ARTIST INTERVIEW: Satbhajan Khalsa of Funmakers
Artist: Satbhajan Khalsa
Satbhajan Khalsa started Funmakers in 2014 as a liquid catering business for all kinds of events from elaborate weddings to small instructional cocktail parties to art openings. She creates original specialty cocktails for events based on the specific needs, aesthetic, and vibe of the event, always using seasonal local produce and ingredients. Her cocktails are original works of art using all handmade syrups, juices, and garnish, always delicious, and above all, help to facilitate a fun and interesting party
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now
After getting my masters degree in marriage and family therapy and working countless hours at a clinic with no pay, I was in desperate need of having some income and some fun adult time away from my then five-year-old daughter Juno. A cook since the age of 8 years old and an avid entertainer, I was no stranger to concocting delicious libations for my friends and myself. On one such occasion, while Juno played with her friend Astrid, Beatrice Valenzuela and I cooked and drank cocktails, and chatted about all kinds of things that girlfriends chat about. Bea suggested that I start a business making cocktails for events as a way to make some income and I told her if she booked me an event, I would figure out how to do it! A week later, Bea called and said she had gotten me hired for a 200 person party in Ojai, I made some cocktails recipes, hired some girlfriends to help me, and the rest was history!
How do you find a balance between practicality and beauty in your creations?
Practicality in cocktails to me is making something delicious that won’t make you feel like crap the next day after having as many cocktails as you like! Because of that, I make all my own ingredient (aside from the spirit) so that I know exactly what is going into the drink. I keep it low on sugar and of course never add any additives or preservatives. Everything is freshly juiced and made with plenty of love. I forage for fruit and flowers to add to the cocktails whenever possible to keep costs and waste down. Because the freshness and ingredients are so important for practicality, it actually adds to the beauty of the creation rather then competing with it.
How do you define success in your art or craft?
Ultimate success for me is staying true to myself. Part of that means that everyone involved in the event, whether it be guests, workers, or myself, have a good time and come out feeling like it was time well spent. I usually hire my girlfriends or my husband to work the bar with me so we have a good time. I put a high value on fun in my life, I like to enjoy myself and watch other people enjoy themselves. Another part of staying true to myself is making sure that I do events in a way that feel natural and organic to me. Much of the bar scene is very masculine, there is a lot of showing off, attitude, and a kind of harshness to many bars. I like to add an honesty and femininity to the cocktail scene.
Who are some current artist, creators, or people working in other fields whose work you admire?
So very many of my friends fall into that category, it’s hard for me to narrow it down. My friend Charlotte stone who makes amazingly beautiful and wearable shoes and is always inspired and inspiring, Miwak Junior who hand makes incredibly beautiful and original pipes, Trailmarker wine, a small batch wine label made by my friends Drew Huffine and Emily Virgil. Sally Peterson is an amazing photographer, working on a project photographing centenarians (As well as contributing to Funmaker photos). Amarjit Khalsa who is an incredible shoe designer and is navigating the world of balancing motherhood and creative outlets. And of course Beatrice Valenzuela who adds so much passion to everything she does.
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
Community is everything to me. I grew up in a Sikh community and went to a boarding school in India for many years, so I learned from a very early age the value of community in my life. It has always been important to me to be surrounded by community, and I have created a community of friends around myself everywhere that I have lived. We eat and drink together, travel, create, support, inspire, and challenge each other. My community has been integral to everything I do, people around me see things in me that I cannnot see myself and help me to see myself in a different way. Without my friends and family supporting me and believing in me, I don’t know that I would have enough faith in myself to let my creativity flow and not get in my own way. With Funmakers, most of my recipes, as well as my interest in creating cocktails were inspired by wanting to make something beautiful for a friends.