Inside the Brooklyn Studio Apartment Where Ceramicist Teya Kepila Lives and Creates
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to Brookyln, NY, where ceramicist and holistic health coach Teya Kepila, lives in a cosy rental apartment.
Teya Kepila’s Brooklyn apartment is actually the exact opposite of what she was looking for in a new home. The ceramicist and holistic health coach was dead-set on one of the classic brownstones or spacious lofts unique to the borough, but ultimately fell in love with this apartments’ natural lighting and commitment to sustainability.
“The building is fuelled by recycled energy, and each apartment features sustainable materials like bamboo floors, recycled cork cabinets and coil heating in the floor,” she explains. “My partner and I saw countless apartments, but this one had the healthy energy that we wanted to incorporate into our lives.”
One year into their lease, and the two are still incredibly enamoured with their studio apartment. With comfort and self-expression at the centre of her design strategy, Kepila slowly decorated the space with nature-inspired colours, carefully-selected secondhand furniture and plenty of her own hand-thrown ceramics. The finished product is equal parts studio and living space, complete with a pottery wheel and a cosy bed adorned in Bed Thread sheets in Turmeric.
The space is also the birthplace of her ceramics studio — a new branch of her online brand The Turmeric Times. Kepila actually picked it up post-COVID at a studio in her neighbourhood, and has since turned the hobby into a full-on side business. “I mostly made pieces for our home, but I eventually realised that I could share my work with others,” she explains. “I’m constantly evolving and tweaking my business to meet the most current version of myself.”
Ahead, find Kepila’s thoughts on manifesting your dreams, starting a business during COVID, and decorating a space suited to your personality.
Hi Teya! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I'm a ceramicist that handcrafts pieces fit for daily use in the form of dishware or vases. I always infuse loads of love and meaning into my pieces, and they are each unique in their own way. Clay is unpredictable and uses the natural elements of life, earth, air, water and fire, to create something perfectly imperfect. To create a piece that is made with such purity – and potentially use it for a lifetime – makes this work so special. I’m also a holistic health coach that works with a small group of clients in a more private, personal setting to support them on their health journey.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I always try to make before I shop – it's personal and intimate. The act of making is to forgive any perfection or expectation and just simply sit with what you can do and love it in its entirety. My personality used to carry a lot of perfectionism and expectation, and I feel that being a maker –especially using something so unpredictable like clay – challenges me as a person and strengthens the love I have toward myself.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I’ve had a very intuitive career journey. I got a job at an organic smoothie shop in California at 14-years-old that opened the gates to health for me. I learned loads about superfoods, high vibes and of course what having a job was like. I also took ceramics for three years in high school, which unknowingly set the stage for my work today.
But it took years for me to embrace these two passions full-time. I didn't go to a university and instead took a job at The Soho House in Malibu, which taught me a lot about the hospitality industry. When I moved to New York, I picked it back up at The Soho House in the Meatpacking District and jumped right into trying to survive in the most energetic city in the world.
After a year of working there, I felt run down, chewed up and spat out. My heart knew I was not pursuing my purpose and it rippled throughout my entire life – I guess you could say that this was my massive fall before I started to shine. I quit my job, took a class at Cornell University and attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to further my education in holistic health coaching.
When Covid hit, I took that time to slow down and reconnect with myself. I wrote down goals and slowly made them my reality. I took on clients as a health coach, even when it was scary and new. I found a ceramics studio near our Brooklyn apartment, got a membership and taught myself how to throw on the wheel. I mostly made pieces for our home but I eventually realised I could share my work with others by selling it online.
Shop Teya's look with our Olive Throw.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
My creative process is not very organised or structured. Sometimes, I’m inspired by a good old music jam session. Others, it takes thought, measurement and planning. But I’d say my ceramic creative process is based on purpose and message. For example, when I make mugs, I always think about how a person would hold it and what would catch their eye.
To me, the most magical thing we can do is be present with ourselves and love everything the moment holds. So, it's not much of a process as it is a state of mind.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your business?
Your mindset is the most important thing! Even when the business is going through a dry spell or a massive plate order comes through and they keep shattering in the kiln, the mind is what will win. View these challenges as a temporary game, which you always win at the end.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learned so far in your business?
