We had the good fortune of connecting with Nikki Lau and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nikki, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I initially had a career coach at the start of my business. The best prompt she gave me was: “In great detail, tell me about your perfect day…now that you’ve written that all out, how do you design your life to make that happen.” My perfect day involved a mix of work, social time and exploring curiosity. I have worked really hard to let go of perfectionist tendencies, and that’s freed up a lot of my time. My mantra is progress over perfection. I stop and take breaks when I notice I’m tired. I intentionally setup my week around social time/exploring and then I plan work around that. This is my ideal balance. It’s not always consistent, but its a model to strive for.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My business is Little Lau Shop. I create playful pottery friends that celebrate big and small emotions and live in a kinder gentler world.
I created my online shop at the height of the pandemic. I was feeling lonely during quarantine, and I could feel my inner child freaking out from all the uncertainty in the world. I wanted to create a world where she felt nurtured and safe, and where you embrace all your feelings.
I have over 14 years of ceramic experience and was mostly doing sculptures for the majority of it. My style formed by combining my sculptures with pottery to create anthropomorphic objects that play well into the world of magical realism. I like to pretend the pots are having a conversation with me and I feel like there’s a friend there and I’m reminded I’m not alone.
I had no idea how to run a business and thankfully my career coach gave me lots of encouraging advice to navigate the start up. I think what helped was getting curious about what I didn’t know, such as starting a website, investing in equipment, figuring out the product, finding customers, and marketing. I asked other artists how they navigated their careers and broke some tedious tasks that I wanted to avoid into 5-10 minutes each day. It was slow, but the more I learned the easier it got, until eventually I had systems in place and things were running smooth. I respected the fact that it was all a learning curve, and I would eventually figure out what works for me.
Little Lau Shop is my baby and I’m so proud of it. I want people that see and purchase my work to have an object in their life that lets them know they have a friend and that they are seen and heard in this world.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My home town is in San Francisco CA! I am a big foodie so most of the trip would be spent eating.
I would start in Chinatown and get some dim sum, I especially love the ones that have carts that roll by your table full of dumplings. Since Little Italy/North Beach is within walking distance, we would have to get some dessert either gelato/pastries or both. The mechanical museum which is on the way, has the best old timey arcade games.
You have to spend a day in the Mission District eating papusas, taco trucks and capping it off with Tartine pastries or a scoop of bi-rite ice cream in Dolores Park.
A must stop for me is Japantown. I love getting bento boxes from the small mom and pop shop grocery stores, eating a bowl of warm brothy ramen, handmade mochi, and matcha soft serve in a taiyaki cone. I’m also a sucker for the $1.50 store.
If you need to work off all that food, hiking around Glen Canyon, climbing the tile mosaic steps of 16th and Moraga St. or a long walk along the coast of Ocean Beach as sunset approaches, is the dreamiest way to end the day.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ve had so many mentors and people that have touched my life. My mom is the first example of seeing what its like to live a creative life. Growing up my mom had a bakery and she made some of the most beautiful cakes and pastries. She had such a steady hand as she piped ribbons of buttercream onto each cake, artfully arranged each delicate slice of fruit and drizzled chocolate onto each eclair. Everything looked like a perfect piece of art with the most decadent flavor. She looked so happy when she was working and I wanted that too.
I went to the University of Washington Seattle in undergrad. It was there that I discovered clay and the love of art. Art felt like this wonderful safe endless world to explore, with lots of stories and complex characters. I remember panicking about graduating (mind you this was 2008) and not sure what was next. I got the most incredible pep talk from Professor Jamie Walker. I ran into him years later when I was in grad school. We both don’t remember exactly what he said, but clearly it was profound since it kept me making art after all those years. All I remember was the desire to not give up, to keep working and no matter what, you will find a way to make.
I learned everything I know about clay and ceramics from community college. After I graduated undergrad, I went to City College of San Francisco and my Professor Oli Quezada was so supportive and encouraging. He saw how passionate I was about ceramics and encouraged me to apply to grad school.
When I got to grad school at Penn State University I had so many supportive peers and faculty. I had incredible critiques, made lifelong friends, and got the chance to push my vision and scale to the limits. I will always credit my Professor Shannon Goff for getting me to and through the finish line. I’m grateful to have had such a bad ass human in my life.
I spent most of my academic career making sculpture, but I started to develop my voice in pottery while living in the east coast. I had so many friends and mentors while at The Clay Studio Pennsylvania, The Clay Art Center in New York, and the Armory Art Center in Florida. It was while I was a resident at the Armory Art Center that I met my career coach Erica Ando, that I started to develop the groundwork for my pottery business. She coached me through the start of the pandemic. I would not be where I am today without her guidance.
Personal Photo: Sandy Lam at The Color Factory NYC.