We had the good fortune of connecting with Joy Durham and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joy, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
The idea for my business developed while sitting in the waiting room of my 7-year-old daughter’s prosthetic eye specialist. With a crochet hook in hand and a small plastic bag filled with yarns sitting at my feet, I sat mindlessly crocheting a scarf for my young nephew who asked me to make him a scarf for Christmas. I noticed a middle-aged mother approached the reception desk clasping her son’s hand tightly in hers as she spoke about insurance issues and deductibles that she couldn’t afford to pay. After some time had passed, I overheard the reception tell her there was nothing they could do and didn’t know of anywhere they could refer her for help with her son who needed prosthetic eye treatment. I remember my heart’s concern for that mother and child as we left our appointment and drove home. I finished the scarf for my nephew Miller and he wore it to school and on the same day, my sister called because other parents had been asking where Miller got his scarf and could I make them one too. At the time I was a budding documentary film-maker and didn’t really have the time to make a dozen more scarves, but I also needed cash funding for more video equipment. The following day I bought more yarns and made more scarves and more orders kept coming in. A few weeks later my producer came over and found me up to my ears in yarns and scarves. The first words out of his mouth were “Looks like you’ve got yourself a fun little business right here in your living room!” We both laughed and spoke more about it, and he encouraged me to consider naming it. Within the next few moments, I named it Sunshine Scarves, after my daughter who had lost an eye when she was 5-years-old. I moved even further in developing out the idea for my business by adding a charitable aspect of giving 50% of the profits to The Sunshine Foundation for Prosthetic Eye Care. Both my business and The Sunshine Foundation were birthed together, hand in hand, just like that mother and son I had seen earlier that month in the Doctor’s office. Now they, and others would have a place to go for help with prosthetic eye care and the sale of each scarf would bring knowledge to the charitable foundation and support families in need.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As a creative designer of handmade goods, each item I make comes from a visual concept in my mind brought to life by the creative energy of my hands and heart. A piece of who I am is in each hand-crafted scarf. What sets me apart from another scarf maker is my 25-year career in the fashion industry as a model being influenced by some of the top creatives in the industry. Breaking all the rules and doing it their way, unconstrained and free-flowing with their artistic spirit. I’m most proud of my inner growth and character, to which all the hard precipices developed within me. I’ve got great heart and good cheer and my company reflects that. I’ve got serious pieces that reflect deep beauty and professionalism, and fun rockstar pieces that break all the rules. The greatest lesson I’ve learned in business is patience. “Slow and Steady Wins the race” is my motto, and it’s served me well. It keeps me from measuring myself against other businesses’ and designers and keeps me informed with the knowledge that I’m still building and it’s perfectly fine to go at my own pace. I’m not too big on the whole Brand idea and concept. I’d rather my scarves speak for themself…
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite spot in the city is my backyard…I host numerous dinners every month and invite all my friends and friends of friends. One of my best friends is an incredible chef named Jeremiah and I’d rather sit in the comfort of my own backyard with incredible wine pairings with food and celebrate life with those I love. I’ve always loved house parties because of the intimacy and space and surroundings that reflect the life and interests of that person. If I had a friend staying, I’d pop them in the guest room or our vintage trailer parked in the backyard. We’d enjoy morning coffee in the hot tub, then some shopping right outside my front door on Melrose Avenue. After shopping the trendy section of LA, we’d jump in the car and span out into the city of Beverly Hills and grab a cocktail and enjoy a jazz trio at the Honor Bar and shop the streets. When we’ve had our fill of designer goods, we’d head into downtown LA for an early eve dinner at M.Georgina, one of my favorite moder-airy, bright, and delicious spots. We’d order the campanelle pasta, maitake mushrooms, and the duck for two. Once we’ve finished, we’d head out to Santee Alley and then roll over into The Last Bookstore for some visual fun and the chance to pull an old favorite out of the bookshelf as a token memory of the trip. I might (if my friend can keep up with my pace), head to The Row for more shopping and bread buying at Tartine, and then check-in to see if any pop-up Art Galleries are having showings. As a nightcap, I’d head to my good friend Daniel’s stunning early 1900’s Parisian Salon-Styled Bar called The Wolves. When you’ve lived in LA for over 25 years, the city becomes an ever-changing friend. One that you need to keep growing with to keep up. I’ve been so fortunate to have friends in every creative space, from the arts to entertainment and nightlife, as well as food and good fun at house parties and my own backyard. There are too many directions I can in, so it would depend on the mood between my friend and I.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Miller Houska, my nephew who asked me to make him a scarf for Christmas in 2002. Without that request, I would have never dropped down into my true artistic passion for scarf-making and design, nor would Sunshine Scarves exist today. Thanks Miller! Love you to the moon and back down again.
Joy Durham (photographer) All images uploaded