The importance of going with the flow. Businesses naturally shift so much and there’s no avoiding it. Embracing the ebbs and flows of my business made it feel more passionate and intuitive, rather than forced.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?
I was able to fully come into my own as an individual and believe in myself. I now know that I’m capable of it all – I can turn my thoughts, hopes and dream into my reality. Once I jumped head-first into starting my business, I feel like I finally found myself, and I think a lot of that had to do with letting go and allowing things to fall into place. I’m so grateful for the life lessons that got me to where I am today and I look forward to the learning experiences I will inevitably come across in the future.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
Love every little step as its own! Wherever you’re at in life is exactly where you're meant to be. Remember that everything is temporary, so take what you can get from each phase while you're there. I used to live in the future and didn’t believe in myself. But if you’re consciously grateful for everything you have and do one thing to better yourself each day, you are growing.
Also, success has no definition. Be proud of all your efforts and love yourself. If you currently feel challenged, try to learn something from it and don’t view it as a personal misfortune. The universe will only give you what you can handle. The strength that you need already resides in you. All your answers are right in front of you. The mind can get loud and disruptive when it comes to taking chances and living the life you dream of, but listen to your body and hear what your heart has to say. You deserve it all.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
This is our first place in Brooklyn and we're approaching one year. This home is seriously a dream.
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
We actually wanted a classic Brooklyn brownstone or loft when we first started looking. But we did love the lighting and location, and the building aligns with our values – it’s fuelled by recycled energy and each apartment features sustainable materials like bamboo floors, recycled cork cabinets and coil heating in the floor. I was so used to well-loved pre-war buildings with so much foundational character that this apartment almost felt too elite. But now I can't imagine living in any other space.
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
No, we didn’t make any renovations – we just added shelving and loads of plants.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
We basically wanted to feel hugged by the space, like when you’re in the arms of someone you love and trust and the outside noise melts away. To create this atmosphere, I went with a neutral colour palette inspired by nature, and filled the space with plants and floor lamps to create moody, ambient lighting at night. The couch, chairs, coffee table, bedside tables and the ladder are all pre-loved pieces from my favourite local secondhand furniture stores.
We always burn incense and open our windows to bring movement to the space. Even though this space is thoughtfully designed, it feels very “lived in.” A year into our lease, we're still pinching ourselves.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
I love the coffee table; it's large, low and heavy. It doubles as a floor desk or even a dining table – we’ve had countless dinners there filled with love and laughter. I adore sitting on the floor and this table makes for the perfect intimate gathering place.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I’d love to add some long, wooden beam shelving in the kitchen in place of cabinets. I love the open kitchen look and as a ceramist and I dream of keeping my pieces out for people to see and enjoy!
Which is your favourite space in the apartment?
Definitely the bedroom! It's the perfect sacred space to disconnect from the world and embrace the moment with my partner, whether we’re watching a movie, chatting over tea or resting. It's important for us to keep the bedroom tidy at all times, not only because it's a studio apartment, but because it makes bedtime that much more calming and special.
Shop Teya's look with Turmeric and Oatmeal in our Build Your Own Bundle.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Design it in a way that makes you excited to come home and fill it with love. Try to create a space that feeds you positive energy, even when you're sitting still. Figure out what colours, shapes and designs inspire you to live healthier, work smarter, get ready slower and be more “you.” Your home is a reflection of you. Get to know yourself and create a living space that matches and elevates your energy.
Can you tell us a bit about your Bed Threads linen? What made you choose these hues?
I chose Turmeric sheets because of the magical healing properties of this spice. My Indian heritage has a huge influence on the medicinal herbs and spices I use daily as a part of my holistic healing. My business is called The Turmeric Times, or the era of healing. I’m so drawn to this earthy, vibrant yellow – it brings such a calm and rejuvenating energy. I love how it adds zesty life to the room while keeping the bedroom a place of bliss.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
All the love I’ve put into The Turmeric Times is slowly being poured into a cookbook. It’s filled with plant-powered recipes for gentle nourishment paired with mindful affirmations to strengthen the relationship with food. Additionally, I'll continue doing small-batch ceramics for small businesses and commission orders.
Shop Teya's look with Turmeric and Oatmeal in our Build Your Own Bundle.
For more from Teya, follow her on Instagram @theturmerictimes.