We had the good fortune of connecting with Delphine Lippens and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Delphine, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
“Balance”. That’s a loaded word! Funny enough, the work of Humble Ceramics is all about “balance” and the beauty of opposites and yet, when it comes to our own work/life balance … that is still a work in progress. I do try to give myself one day “off”, once in while, connecting with family and friends overseas or having dinner with a friend at least once a week! Being an entrepreneur, in the first few years of a company, we work such looooong hours, practically every day, and right now, I am learning to delegate so that the company can eventually run without me. To be honest … I don’t know if I’m passionate, obsessed, addicted, or truly inspired and feel like stopping would be interrupting my creativity. I am more happy “doing” than “being” … doing is one form of expression, being of service, and it feels like I am building something that (I hope) will be around for generations to come. I do not have kids (shout-out and respect to all parents) … so one could say Humble Ceramics is my “baby” and am dedicating these years of my life to it.
Back to basics: sleeping well and enough, having periods of doing “nothing”, moments of silence, listening to nature, eating organic as much as possible, having meals with a friend (one-on-one because I do not have the energy for social gatherings at this stage in my life), watching something beautiful, funny or inspiring, breathing clean air and drinking lots of water are my biggest luxuries. It is also important to have a network of support around you; from BDA or DA to fellow entrepreneurs, alumnis from business accelerators, groups of like-minded people, and friends that can hold space for both your successes and challenges.
I have not yet found a work/life balance; I tend to be all in and it’s hard to shift gears. If there is a balance, it will look different for everyone. Who are you? What is your human design? What does that mean to you? I will say that self-care is extremely important, and we are all worth it! The word “self” was such a taboo for so many years … and finally, times are shifting, and many are reconsidering their quality of life, valuing happiness over the pursuit of money with no self-reflection or spiritual awareness (at least I hope). For some people, “balance” will manifest in cycles of minutes, hours or days. For others it will be a cycle of weeks, months or years. If we look at a pie chart, there is commute time (even if that currently means from your kitchen to your home office), work time, family time, social time, networking time, time for errands, house care, car care, self-care time, “me” time (being alone, quiet, and having time to reflect), exercise time, pet time, creative time, pleasure time, etc … that’s my current definition of balance … if you can include all of these in your week, you’re in good shape.
Though I dream of taking a few months off and just go to a quiet place to unwind, I am not ready to do so. Looking at the past 10 years and what it took to be here, what it takes to stay in this perpetual forward motion, juggling 15 plates in the air, I’m sometimes afraid to take a vacation because I feel I might never want to come back to this life. But I am in a momentum and there is a bit of fear in the back of my mind … is it ok to take time off, do I deserve it? If I detach from the business for a few weeks, will I be able to come back and pick up where I left off? Will the business be better off without me? Who am I without my business-related to-do list? Ego and introspection are definitely involved.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
So I just finished an amazing 12-week mentorship program via Grid110 (Through a two cohort-based accelerator programs, Idea-to-Product (I2P) and Residency, Grid110 provides founders in Los Angeles with a growing community of fellow entrepreneurs, expert mentorship, and crucial resources) on top of running the business and wearing about 10 different hats. There is so much to do and so little time! Where to start? There is a period for entrepreneurs where we need the extra help yet not sure if we can afford it or how/when to leap … so we do it ourselves. Letting go of control, learning how to delegate are two big opportunities I need to work on for sure! On the recommendation of a fellow entrepreneur I really admire and respect, I just finished listening to “Clockwork” by Mike Michalowicz and enrolled in their Run Like Clockwork 15-week accelerator program because something needs to change! And it’s never too late to start being better! I’m also organizing the whole business with Trello and that is blowing our minds: the simplicity of it has been an amazing gift and we are streamlining all our systems with it. There are many project-management tools out there, but this one is so simple and basic, it is ideal for how we use it. And we can eventually move to a more complex system down the line … Had I known about it 4 years ago, it would have saved us time, energy and lots of money!!!
Ceramics, painting, photography, writing, creating the online store, running the business … anything I do is a creative expression of who I am, how I see and experience the world, my spiritual process and so forth. In the past, it was painting, drawing, cooking, Dj’ing, massage, healing, and more. What I realized was that cooking served my sense of taste, healing served my spirituality and connected me to my own humanity, DJ’ing served my auditory senses, massage represented the feeling/touching aspect of experiencing, art was/is an expression of the seeing/visual aspect of my being, essential oils tended to my sense of smell … every experience has been crucial in contributing to my (w)holistic selves. I could not do what I do today without having been exposed to so many different careers. Humble Ceramics includes everything I have ever learned or been exposed to and I think part of a master plan which I could never have foreseen because I never had any interest in ceramics; ceramics choose me! Now, all those experiences are at the service of Humble and represent a facet of who/what we are and our ethos … as we continue to learn and grow on a daily basis! Humble is also about creating a matrix of healing for the planet: each time a piece leaves our studio, it brings awareness, mindfulness and joy into people’s lives.
