Joya by Gogy Esparza
Project Statement by Frederick Bouchardy
"Never Stop Painting."
My father-in-law wrote this to my then four year-old son during the summer of 2020, in the heart of the pandemic—somewhere near the end of lockdown, in between settling into a groove and total restlessness. They hadn’t seen each other in almost two years, but I send photos of Lou’s art all the time.
Abruptly in March of last year, about a week before the mandated NYC lockdown, we decided to close the studio for the sake of the team’s safety and well-being—and to protect the company from so many unknowns. We focused on establishing a modular process and protocol for when we could get back at it. (Our work demands a physical presence.) Then, we shifted attention to lending a hand, small-batching sanitizer and soap for first responders and vulnerable neighbors.
I worked late and leaned into homeschool in the daytime: 360-degree lessons about Hindu and Greek gods, volcanoes and fossils, sounds and steps toward reading. I was made for this and eager. Everything was perfect, except—Lou wanted to play, draw, make up songs, dress up and explore. The structure was perfect for me, not him.
“Never stop painting” moved me and felt like a philosophical mandate to adopt. It likely applies to us all. We say we don't have time but must express ourselves to feel valuable and whole. I was shaken when considering how much creativity I had forsaken. Entrepreneurs often do this: Their skills can be overtaken by running aspects of the business itself.
As a kid, like many high achievers, I easily picked up on shortcuts to good grades and rewards—to cultivate satisfaction and amplify those feelings and to put aside my own struggles and the suffering of others. Now, I prefer to study myself, to improve my relationships with others, work toward openness and understanding. I’ve been transforming my pain since last year into unrestrained creation: learning, writing, drawing, mixing scents, weaving stories and connecting.
Joya is a scent brand, design studio and manufacturing company all in one. Made of creators—from design to production, assembly, applying labels to cartons—it is a genuine team effort, impossible without these collective contributions. Emerson refers to a perfect (Italian) definition of beauty: "“il più nell’ uno.” Nothing is quite beautiful alone; nothing but is beautiful in the whole."
I've spent my life chasing perfection and only recently prefer to notice differences, defects and embrace chance—and, now especially, to support resilience in myself and others and focus on the process of recovery, how meaning is created out of love and heartache.
Gogy and I have been close for a long time. On the surface, we are so different, yet we share many of the same values and passions.
In 2018, we discussed making a film about the spirit of Joya—not an ad, but a raw reflection on the nature of this endeavor and the teamwork, hard work and dirty work that underpin our mission.
The film was shot in 2019 and finished around the end of that year.
As we prepared for release at the end of January 2020 and in honor of the new decade’s first New Moon, Gogy and I hosted an event at the studio. Friends and family, peers and clients were invited to view the film for the first time, alongside those starring in it. The atmosphere was intimate, and Onyx Collective performed the score live. I made a “Lunar Dust” experimental activation with invisible scented mist, and collaborator and friend Tom Fruin loaned us lit water tower sculptures for ambiance. Our boutique was transformed into a gallery that displayed the company’s diverse creations over the past 12 years.
People stayed very late. Gogy DJ’d. We didn't know this would be our last gathering of the kind for some time. It was perfect.
As news of the pandemic spread, we decided to wait to release the film and project. And, as social movements inspired long-overdue conversations about access and inequality, we played our position, prioritizing the voices of those we all needed to hear.
It finally feels like the right time.
Some team members have moved on to other roles, companies, pursuits, homes. This project represents who we were, who we are and who we will be—all at once.
We have learned throughout the pandemic how much people value our work. They appreciate authenticity, craftsmanship—and want to scent their homes and skin, to take time to treasure and care for themselves.
We aim to show a different side of how beauty gets made, to inspire courage and togetherness. The products and projects we have been developing for years don’t have to be perfect. We only need to stay aware, focused and grateful, to take risks and keep painting.