (though rapidly changing) diversity for inspiration and cross-cultural collaborations.
Where in Oakland do you make your art? Where do you sell your products and to whom?
We make almost everything here in our 1800 square ft studio at Embarcadero Cove. Some parts of the fabrication process may be completed at the studios of other Oakland artisans. We try to keep everything as Oakland-made as possible. Historically much of our work has been custom, so we have not had a store front We sell via www.TheCoSew.com and www.joonacreates.com We’re currently exploring the feasibility of branching out into designing our own furniture (one-offs and a line) and textiles. Furniture one-offs will be available for sale in our studio, which is currently open by appointment, and on chairish.com. We would love to do a retail pop-up furniture store, though.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your work?
Marketing! Marketing! and Marketing! It is hard to be really good at every aspect of running a business.
What (if any) misconceptions pop up about the Maker/Art community? work/industry and how do you handle it?
Due to the proliferation of off-shore production and low-quality retail fashion and furniture that uses poor quality components and minimally trained labor – it’s basically disposable (think Forever 21, IKEA, or even Pottery Barn) – many people don’t have a realistic idea of what high quality products should cost, or how they should perform. Joona builds artisan pieces with stuffing that should last 30-50 years, not the 3-5 that is pretty standard these days. It can be a bit of sticker shock, even when we educate clients about the difference in quality between our work and off the shelf retail.
How do you make your product?
By hand, with non-toxic adhesives and archival quality materials. Our furniture can use traditional horsehair or latex cushioning with a wool flame barrier. We often create curtains and furniture on a very large scale, as I initially built the studio with that in mind. We have a modular 20’ long table that breaks apart to form personal work spaces for classes or different shape tabletops for cutting curtains of different proportions.
In what ways do you practice sustainability? Specifically, what elements of your resource supply chain have the most social value??
Joona offers only green upholstery services. This incorporates using modern and traditional stuffing materials that are free of chemical flame retardants. We sell the Two Sisters line of organic furniture textiles, and use domestically produced natural wool felt and batting as the flame barrier on our furniture (organic is an option). The reupholstery of furniture is by its very nature sustainable, as we are reusing quality wooden frames – conserving forests and keeping them out of the waste stream. We recycle our waste and compost old cotton battings when possible. I also bought an all-electric car to use on consulting calls, and sometimes commute by bicycle. I rent Zipcar cargo vans when I need to move large things around.
As an artist, how does your work prosper in Oakland?
Last year was challenging, as working on the business plan for The CoSew was my main project, but in general, my work prospers best when I’m collaborating with other creatives.
What do you do in Oakland for fun when you’re not working?
I’m almost always working in one sense or another, but I enjoy hanging out at the art studios of my friends (check out the Lost & Foundry over by the West Oakland BART), trolling the junk stores for vintage finds, sampling all the fabulous new restaurants that are constantly opening here, checking out the local mural art, the OMCA…did I mention eating?
How do you envision the maker industry 5 years from now?
I think there will be some huge strides made in innovative “making” technologies – I’m very interested in seeing where 3D printing is headed and what sorts of additional materials will be developed for use in 3D printers. I’d love to see something cellulosic or ceramic rather than plastic. I’d like to see a resurgence of high-level training programs to insure that makers (or manufacturers, as we used to call them) have a skilled labor pool to allow for more local production.
What does it take to succeed as a manufacturer in the Bay Area?
Lots of hard work, luck and a devoted fan base! I haven’t quite mastered this yet.