A native Angeleno, Catherine Yan Lustro was happily entrenched in New York before a reluctant relocation to Silver Lake, east-central LA’s hipster hotspot, in 2019.
Yan Lustro, who works in media and entertainment, moved to New York after college and lived there for nine happy years. Returning to her home city felt like an unwelcome plot twist, she says with a smirk. “My husband dragged me back to LA kicking and screaming. He’s also from LA and wanted to be closer to family.”
Sitting in her sun-dappled backyard, surrounded by lush plants, Yan Lustro says the move felt fortuitously timed. While New York felt the full, brute force of the Covid-19 pandemic, Silver Lake proved a “safe haven”.
“We lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and now it’s difficult to imagine enduring the pandemic in such a limited space.”
And while Yan Lustro still misses the sheer vivacity of New York’s cultural life, Silver Lake offers numerous compensations. There’s that backyard, for one. But like Williamsburg, Silver Lake has a distinctive neighborhood feel that encourages getting around on foot.
“I can just walk out of my house and be on Sunset Boulevard, and there’s just so much around me,” says the artist. “We’re also bordering Echo Park, so we’re between the reservoir and Echo Park Lake – it’s been great to have lots of water nearby.”
The move also allowed the couple more space, enabling Yan Lustro to follow her passion.
“I had a grinding lifestyle in New York, and after many years, I felt disconnected from my body and nature,” she recalls. “A friend had suggested that I take a pottery class, and I immediately felt a spark of inspiration and creativity. I have a personality where it’s all or nothing, and I just threw myself into it.”
After moving to LA, she invested in a wheel. Throwing clay became a vital means of solace and support. “During the pandemic, I felt isolated and lacked a sense of purpose, but all that fell by the wayside when I was on the wheel,” Yan Lustro shares. “Throwing is an immensely grounding experience, and I naturally returned to it over and over again. It slowed me down and cleared my mind in a way that few things have before.”
Yan Lustro also found Claytivity, a pottery studio just a 10-minute walk from her home, where she could connect with local and like-minded people. “It’s an incredible space,” she says. “The founders took over an old furniture store, and now the studio has dozens of wheels and outdoor space. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in having that community.”
The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, or “finding beauty in the imperfect,” as she puts it, has deeply influenced her pottery style. And she admits that, at first, there was more imperfection in her work than beauty. “It’s such a humbling art form. When you start, nobody is good at it,” she observes. “But then you focus on the beautiful parts and work at it again and again. It’s incredibly repetitive, but that’s the way you hone your skills.”
Over time, her work has become more experimental and abstract, but the drive is always to find beauty in simple forms. “I’ve always been deeply influenced by the Japanese aesthetic – the minimalist, non-intrusive clean lines, while emphasizing organic shapes and neutral tones,” says Yan Lustro.
Pretty soon after arriving in Silver Lake, Yan Lustro started posting images of her work on Instagram. “At the start of my practice, I created pieces I used daily, and it brought me so much joy, knowing that I had turned this lump of clay into something tangible,” she shares. “I thought others might enjoy them too, functionally and aesthetically.”
She was right. Yan Lustro soon found herself fielding requests to buy her work. She set up her online business, Cyan Ceramics, while continuing to flex her creative muscle on social media. “I’m the kind of ceramicist that likes to experiment, so I was testing out lots of different shapes and forms to see what worked, but also to see what other people gravitated towards,” she explains.
As her online business took off, US interiors giant West Elm invited Yan Lustro to be part of its “LOCAL Makers” program. “It was a real validation of my work and a highlight of my journey, but life also happens, and I became pregnant shortly after,” she says.
As a part-time ceramicist – Yan Lustro still has a demanding day job at a production company partnered with Netflix – and with a baby on the way, she continued the West Elm partnership for three months before pausing the opportunity. Yan Lustro plans to continue experimenting and playing through ceramics but doesn’t intend to make a career of it.
“The relationship between what you create – your art – changes when you rely on it to put food on the table, for better or worse,” she explains. “I’m not tethered to ceramics in a way that a lot of people are to their art form, and I think that has allowed me room to experiment and have a more relaxed approach to my growth.”
Remarkably, given the demands on her time, Yan Lustro tries to get out every day and explore her neighborhood. Like Williamsburg, Silver Lake has seen rapid transformation and an influx of new businesses but, says Yan Lustro, retains a singular identity.
“Silver Lake has gone through monumental changes over the years, but it’s still diverse in many ways,” says Yan Lustro. “And what I love most is the abundance of mom-and-pop shops and smaller, curated businesses. I think that’s what keeps the charm of Silver Lake intact.”
A favorite spot for retail therapy is Mohawk General Store. “It’s such a well-curated boutique of designer apparel and accessories,” she says, adding that the owner has a keen eye for chic pieces. “It’s important to support these small businesses in the community, especially after they took a hit during the pandemic.”
A quiet, contemplative morning coffee is also part of her daily routine – so much so that she named one of her ceramic collections Ritual after the custom. ”In the mornings, I have those initial moments to myself where I prioritize my energy, and that ritual to me is almost sacred,” says Yan Lustro. “I wake up, drink coffee from a cup that I made or whisk matcha in my spouted bowl, and it truly grounds me before the day kicks in.”
Silver Lake is a mecca for fans of modernist houses, but it is also, as the name suggests, rich in natural spaces. Yan Lustro is a regular visitor to Silver Lake reservoir and meadow and Echo Park Lake in the evenings – a calming come-down after a high-intensity work day. “I feel like green spaces are incredibly regenerative,” she says. “When I’m in nature, and outdoors, it really brings me back to this place of balance.”
Ceramicist Catherine Yan Lustro highlights her favorite spots to dine and unwind in LA’s rapidly evolving enclave.
This pared-back coffee shop is the perfect place to go to forget the noise and hustle of everyday life. The space is as bright and clean as the coffee, procured from specialty growers in top coffee regions like Honduras, Costa Rica and Ethiopia.
Nothing elevates the mood quite like fresh floral arrangements. This local institution – 25 years in business and counting – always offers something unique, whether it’s beautiful in-bloom wraps, extravagant bouquets, potted succulents or curated gifts.
From tortoiseshell Ahlem shades and Chelsea boots to Smock linens and Waste Yarn knitwear, everything at this beloved store has been carefully selected and thoughtfully displayed. It’s chic without being pretentious.
Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the US, and that’s reflected in restaurants like Causita, slang for “friends” in Peru. Grab a seat in the sunny, vine-covered courtyard, and explore a menu full of vibrant, colorful Nikkei (Japanese and Peruvian) dishes.
The art of ceramics runs deep in Japan, and this shop highlights that tradition with an eclectic selection of items. Bowls, plates, cups, chopstick holders, teaware, sake cups: all well-made and reasonably priced.