“I’d give it an eight.”
Claressinka has just taken a sip of Joe’s cappuccino. “I don’t drink coffee,” she explains, “but I taste every cup that Joe makes.”
He agrees. “She’s a great judge. That shot was a little fast. We’re looking for a single, viscous stream.”
Joe and Claressinka live in Santa Monica with their dog Poppy (a sweet, snorting pug), among a formidable collection of contemporary art. As a curator and art dealer, Claressinka has amassed an exquisite, particular collection that reveals her proclivity for foggy landscapes, neutral colors, and shimmering pops of color, like an unexpected coral neon on a sea of graphite by Debra Scacco. Joe, a photographer, is known for his classic portraits of Hollywood actors. He describes himself as “a frustrated barista who takes pictures for a living.”
We sit down to talk with them about morning routines, collaborating with your spouse, and, of course, coffee.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on lately?
Claressinka: Joe and I just started working on our first project together, based on the Surrealist Exquisite Corpse game, in which drawings and sentences are completed by a chain of participants, with only parts of the whole piece revealed at a time.
Our project, Exquisite L.A., is a photographic Exquisite Corpse of artists in L.A.—from John Baldessari to emerging artists. I chose the first artist and then that person selected the next, and it will go on and on. I love that the narrative will take on a life and death of its own.
I see it as a cartographic drawing of our city—a collective artist-body breathing in the current moment. Carla Magazine will debut the first series of portraits this July.
I’m also working on a novel.
Joe: In addition to the project I’m working on with Claressinka, I’ve been busy with shoots in town and away for my commercial and magazine clients. I’ve shot recent features for Vanity Fair, GQ, and ESPN, as well as covers for Outside, Inc., and Billboard. I also just shot an advertising campaign for an upcoming Netflix series.
What gets you up in the morning, literally? Philosophically?
Joe: I’m the early riser, so I’m up by 6 am most days, and I try to get a bike ride in if possible. I sneak out and let Claressinka and Poppy sleep in.
Claressinka: I wake up around 8 am every day, without an alarm clock. I always spend a few minutes lying in bed, thinking about the day ahead. Sometimes I’ll try to hold on to a lingering dream and think about what it might mean.
Poppy is very patient and always waits for me. Honestly, she’d probably sleep until 9 or 10 am if I didn’t get up! Once I’m up, she’s ready to eat, so we rush downstairs to the tune of her excited whimpers. If Joe is home, we always eat breakfast together. Most days, I walk Poppy to the beach before breakfast. It really clears my head and makes me feel grateful for where I live.
Who makes the coffee in the morning?
Joe: Sadly, I’m the only true coffee person in the house. When I first met Claressinka, I asked her out for an afternoon coffee. She agreed, but then when we got to the cafe, she confessed that she’s not a coffee drinker. I knew I must have really liked her, because normally that would have been a deal-breaker!
I’ve always loved coffee, but I really rediscovered it through small roasters over ten years ago at the beginning of what is now considered the “third wave.” I travel a lot for work, so I would research the forums on websites like coffeegeek.com and see what each city has to offer. This allowed me to discover some great small roasters before they became well known.
I learned about Blue Bottle through Piccino in San Francisco, when they were both small startups, and I started going to the Blue Bottle Kiosk in Hayes Valley whenever I was in the city. I have a true sense of fandom when I watch professional baristas, and making espresso at home has given me a deeper appreciation for how well it’s prepared at my favorite cafes.
Joe, you grew up in the U.S., and Claressinka, you grew up in England. How do you think these places influenced your morning routines? What is something about mornings where you grew up that might surprise us?
Claressinka: Our childhoods were very different. I grew up right in the middle of London, in an urban area full of constant activity. Joe’s upbringing was more suburban. I was always a fan of breakfast and was lucky to have a mother who made it for me, although as I got older, I enjoyed the independence of making my own breakfast and I would cherish the quiet, dark winter mornings on my own. That’s something I don’t get to experience in L.A.
I have a very strong memory of getting up in the dark to put my school uniform on. For primary school, I had to wear red tights as part of my uniform in the winter and I would warm them overnight on the radiators in our Victorian house. I loved putting them on and feeling their warmth on my legs in the morning. I still miss those old water-filled radiators.
Joe: I think I might have gotten my tendency to get up early from my Dad, who, no matter how early it was, would already be up at the table, drinking coffee and reading the paper. Coffee was part of the ritual for my parents but it wasn’t something that interested me. I still remember the bulk tins of Chock Full O’Nuts, which my parents were loyal to.
I don’t think I ever had a single cup.
Joe, you travel a lot for assignments. How does your morning routine change when you’re on the road? Do you have any coffee tips for travel?
Joe: A lot of my travel involves me heading from West to East, so my mornings often suffer due to the time change. I have my favorite coffee in a handful of cities, but if it’s somewhere new, I’ll do some research, even if it means searching Yelp. If I see a proper machine, a well-pulled shot, and the ubiquitous image of a perfectly poured cappuccino, it’s usually a safe bet that the coffee will be at least very good. My favorite is finding a small shop in a market where you might not totally expect it (aka not the Pacific Northwest). I really love Barista Parlor in Nashville and get to have it periodically since work brings me there.
What’s the hardest thing about being on the road?
Joe: Of the two of us, I travel the most for work and the hardest thing for me is how it interrupts my daily routine. When I’m at home, I like to ride my bike early in the morning, make coffee, and at the end of the day get a decent amount of sleep. All of these routines are compromised when I’m on the road. I’ve made some new routines that are compatible with travel, like walking around a city at night, or renting the shared bikes in cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago. There’s no better way to feel at home for me than to be able to bike around a new place.
If your morning routine had a soundtrack, what would it be?
Claressinka: “Everyday is like Sunday” by Morrissey.
We spend every Sunday together when we’re both in town. The day has become an important part of our relationship. We were even married on a Sunday (a year ago to the day of this interview!).
When we first started dating, I gave Joe an embroidered pillow by the artist Lisa Borgnes Giramonti that said “Everyday is like Sunday.” Joe is a big Morrissey fan, and the Smiths were a big part of the culture in Britain where I grew up. I had another pillow by Lisa that said “Sweetness, I was only joking,” also a Morrissey lyric. When we moved in together, it was sweet to see the pillows united on the same couch. We try to remember the “Everyday is like Sunday” philosophy when things get stressful.
By the time Joe has prepared the fifth and last cappuccino of the morning, the cup he hands over is beautiful. Our boisterous crew is sated and delighted.
Claressinka takes a sip.
“This one,” she exclaims, “I give it a 9.5”
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