How Homa Studios Went From College Senior Project to Curvy Ceramics Business

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Homa Studios is one of those rare college senior projects that morphed into a real-world artistic operation. In 2017, the brand was born in Montclair State University's Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, as part of a 3D-printing class offered by The MIX Lab, when Altarik Banks joined a peer in making vessels for a local New Jersey coffee shop. While his colleague ended up pursuing another path, Banks kept at it, seeing the potential in ceramics crafted with 3D-printing technology.

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From Banks' vision stemmed a line of dining essentials and vases that showcase curvy, playful forms and the natural earthen hue of the clay used to build them — though, more colorful options are on the way. The language used in Homa's product descriptions perfectly captures both the design approach and intention: slooow, silky, balance.

"It was kind of an accident that grew into something beautiful … I really just stumbled upon design, and I didn't always consider myself a designer and wasn't always practicing design," Banks tells Hunker. "However, I had a vision of making something that added value to people's everyday lives." Coming from a line of carpenters who valued working for themselves, the 27-year-old creator also knew that he would one day start a business of his own.

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Urban Nomad was actually the brand's original name when Banks was partnered with his peer. However, he wanted something that better fit where he saw the venture going. The founder began by translating the word "nomadic" and came across the Bulgarian version of the word: "homa." Appearing similar to "home," Banks liked that the word sounded as though it had a feminine connotation to match his ceramics' curvy design style.

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After graduating in 2018 with an undergrad degree in psychology, the East Orange, New Jersey, native was able to return to Montclair's entrepreneurial center as a design entrepreneur in residence and mentor. "They gave me a welcome home to work on designing and learning more about the business," he says.

Now, just four years later, Homa is officially incorporated and will be moving into its own 700-square-foot showroom and studio courtesy of Makerhoods, an organization building live-work creative communities. Homa's new home will be located in the Krueger-Scott Mansion in Newark, which has been re-developed to include 10 shops with apartments on top. Though not yet open to the public, Banks has been able to move in his tools as he begins to envision what the space will look like.

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Within this physical location, Banks' production process doesn't start with a specific idea or sketch. Instead, he turns to his cloud-based, 3D-modeling software Fusion 360, in which he conceives shapes and gives himself the freedom to play around. "What are the outcomes I can get from pulling, subtracting, twisting, turning, lofting?" Banks asks himself. He also utilizes previous forms to virtually sculpt new ones. For instance, Homa's Ampersand Vase came from the Local Cup.

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Once he settles on a digital design, the creator will 3D print multiple variations. He will continue to alter his piece digitally until arriving at a figure he's happy with. Banks then 3D prints molds of the model and utilizes slip casting to produce the actual ceramic. Taking a less is more approach, the exterior material is wet sand-finished without glaze, making the organic surface smooth to the touch. Inside, the designs are glazed a neutral white.

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In the future, Banks aims to expand Homa's range with materials like glass and pieces of small furniture, like stools and side tables, along with lighting. In early 2023, the furniture will hopefully be a reality for Homa's customers.

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Yet, no matter the medium, Banks hopes that Homa will bring "calmness and warmth to your everyday life," whether in your daily dining routine or when placing flowers in a shapely vase before company comes over.

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