Object & Totem
Like most high school grads, when Julianne Ahn enrolled at Rhode Island School of Design, she didn’t exactly have a plan as to where it would take her. But after graduating with a degree in textiles, she still didn’t really have a clue, so she headed back to class—this time at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago—where landed an MFA in fiber and materials studies.
“I graduated during 2007, and everyone was looking for the same job in Chicago,” she says. So she packed her bags and moved back to Philly to be with her parents. After a stint at an emporium for awesome, artisanal goods, she took some time off to consider her next move. To help deal with the anxiety that came with not having that steady paycheck, Julianne enrolled in a wheel-throwing class—a sort of clay-as-stress-ball approach.
But she was so taken with it that her coping mechanism became an answer in and of itself: She launched Object & Totem in 2011 and has been creating modern, rustic ceramics ever since. “It’s very haphazard. You have to throw yourself into it,” Julianne says. “Working with clay definitely keeps me in the present.” –olivia seely
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A genius poet, master pastry chef, and scarf-designing superstar—yah, we’re talking about one person. Born in Dubai, Rawaan Alkhatib spent her early days surrounded by peacocks and gazelles. “This definitely contributed to my animal obsession, which you can find in my writing and design,” she says. In 2002, she headed to Brown University, eventually landing in an MFA program in Iowa. “It’s the only place where you can be at a bar and a stranger says, ‘So are you a poet or what?’—and you can say yes and own it,” she recalls.
In 2011, Rawaan found herself in New York with a fancy degree and, while poking around for jobs, started making scarves. In 2012, this side project went official (oh, and she landed a 9-to-5 at a luxury flash-sale site, too).
Scarves appeal to her for two reasons: She wears them a lot and comes from a culture of headscarves. “Silk is so magical—it keeps you warm when you’re cold and cool when you’re warm. It has a history of being used in luxury items, but it’s functional,” explains the designer, who hopes to add bags, clothing, and stationery to the mix down the road. “I have no real artistic training—merely boundless enthusiasm,” she says. “But this feels the most right of all the harebrained schemes I’ve had.” —alisha prakash