Charisse Baker on Disguising An Art Project As East London Juice Co. (And Getting Away With It)

We have a small, square, street-facing window at Ace Hotel London Shoreditch where we slang very powerful life-giving substances. It’s called East London Juice Co. and the people behind it think of it as an art project in disguise. In fact, they call the juice business their “public shtick.” Here, we caught up with Charisse Baker to chat about sustainable futures, how inner health is good for the planet and how the forest teaches us to how to use our energy wisely.

How would you describe East London Juice Co.?

Charisse Baker:
To me, East London Juice Co. is an art project disguised as a juice company.

We craft botanic combinations with organic, fairly-traded or wild-harvested ingredients. We work with methods to form synergistic collaborations between our ingredients, and are interested educating whilst making, experimenting and reporting back from the field, growing, foraging, activating, fermenting, distilling and sharing.

What lead you to start East London Juice Co.?

CB:
“How can we nurture a relationship between business, health, well-being and the arts with a view to a sustainable future?”

This is the question planted many years ago by a collection of connective experiences that led to the pop up turned “pop-by.” Before arriving in the UK, starting a family and setting up East London Juice Co., I lived on my own in the wilderness on a converted ranger station by a Canadian lake, painting and foraging and working in a nightclub (as you do!). Although much has changed in the way I spend my days, from the lake to the city, my vision and intention has always remained the same: I am an artist working toward a connective practice of inner and outer well-being. So in many ways, East London Juice Co. is very much in-line with that same journey.

The juice thing has been less of a lightbulb moment and more of an evolution. I was familiar with making juice — I lived in East London and there weren’t any options at the time. In a way, juice was just a material, it could have been anything, it’s always been more about an intention. I thought the shelf life of the project would be much shorter, like an experiment but it continues on…

I want to focus my life in the forest where I reside.

What are sources of inspiration for you?

CB:
Nature — specifically the forest — is my inspiration and teacher.

The forest supports itself as a whole by using and re-using all available resources. It provides ample resources for its inhabitants’ needs — food, shelter, social structures and somehow always finds its balance. Here are examples of how we can relate:

Slow Growth
This project started with a vision but not a fixed plan. We want to allow for flexibility to respond to change within the project itself and the community it serves. As it slowly evolves, we observe before we act.

Capturing and Storing Energy
Our energy capital should be self-sufficient, not requiring a continual monetary investment. We look for multiple uses of our resources such as using different rooms when not in use; making cookies out of pulp; engaging our philosophy of flow when it’s quiet.

Using and Valuing Diversity
Through the lens, we can place value on interdisciplinary creativity, consistently combining talents and skill sets.

Collaborative Consumption
Sharing valuable resources with the Hotel we are attached to, etc.

What do you think are the most important things humankind can work on in 2019?

CB:
To create new ways of being in the world that shape kinder societies.  

More questions than theories on how.

We are always hearing talk about how boundaries and borders need to be drawn.

And where do you see it going in the future?

CB:
I used to live minutes away from the dispensary at Ace Hotel but have travelled south to turn my personal field of dreams into an allotment of content. I’m currently open about what’s next for East London Juice Co. and I’m keen to evolve it. Perhaps, a partner to take it over to the next chapter or a social enterprise to hold the space — someone who loves the small batch fantastic vibe and who will benefit the current staff. They all take great ownership of the space and I’m proud to see how they’ve carried it, even with me moving out of the city. I want to focus my life in the forest where I reside. There’s been foraging by horseback, woofing, sharing and if I can learn how to write, working on a book.