I first came across Cindy’s fiber work, WKNDLA, at Consort Design and then again at Kit & Ace in Pasadena. She’s able to design inviting and beautiful pieces on a small, wearable scale while at the same time creating larger, installation pieces. Cindy’s studio sits behind her house in North Hollywood with a table dedicated to the smaller, more assembly work and a large wall reserved for the in-progress fine art pieces. She radiates kindness and I’m so excited to share her wisdom with you below. Be sure to keep up with her process and recent work @wkndla and @cindy.zell.
were you working elsewhere before leaving to start WKNDLA?
I left my job as the Senior Display Coordinator at Anthropologie in Santa Monica, California last March to pursue WKNDLA full time. My four years there were spent learning crazy new skills, traveling around the country prototyping and opening new stores, playing with different mediums, and meeting amazing and talented people along the way. It prepared me for a lot of the problem-solving and customer service skills I would need for my own business later on.
was your new path motivated by a particular creative need or personal goal?
I love working for myself in my own space, on my own terms. My mom was a single parent who has been running an online store for the last 15 years. It allowed her to work from home and support our family, which really inspired me to become an entrepreneur myself. I can’t help but make things, so it’s definitely been my dream to do it for a living.
did you receive any particular advice that stood out when starting your own business?
People have told me to be kind to myself, both emotionally and physically. Making art is very personal and when the success of a business is based on a piece of art connecting with other people, it’s easy to get discouraged or feel self-doubt. I sometimes catch myself comparing my worth to other people who seem to have it all together, who are making incredible work, and are moving forward so fast that I can’t catch up. I just try to remember that I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life, so maybe it’s okay to slow down a little without burning myself out in the long run.
where do you gain fuel that inspires your creative endeavors?
When I get an idea in my mind I have to try to make it come to life! Sometimes it doesn’t amount to anything but other times it becomes the groundwork for a new series. I often work very organically, designs develop and change as I work on them. Every morning I just force myself to walk into the studio and something creative happens.
what was the most unexpected aspect of putting together your business?
It surprised me just how little of my time is spent in the studio making things. I think I had this idea that 90% of my day would be purely creative but almost half of running my business is operational. I spend a ton of time photographing my work, updating my website, packing product for shipment, bookkeeping, responding to emails, being active on social media, and shopping for supplies. It’s frustrating sometimes but I also take pride in being a one-woman business where I can do everything on my own.
what kind of vibe did you have in mind while designing your studio space?
I like my work space to be very clean and organized. It’s not always the case in my studio, but hidden storage has been so helpful in creating a calm environment! I hide all my small tools in a credenza and use linen curtains to cover the many clear plastic storage bins stacked on my shelf. My goal is to have a home for everything.
what are some of your work tools that you can’t live without?
I use an acetylene torch to solder my brass structures, a miter saw to cut wood, and a drill, which can do almost anything. Writing this out, I realize that before these machines were invented craftspeople used to heat metal in an oven to solder, and a hand saw to manually cut wood. I’m very grateful to live in a time where these things exist with easy access because I use these tools every day.
what are the top three things someone should consider before changing careers or starting their own business?
I took a 50% pay cut when I quit my job to do this full-time, but I knew that it would only take a couple of years hustling it out on my own to make more than I did before. Paychecks will not be steady, and that’s okay if you plan accordingly. January through March are very tough, and it’s important to take that into account during the holidays to create a financial cushion that will last through the slow months of the new year.
I didn’t realize how hard working for myself would be! I often go days without seeing anyone other than my husband and it can get very lonely. I take extra care to maintain my friendships and seek out other makers for advice and support.
Not every hobby needs to turn into a business. I like making beeswax candles and furniture, but I’m never going to sell them. It’s important to reserve some creative things just for fun because once they become a product you sell, it becomes work, no matter how much of a dream job it is.
what do you currently have playing on the studio’s turntable?
I love listening to podcasts while I’m working. My favorites are 99% Invisible, the Allusionist, First Time Last Time, The Heart, Memory Palace, Mortified, and Strangers. I also listen to audiobooks in the studio, the most recent ones I finished are Spark Joy by Marie Kondo and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Amy Schumer and Anna Kendrick both have books coming out this summer that I’m looking forward to hearing!
•photography by lily glass for sfgirlbybay.
as i posted last friday, i slipped away for a long leisurely weekend in laguna beach. laguna is the perfect southern california beach town, just under two hours south of Los angeles. cute little wood-shingled cottages cling to the overgrown hillsides along with their newer mansion-like neighbors and all share a stunning view of the sun-drenched pacific ocean below. it’s pretty idyllic, so when i was invited by casa laguna to come down and see their recent renovations to the old B&B, i said a very emphatic “yes, please”!
Built in the early 1900’s, casa laguna is as charming as it gets — a castle-like seaside enclave of historical buildings nestled in the heart of Laguna but just a tad down pacific coast highway and out of the bustle of the beach town shopping district — the perfect spot for a weekend retreat. casa laguna has recently been restored to its original Spanish Colonial architecture, reimagining the inn as a luxury boutique hotel while honoring its rich and textured history. With designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard at the helm, an extensive redesign of the guest rooms and lobby was completed and the hotel reopened in April 2016.
the guest rooms have been completely made over with beautiful moroccan tile floors, vintage surf photography and beautiful bedding — in fact, i think it may have been the comfiest night’s sleep i’ve ever had. i need to find out where they got their sheets because i wasn’t the only one impressed by the bedding — several other guests commented to me about just how soft they were. all the doors are painted a welcoming nautical blue and gorgeous tile work abounds — you feel a little bit like you’ve escaped to a far-off Mediterranean island retreat.
a complimentary European-style breakfast is served each morning in the quaint dining room, or on their bright and sunny terrace overlooking the pool, and the hotel has just begun serving a lovely lunch menu as well. which is nice, because honestly once you hit that pool you don’t want to leave. peaceful, uncrowded and the perfect setting complete with lush gardens and a view of the sea. it was so uncrowded that it felt more like you were visiting a friend’s really nice vacation home, rather than a hotel. perhaps, because it was originally designed by one of California’s premier architecture teams, Frank Miller and Arthur Benton, as a home for Miller’s wife Marion. casa laguna has been perched high above the Pacific Ocean for decades and remains one of the city’s most beautiful historical gems and in 2000 the property was recognized as a ‘Registered Historic Structure’ by the City of Laguna Beach.
Laguna is an ideal blend of art galleries, upscale restaurants as well as casual fish taco cafes and divey beach bars, and surf and vintage vibe boutiques. wander around in flip flops and you’ll feel just like the well-tanned locals. the beach town’s allure is best expressed on a famous gate built in 1935 that today stands at the corner of Forest and Park Avenues. It reads, “This gate hangs well and hinders none, refresh and rest, then travel on.” i may be traveling on, but i most certainly will be back to tranquil casa laguna.
it’s been a very hectic few weeks, and the upcoming weeks are proving to be just about the same, so i’m slipping away for a quick couple of days. a mini holiday to laguna beach, california — a really beautiful surf town just a few hours south of los angeles. i’m only taking books, bathing suit, a beach towel, and some sunscreen. okay, maybe a sun dress and some flip flops. if you’ve got any recommendations for me on what to see, read, eat or shop, i’m all ears. but i’m planning on keeping it pretty low key — staying poolside with my book at a cute boutique hotel which i will be reporting back on soon, and most likely sharing on instagram. have a great weekend, everyone! xo victoria