Setting a table is the final layer of an interior and it’s a ritual that I adore. I get to use my creativity, I can make something beautiful, and it ends with time with people whom I treasure the most.
I’ve always been a fan of the tabletop brand, Juliska. It’s comprehensive and dreamy and captures the chic casual way of life that so many of us aspire to. Plus, unlike so many of the tabletop brands that date back to the 19th century, Juliska is relatively new to the market and has approached the 21st century table through a fresh lens.
I had a chance to speak with one of the company’s founders, Capucine Gooding. With her husband David, they launched the company back in 2001, and are now gracing tables—both formal and casual, from eggs and orange juice to beef tenderloin and roasted vegetables—across the county. And did I mention that Capucine and David just made a major move when they plucked the operation from its origins and moved from Connecticut to Charleston, South Carolina? She’s one busy lady, and I’m thrilled to share her with you here. Meet Capucine.
I know that you spent your childhood in the South and now you are back there. How does it feel to reconnect with your southern roots?
It feels wonderful and familiar. You are right. I was born in France but grew up between Texas and Georgia. I never realized how much of the South played into my identity. I lived in the Northeast for a long time, so things that I thought were unique to me or our family, are things that I am recognizing here.
And can you elaborate on some of those pieces of yourself that align with the southern way of life?
I love the family values and the openness of celebrating family. It’s so precious. All of that has been imprinted on me. That sense of hospitality and consideration, it’s overt here. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly exists in the Northeast, too, it just manifests differently. There is so much emphasis placed on home here.
Juliska is old enough now that is has a rich story to tell, but let’s go back to the beginning. Why did you launch this company?
David grew up in England and his father was an importer. To this day, David pokes fun at the fact that he was born with glaze in his blood. As a child he learned it all from passing out fliers to attending trade fairs to eavesdropping on meetings. He came to the United State for college and worked for a couple of other ceramic brands for a bit. During that time, we met, we fell in love and got married.
While attending a trade fair in Paris searching for new product lines, we happened upon a booth that was showing Bohemian glass. They had the most beautiful and authentic reproductions. After a lovely conversation with the owners, we learned that they were working in the Czech Republic. We negotiated the opportunity to be introduced to the glass blowers and take over the distribution in the United States. There was nothing like this sold here. When it was time to select a name, we went to the origins of the glass. The forms were historic reproductions from the Bohemian Empire, and we wanted a name that would honor the glass. The name Juliska would have been a common woman’s name at the time, and that’s what we went with. For a brief minute, we considered using my name.
Well, it’s a beautiful name. And speaking of beautiful names, you have one, too. Tell us about “Capucine.”
Oh, thank you. My father is French, and as I said before, France is where I was born. Capucine means flower, specifically it is the French word for nasturtium.
Let’s go back to the product. I remember the days when your glass was first on the market. It was so beautiful and unusual compared to what else was available. And now you’ve grown to manufacture products for so many other categories, too. Tell me about the makers behind this wonderful product.
They really are the greatest gift that we’ve ever been given. When I look at what we were doing 20 years ago, it’s with the same people who we shook hands with on day one. One man who has been with us from day one is responsible for making 93% of our ceramic molds. When you are first starting out it can be difficult to capture people’s attention. Usually, the people who will take a chance with you early on are dreamers like you. They are willing to take that leap of faith. We’ve had so much of the same team, even a new generation now. We all have the same formula, and it’s 50% heart and 50% head.
On the other end, let’s talk about your customers, though I don’t like to call them that. People who buy Juliska don’t just like it, they LOVE it! I know that for years you’ve connected with your customers through events and other means. I know that’s all on pause right now, but what can you tell me about the people who buy and collect Juliska products?
We love our customers so much and are regularly out meeting with them. They are just like us, romantics. They love their families. They are cooks. They are florists. They love to talk about the pieces that they have and what they want to buy next. We have so much in common with them, the most important being the fact that we all find a reason to celebrate. That’s what fuels us creatively and connects us with the people who buy our product.
Anyone who loves tabletop as much as I do knows the patterns that have become iconic. Berry & Thread is now one of them. What is it like to have a pattern that is so recognized?
Berry & Thread was borrowed from Antique Bohemian glass, and it’s become the signature icon of our brand. We first introduced this motif on glassware of course, but it translates beautifully to our ceramics and flatware, too. The best part about Berry & Thread is that we’ve just begun. The pattern has graced so many of our pieces, but we are regularly thinking about what we can do with this next. And that’s where our artisans and technicians come in. They are so willing to be innovative and make our ideas come to life. It’s fun to have this classic motif that works in so many environments and categories.
So much of the Juliska branding exposes the product through a true lifestyle lens. And even though that word lifestyle is thrown around so much, people still put the different parts of their lives into buckets. Why is defining a lifestyle for yourself important?
When you identify a lifestyle for yourself, it shows that you are being mindful about choices. It’s as simple as the thought of “I’d like to drink out of a nicer glass,” but it also can include all of those parts that make life a beautiful experience for you, and that’s different for everyone. Juliska has always been a lifestyle brand with intention. Our catalogs are about storytelling not selling stuff. We always ask ourselves, “what experience am I creating that will be meaningful?” We’re not about making spoons and plates. We’re about creating the opportunity for people to sit and reconnect and savor their food and time together.
It’s also important to point out that we are definitely not about being perfect. We celebrate imperfection. From early days, we showed a wrinkled tablecloth and crumbs on the table. That’s how life is. Juliska offers beautiful things that you can chuck into the dishwasher because we know you’re busy. But it’s always about the experience, and not about the stuff that we are trying to sell.
We know that quarantine life has forced us to rethink how we spend our time and what we focus on. What are your thoughts on what will change for long-term living?
We can already see the renewed interest in home and its role as the foundation of family. Forced time together that has been quiet and uninterrupted and has given us the opportunity to reconnect. People are naturally going to want to spend more time at home. We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on acquisitions that are important outside of the home. Dining out, travel, and fashion, to name a few. Moving forward, our culture will change to make sure that the place where we live is where we want to be. And that will manifest through decorating and cooking.
You have such a positive outlook on life, and while we all understand the struggles that so many people have faced because of Covid, there have still been some silver linings. What’s your silver lining?
As a culture. We’ve forgotten the art of authentic conversation, and I feel like that is returning. We have a self-interested society. Our noses are in our phones and we are so “busy” that we forget to connect with people. CODID drove us apart and kept us away from people. All of the sudden, there is so much joy in the trip to the market and seeing the clerk who is ringing up groceries. But it’s important to have a conversation with that clerk. If he’s wearing a nametag, call him by his name. That’s human and thoughtful. It’s a nicety that we tend to neglect because we are always in hurry. Now is the perfect time to connect with complete strangers. I feel that is happening right now and I hope that it continues.
How do YOU want to inspire others?
I hope that Juliska inspires people to create something that is magnetic that draws in their loved ones. When people create something that is beautiful it naturally draws people in. A set table is pretty and it’s interesting. And you can do that with a plain white plate so easily, too. The secret to great entertaining is thoughtfulness and fun. Sophistication is overrated. I want our brand to inspire create special moments with their loved ones their way.