Artisan Feature: Salamat Ceramics

Monica Galan thoroughly understands the joy in discovering what moves you, and the intentionality and dedication needed to succeed. The founder and ceramicist behind Salamat Ceramics took her interest in pottery from a creative outlet to a side hustle to now a growing and thriving brand. Salamat—which means “Thank you” in Tagalog and is a nod to Monica’s Filipino background—produces startling home decor objects and kitchenware that elevate the look of your home. We have been huge admirers, with pieces like the Waves Vase featuring in our gift guide, so we were excited to sit down with her to chat. We spoke about her journey, how nature and different cultures inspire her work, and how lessons learned along the way have impacted her growth as an artist.

You founded Salamat Ceramics, a company dedicated to creating beautifully handmade pieces. Tell us how you got to where you are today.

I took my first ceramics class five years ago. I’ve always had an interest in pottery but never gave myself the time to explore other avenues. Once I did, I became obsessed and just wanted to learn more and get better. After two months of classes, I became a monthly member at my studio, and within three months, I started selling my pieces to friends and family. At six months, I pitched Salamat to my first restaurant and made them bud vases for each table.

I was so excited to share my work without any fear as I had nothing to lose. It was just a hobby that turned into a side hustle. I consistently thought about what if and how. I would think about the possibilities of Salamat while sitting in traffic on my way to my full-time job at the office. I worked in the action sports, fashion, and furniture industries. I was always chasing the sort of title that meant nothing to me, trying to find purpose. As Salamat grew, so did I as a person. My priorities changed as well as my dedication. I worked countless hours before and after work, shot photos in the park on my lunch break, and did craft fairs in LA and SF every chance I could.

Once I realized Salamat was what I wanted to do, I finally had a much clearer path mentally and that naturally opened opportunities. I resigned from my full-time job in April 2019 to allow myself more time to focus on Salamat. I wasn't feeling fully financially secure, so I picked up two restaurant jobs and did some freelance. Slowly, but shortly I weaned off of each crutch and am now thankful and proud to say I’m a full-time ceramicist.

Shop Salamat Ceramics

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You live and work in Los Angeles. How do you like to spend your free time when not creating beautiful pieces?

I love to camp, hike, and fish (and also enjoy indulging in my shows and movies). If I can get the chance to be out of the studio, I'll be outdoors. My favorite places are the Sierras and all the little towns along the 395 highway. If I can get away for longer, any road trip or beach is good for me!

How do your surroundings influence the pieces you make?

Nature has a lot of influence on my work as I try to embody the rawness of landscapes throughout my pieces. I try to constantly switch up my surroundings since it’s easy to fall into a routine in life. Culture also has a big influence on me. Typically I would plan inspiration trips—this past year I was scheduled to go to Morocco and Oaxaca, and of course, with everything happening, that changed. Learning about other cultures, seeing their landscapes, and eating different cuisines is a huge takeaway.

What are a few pieces in your collection that you are most proud of?

One of my forever favorites is the Waves Vase. I'm confident to say that silhouette and detail stands as a hero piece for Salamat. I also love the Canyon Mug since it’s so minimal, but I am even more excited for a similar mug releasing in mid-December. It’s almost like the Canyon and Tide Mug combined—simple and comfortably functional! A few other pieces coming for 2021 are the Hoodoo, Arroyo, and Cove Vases, everyday pieces that are elevated and affordable.

You make everyday objects in beautiful, intentional ways with stoneware materials—what goes into your design process?

I like to incorporate subtleties that have been prevalent in the collection and think of different ways I can tell a new chapter. For instance, the marbling in pieces throughout the collection has been a technique I've used all throughout the development of Salamat. I work on creating different and timeless silhouettes that are simple and functional. One of the last steps when finalizing pieces is that I’ll leave it on the shelf for weeks to months, and if I still love the piece every time I look at it, it stays.

What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?

There are a few takeaways. The first is if you want it bad enough, you can make it happen. You’ll have to work as hard as you can, pushing your limits ... but if you don’t, that means you don’t want it. Next, work with the resources you have—just because you don’t have fancy equipment doesn't mean you can’t do it. Lastly, pay it forward. To have empathy is something special, to let others know how important they are with the little things they do to help us get by. We gift our pieces to strangers, neighbors, and small businesses in our neighborhoods, it’s our small way of saying, "Thank you."

One tip you have for a ceramic artist wanting a breakthrough in the industry?

It’s not a competition, it’s a community. Lift others up and support them. Move at your own pace and opportunities will come if you allow them to.

The holidays are fast approaching—which of your pieces are go-to holiday must-haves this holiday season?

I just released my 2021 collection on December 14th! Tons of new mugs and tumblers for your mornings and wine sips for the evenings. We’ll be shipping every day by 10 am until Christmas.

What is next for you and Salamat Ceramics?

With this wild year that we’ve all gone through, I’m fortunate to have grown and think about what our next moves are. As of now, I’m working out of my home studio in Highland Park. The plan, and goal, is to look for another studio space as well as start hosting beginner pottery evenings at my home in the Spring. A small one-to-four-person group, with private, intimate, and socially-distant classes.

While seeding the 2021 collection, I'll also be launching my Studio capsule. Studio is a second tier to Salamat, with one-of-a-kind pieces that are elevated aside from the Salamat core collections. Studio allows me to break away from production work and create freely. I’m excited to have developed this second tier as most of my earliest followers can see how I’ve grown as a brand and person throughout my work.

Photography provided by Monica Galan, Shot by Justin Chung and Amber Maalouf