Our eleventh volume in this series features May Ann Villanueva, a new friend and founder of Studio Fundamentals, a Vancouver-based ceramic studio. As our series continues, we have been looking to reach out and interview people from all walks of life who share our core values. Therefore, we were incredibly excited to venture into the world of ceramics and get to know more about May Ann. If you visit her for a workshop you can immediately notice the attention to detail in the way her studio is organized. The space is free-flowing, clean, filled with lush plants and artwork, and easily enhances one’s creativity. Born during the midst of the pandemic, Studio Fundamentals serves as the catalyst for creating meaningful connections and sparking self-confidence in people when trying out ceramics. May Ann’s dedication to helping teach people and creating a space that allows for total creative flow is why she has gained such popularity in the past few years. Quality and community are also deeply ingrained in the way that Studio Fundamentals and May Ann operate. As a result, we were ecstatic to have this interview and share another amazing medium in this world. 

While conversing with May Ann, we found out her journey as a creative began when she was younger. Through experimenting with her wardrobe, breakdancing, and being introduced to a number of art forms she found her enjoyment in imagining things and wanted to take it further. In 2012, she was first introduced to ceramics but found that she disliked it. However, as time went on ceramics always seemed to be around and eventually became a hobby and time for relaxation. She then began to produce her own work in 2016 and a year later people became interested in purchasing her pieces. It was also during this time that May Ann was working a retail job that she notes did not align with her morals and values. The struggle to find a balance between having financial stability and being able to express her creativity was something she notes was a big obstacle at this point in time.

However, in 2018 she decided to quit her retail job and work at her first ceramic studio where she could focus on her true passion, teaching. In 2019 her own path started to become clearer as she took a leap of faith and set out to start her own studio. Moving a total of three times and increasing her studio size with each transition, May Ann was excited to work on her passion. Nevertheless, she had to shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic. Surrounded by uncertainty, May Ann decided to go out on a limb and open her studio to teach smaller groups of BIPOC and low-income people at no cost. She stressed that ceramics was something helping to ease her mind during this time, so she wanted other people to experience what she felt while sitting behind the wheel. May Ann says that if she had not done what she did, the studio would not be where it is today. Ultimately, it was this community that she offered her space to that helped set the foundation for Studio Fundamentals as they continued to support her even after businesses started opening again. Later, in 2021 she moved into the studio that she has been at ever since and continues to embody quality and community through her own means.

Firstly, May Ann expresses quality in her studio by creating a clean, essential space that allows for full creativity. She also emphasizes to students that they do not keep something that is not properly made. By doing so she sets the foundation for her community to know that their objective is not simply to make something but to learn a skill. May Ann asserts that the object is always going to be a reflection of the skills one has acquired and teaches one to set a standard for themselves. Secondly, she assumes everyone that comes into the studio is there to grow in some way. As such, she uses her experiences from her own journey to translate into how she guides people to achieve their goals. Her focus is to teach a skill in hopes that one day people can follow their own passion as she did. Lastly, she tries to teach on the basis that ceramics are something that are forever in the world. As a result, she tries to make people consciously aware of what can make this object last in someone's home rather than what can entice them to stay connected to it. By staying true to these values, May Ann and Studio Fundamentals always express quality.

For Studio Fundamentals, community has always been its cornerstone. When we asked May Ann about how it is expressed she mentioned that she tries to establish a community mindset in the studio space. A mindset where people look out for one another, both in and out of the studio. She says that being able to initiate action and guide someone as well as tell them that you have their back can create amazing change. Therefore, making these meaningful connections has led to an amazing community of creatives who frequent the studio. From the height of the pandemic until now, it is specifically these amazing people who May Ann has welcomed into her studio as family that have allowed for this creative space to thrive. 

Serving as another medium in this world to promote creativity and kindness, Studio Fundamentals does not seem to be slowing down. By staying strong against obstacles presented as a result of the pandemic and remaining true to her morals and values, May Ann continues to wow us. What's more, she has created a space where quality is expressed by creating meaningful pieces and community established through making meaningful connections. As a result, we are excited to see where the future takes May Ann and her studio. We also hope that this article has introduced you to someone new and inspires you to try out a workshop at her studio sometime.

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