Namu Home Goods founder (and former goop staffer) Diana Ryu became fascinated with wood after she and her husband moved onto a property with a hundred-year-old oak tree in the backyard. The tree was protected by the city; if anyone were to cut it down, it would result in thousands of dollars in fines and possibly several months in jail. When Ryu started EMDR, a mind-body healing technique, she used that oak tree as her totem: She imagined it—and herself—holding strong through harsh winters, standing in its place, knowing it would still be standing there when spring came.
After a woodworking class where Ryu watched beams of wood snap metal saws in half, she was drawn to the people who had developed the skill of working with—not against—wood’s natural strength and resilience. She discovered a monthly woodworking magazine from Korea that became her guide to this new world. She traveled to Korea for six weeks to meet the artists putting their bodies and hearts into working with wood. And then Ryu launched Namu Home Goods, a curated line of gallery-quality wood objects that display the talent of the artists who make them—and the life of the trees they’re crafted from.
While Namu Home Goods has taken off, Ryu admits that leaving the corporate world to start her own business wasn’t exactly a stress-free experience. “I do still have so much fear around leaving stability,” Ryu says. “I grew up with a single mom who was an immigrant. It was ground into me that stability is happiness.”
Certain routines—daily walks, therapy, energy work, cooking—have kept her grounded. But what’s lifted her up is the support of her community. “I thought we would launch Namu and it would just be crickets. But it’s been so interesting to watch all these people come out of the woodwork who want me to succeed.”
How do you start your day?
Warm water with lemon and a cup of pu’er, a fermented tea from China. I went to a tea ceremony a couple years ago where a tea sommelier taught me about pu’er. When you drink it, you can smell some of that vinegary sourness from the fermentation. The best ones are some of the most expensive teas in the world. (I get mine at Whole Foods.)
What’s your longest-held wellness ritual?
I’ve been oil pulling every day for ten years. I can’t not do it. When I travel, I’ll even go to a local grocery store and pick up a jar of coconut oil.
How do you like to get moving?
Every day, without fail, I take a walk in this big, beautiful park called Ascot Hills. That’s just my time to be by myself with our dog. I’ll usually listen to something that makes me laugh or the podcast How I Built This. I started doing Pilates with Melissa Wood Health, too.
How do you keep your energies in check?
I’ve done energy work with Katy Meade King that’s helped me a lot in terms of dealing with my fear of losing stability. My body was twitching and shaking, and it cleared all of these blockages I had. Katy taught me how to ground myself quickly in moments of uncertainty. She asked me to put my feet on the ground and imagine roots coming out of my feet, crashing through like the dirt and concrete, covering the city that I live in, the country that I live in, the world, the core of the earth. It helped me feel safe and grounded.
What are your favorite pieces in Namu’s collection?
Artist Kim Min Wook loves fashion, and he started his career as a bespoke men’s tailor and even worked in visual merchandising before he found his career in woodworking. There’s a fantastic appreciation for detail in Kim’s work. In Kim’s Korean Ash Bowl, he’s left the natural wood untreated to let the incredible rings of the tree shine, much like a beautiful pattern on a textile. The wood used for this bowl originated from a mountain called Taebaek, and Kim has also stitched together cracks of the bowl using melted aluminum and copper staples, tapping into his experience creating a bespoke suit.
Years ago, the artist Kim Hyunu went to a heritage art gallery and fell in love with the shape of the moon jar and decided to try it in his medium. Moon jars have been an integral part of Korean life and art since the eighteenth century. They were created to celebrate the beauty of the full moon and initially used for flowers or wine. Normally, moon jars are made of porcelain, but with wood, you can see the knots displayed—it’s the artist’s deliberate choice to highlight the beauty of nature’s cracks and coloration.
I cook Korean food the most. I make lots of soups and a lot of simple vegetable-y dishes. Because I grew up eating Korean food, I’m confident in the flavor. But if I try to make a lasagna or something, I’m like, Oh, I’ve only seen this at school or at restaurants. So I can’t quite get the flavor right.
What’s on your reading list?
I’ve been trying to finish The Body Keeps the Score, but it’s pretty heavy stuff. I can read only a couple pages a night. I just started The Magus by John Fowles, a gift from my friend JJ Ramberg, who runs goodpods, a social podcasting app.
Your comfort watch?
A Korean variety show called I Live Alone where they put cameras into a single celebrity’s homes and spend a very real-life day with them. It’s hilarious.
Favorite goop beauty find?
I love the goop scalp scrub. We have hard water in our house, and I feel like the salt scrub is the only thing that can strip all of that gunk off my hair. The lather is luxurious.
How do you wind down?
I always take magnesium at night.
What does inspiration look like to you?
I commissioned my husband, artist and actor Joseph Lee, to create a representation of the ethos of Namu. While it’s Namu Home Goods’ goal to curate heritage woodwork to be passed down for generations, the more important goal is to surface and celebrate creativity in Asian bodies. We created a limited-edition Giclee print that’s in the Namu Home Goods colors, umber and putty.
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