A native Peninsulan and a Point Loma High grad, Ryan and wife Michaela first met in a ceramics class at Point Loma Nazarene University.
“I took it as an elective to fulfill a credit,” recalls Michaela, adding, “Then I just fell in love with it: It’s addicting.”
“You get really functional things out of it that you can use,” she replied.
For Ryan, ceramics is self-expression.
“So much of what we do on a daily basis is look at things through a creative lens and reinterpret it,” he said. “Ceramics is a fun way to say, ‘I’ll make things that you can purchase, and you get to see the whole process.' We make everything here and sell it ourselves. So it’s just kind of this transparent chain of production, which is fun for me.”
With the help of their folks, the pair moved up to the Bay Area to start their own company about two years ago.
Since then their fortunes have drawn them back to OB where they’ve inhabited studio space at 1918 Bacon St. since mid-June, they have both been busy crafting mostly custom handmade functional tableware.
They’re first big order was doing tableware for Ryan’s buddies at OB Beans coffeehouse up the street. Business took off from there.
“We get a lot of people coming in doing custom orders, or ordering larger (table) sets when they remodel their kitchens,” he said. “Chefs have just started reaching out to us. So we’re getting more restaurants and more small, high-end retail places reaching out. The largest part of what we do is custom sets.”
Michaela noted they both share a minimalist perspective on art — and life.
“Our slogan is care more about less,” she said. “Invest in things that are good for the world, and well made, and just have less of them. You don’t need so much stuff when the stuff you have is quality.”
Admittedly, it’s more costly to handcraft ceramic tableware than to mass-produce it. But you get what you pay for, noted Ryan.
“When you spend more money on stuff, it’s actually worth it for the people around you,” he said. “What we have are handmade pieces, something nobody else has. OB as a community understands that. People living here spend their money here as an investment that helps local businesses. It’s really refreshing when folks come in here, and they’re really on board with that.”
Ryan said they buy their clay by the ton. “We go through probably 50 to 100 pounds a day,” he said.
Maek sells both online and retail. Ryan noted they have tableware products in stock for sale on their website but added, “There are a few different options.”
In the future, Ryan said he’d like to see Maek branch out more. “In the next few years, we’d love to have a second space to invite people into, where we could have some classes, but also just be a place where people can come. It could be a co-op studio where you pay a fee, then come in and use it.”
Referring to other small crafters like themselves as “makers,” both Ryan and Michaela agree there’s more cooperation than competition in OB.
“We’ve had a lot of fun partnering with other makers,” Ryan said. “We try to be community-oriented, supporting other local makers.”
1918 Bacon St.
Info: maekceramics.com, 925-899-3443.