Tea People: Julia Lemke of Totem

We’re always in search of the perfect vessel to drink our morning cup o' tea from. We recently met graphic designer and potter, Julia Lemke, and instantly fell in love with her ceramics. We knew we had to share her unique work with you. Her cups are all hand thrown from Black Mountain stoneware and fired in a gas kiln. Her simple forms combined with traditional craft create these warm and earthy creations that look perfect filled to the rim with a steamy steep. Check out our Teaware page to find your next favorite go-to tea cup.

What was your initial spark of creativity for starting totem? 

Totem started out as an outlet for my side projects while I was in school. I was making jewelry, ceramics, weaving, etc and it was a way for me to pay for those hobbies. As I started to sell more pieces it became clear that that was something I wanted to pursue more seriously. It's been my part time project for 4 years, and full time for a year.


How did you make the transition from graphic designer to ceramist? 

After graduating with a design degree, I worked in an interior design studio, and it became clear there that my interests were more spacial + product based than digital. I've been freelance for a year now, and I still work as a graphic designer, but I've found that I feel more energized and inspired doing pottery + product design. For me the two go hand in hand though - my pottery is deeply influenced by design, and the craft inspires my design work.

We caught up with her in the studio to learn more.

Why the name Totem?
A totem is an object of symbolic or spiritual significance, and my goal with all of my work is to create some sort of deeper connection to everyday objects. 

Who did and do you see using Totem and what for?
I'm mostly interested in creating functional objects - cups, dinnerware, spoons, etc. but I also enjoy making more artistic objects like the little stoneware hands. I think that Totem is for anyone who places value in everyday objects, and appreciates the simplicity of form and material.

Do you have any tea or coffee rituals (including or not including your own creations)?
So many coffee and tea rituals! The first thing I do every morning is make coffee in the chemex. I don't believe that you're either a coffee or a tea person, I have both every day. Right now I'm obsessed with matcha, mostly because I love the ritual or preparing it.