It’s not been an easy path – at all! And there have been many days when I’ve wanted to give up. So on those days, I give myself permission to quit, breathe deeply, feel relieved, and ask myself “now that I am free, if I could do anything in the world, what would it be? ” And after going over a number of options, I always come back to Humble because it is where we have the potential to have the biggest impact and I don’t see myself doing anything else at this time. And I would regret it if I quit! Regret is a bigger weight on the soul than “failure” . As Nelson Mandela so wisely pointed out is that “there are no failures, just lessons” ! It’s been such a tough road (behind the scenes) that I am proud of my strengths and resilience. And the fact that I have an amazing team around me as this is also their story. I think “humble”, “grateful” and “resilient” are some of my favorite words and hope to pass them along to you as you live with our work, seconds or not, each piece encapsulating lessons of life, connecting you to your higher self and divine source. Ultimately, Humble Ceramics is working toward becoming a force for good through social change, and an environmentally conscious company rooted in philanthropy. We have a lot to accomplish and are doing a little bit more every day, within our own limitations, toward that goal.
Every time someone chooses to spend their money on a Humble Ceramics piece, they are investing into all of the above. Just like when you buy organic, you are supporting not only good taste and better health, but also the farmers, the land, soil, water, ecosystems, future generations and all that might be impacted by making conscious (or unconscious) choices.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
– Definitely a visit to Huntington Park’s Japanese gardens … – Matador Beach or Will Rogers Park for a mellow walk at the end of the day, eventually watching the sunset before heading home. – Horseback riding at Sunset Ranch on a weekday or going to the Griffith Observatory on a clear day. – Fried Chicken Sunday @ Farmshop in the Brentwood Country Mart, or Howlin’Ray in Chinatown …and ice cream from Sweet Rose creamery (probably on a different day) – Lunch one day from Gjusta in Venice (I love their Turkey Club) or a sandwich from Bay Cities (Santa Monica) – Visiting a few galleries in Hollywood … then having early dinner at Pho Café in Silver Lake or Viet in Atwater. – Driving around the city looking for cool street art! Some favorites include Retna, Shepard Fairy, Mr Brainwash, El Mac, Alec, Robbie Conal, Jr and Banksy (of course). – A visit to the Santa Monica or Selma (Hollywood) Farmer’s Market. – And lots of time home, cooking, playing, talking, relaxing.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
SHOUT OUT TO : Our wonderful elves (employees & contractors) who make Humble Ceramics possible! (Past and Present!!) If you only knew the hard work, dedication and care that goes into each piece. – Our amazing customers who understand and value what we do and support our vision each time they buy one of our pieces. – Friends and Family who have been (are still) patient and understanding of our long hours and little availability yet keep on cheering and supporting us. – Colleagues and peers who blow us away with their talent. – Our vendors, customers, clients and guests … whose support have allowed us to grow and keep doing the work we love. – Amazing non-profits and the people behind them. – We are grateful anytime someone was patient with us, explaining a new process until we understood it. – The amazing team at VSEDC (Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation) for their generosity, kindness, guidance and support. – Councilman Current Price and the amazing team at District 9. – The incredibly kind, generous, patient and brilliant Grid110 team (Grid110 is THE business accelerator program for entrepreneurs). – We also want to thank everyone who has ever worked with or for us, even if we are no longer in each other’s paths, you contributed in your own way and we have learned and grown from the experience so thank you. – Chefs, designers and architects who included our work in their vision. – A big shout out to South Los Angeles and the people that make this part of the city so special! – The press and all those who keep being interested in what we do … – Mentors and unknowing mentors … THANK YOU!
I also want to give a shout-out to those who write the books we use to make our business better. Right now I am obsessed by Mike Michalowicz’s “Profit First” (turning accounting on its head) … I wish I knew about this when I first started. And no, we are not affiliated in any way to any of the names mentioned: just passing the info forward as they say …
Other: https://www.pinterest.com/AustereChic/ https://www.delphinelippens.com/
Pictures by Delphine Lippens