IN Interviews : Studio Cue LA

This is the third article in a seven-part series interviewing independent small business owners in the apothecary space. This interview is also available in Japanese.

Keiko Matsuo & Tsugu Wada of Studio Cue | Los Angeles, California

Studio Cue LA is yet another great example of creating successful partnerships amongst spouses in marriage and in pursuing passions full-time.

Family also seems to be a common thread  for many of the interviews conducted in our series. For Studio Cue LA, the brand stems from a deeply personal place of heartache, particularly in the desperate need to protect loved ones when ominous, worse-case scenarios are impossible to conquer. In the end, the art of giving back is the coping mechanism that evolves into a way of life.

Keiko and Tsugo have managed to develop a life specific to their own desires and have made it a personal mission to dedicate their work to helping others through learned therapeutic methods that have stood the test of time. In doing so, they’ve built a selfless career that is both fulfilling in healing people and accommodative in providing a peaceful haven for their expertise and artistry.

Can you share a bit about your background?
I am Japanese, born in Japan. I have been a healing body worker for the past 25 years.

Studio Cue (休 : Kyū) roughly translates to ‘Studio Holiday.’ what’s the inspiration behind the studio name? And how did you arrive at the name, ‘GOLDA,’ for your product line?
I’ve always wanted to heal others, and create a space where they can “rest” (name “cue” is from kanji character 休 which means to “rest”) and release their stress.

14 years ago, my husband introduced me to Aomori Hiba, which is made in his hometown, Aomori, Japan. When I first smelled the scent, I felt relaxed and at home, [similar to] sage from Native American culture. I felt that if it can cleanse one’s energy and give energy, then I’ve found a scent that can heal in a way that can heal my clients. I’ve used this scent in all my healing sessions, but realized more people can enjoy it if I make it into a product, which later became the Atmosphere Mist.

GOLDA Sphere Soap
GOLDA Pyramid Soap

Did you have family members in holistic/alternative medicine growing up?
None in my family. When I was around six years old, my mom started getting asthma attacks. I wanted to help my mom, so I studied to become a medical doctor until age 18. When my mom had a heart attack after getting one shot of medicine from a doctor and passed away, I started having doubts about drugs, Western medicine, and the responsibilities of being a doctor. I started my journey trying to figure out how one can protect themselves from being sick, or how to live a healthy life. I am still on that journey. Through all of my experiences, I have found many things, but still on a search for more.

“When my mom had a heart attack after getting one shot of medicine from a doctor and passed away, I started having doubts about drugs, Western medicine and responsibilities of being a doctor.”

Can you tell us a little bit about Japanese Holistic Qi Therapy? How did you choose this method of therapy to pursue as a lifelong career?
Soon after my mom passed away, my dad lost energy and had a difficult time breathing. We went to the best doctor in Tokyo. They thought he had a heart problem, so they performed catheter surgery on him. After three weeks, he passed away from difficulty breathing. I was in shock, and my muscles on half of my face stopped moving. I guessed that something had happened to the right side of my brain with the shock and stress of losing him.

That’s when my friend’s mom introduced me to a Qi doctor. I felt my energy shift from that experience. After that, I went to London and studied Aromatherapy and Homeopathy. I had studied Shiatsu during my high school years trying to help my mom, so I combined that with Aromatherapy and traveled to many places massaging people, reaching where I am today; my original Qi therapy. Qi is also morning therapy for myself, too.

GOLDA Hiba Wood 100% Pure Essential Oil and GOLDA Mist for Dogs
GOLDA Hiba Wood Incense

What’s the significance behind each of the shapes and colors of your beautiful soaps?
When I imagined what shape I wanted to be, it was a perfect sphere, with no corners or edges ; a golden sphere, like the sun that has the power to provide energy to all. We had to do several test runs  until we got the refreshing scent that keeps the Hiba quality.

I came up with the cube shape, which is inspired from a gift box, in hopes that someone can be healed with this scent, just like how I was healed in London.

The third was not planned. One night, I was making a custom oil for a client who lost a will to love. I really liked the scent, and decided to borrow the power of a pyramid. I wanted the color to be hot pink, to lift her up, but it was very difficult. After numerous trials, my amazing soap maker made my dreams come true.

This soap should be used all over the body, not just for washing hands. You will feel the difference. Hiba rids the body of odor, and the aroma will support you throughout the day. Our beloved soaps are our alter ego.

Tsugu packaging and labeling GOLDA Hiba Wood Atmosphere Mist
Bottles of GOLDA Hiba Wood Atmosphere Mists ready to ship

What’s your favorite product in the GOLDA line currently and why?
My personal favorite is our Aomori Hiba Atmosphere Mist. This particular wood is used in Japanese shrines, and most Japanese people will know and love this scent. It’s a very spiritual and noble scent. I can only physically heal 5-6 [clients] per day, at most. But with this mist, I feel I can heal more people. As long as they like the scent, though. 😉

Even if they don’t love the scent, it works as bug repellent, anti-bacterial, protects from getting mold, etc. Spray it around your garbage bin and and you won’t see any ants or bugs. You can spray it on dogs/cats to keep fleas away, and also relax your pet at the same time.

How has your work influenced and inspired your daily living habits?
I appreciate little things like having a nice dinner with my husband, or meeting different clients everyday. I am lucky to be thanked by clients after each session, but I feel like I want to thank them for such wonderful experiences. I live in such wonderful inspirations everyday.

Studio Cue LA bungalow for visiting clients
Small sheets of gathered tissue paper are used to cushion GOLDA Sphere Soaps for shipping

What big plans do you have in store for Studio Cue and GOLDA? 
Somewhere on earth, I want my husband to design different zen rooms. You’ll be able to smell GOLDA mist, eat healthy food, swim, or do pilates to keep your body and mind healthy, receive my treatments; something [similar to a] Studio Cue retreat – the hotel version. That’s my dream. Anyone out there have a nice hotel? 🙂

Studio Cue LA in sunny Topanga, California
Keiko’s quiet mid-day stroll

Rapid Fire

Best food in LA?
Hand roll veggie sushi in Topanga, made my me. Hahahaha!

What smell reminds you of home?
Of course, the 300-year old scent, GOLDA Aomori Hiba Mist.

Incense or candles? Grapefruit or pear mixed with Hiba.

Favorite hour of the day?
When I wake up, and when I’m in a bath.

Fill in the blank: I’ll never get tired of _______.
Fixing someone.

Arigatō gozaimashite to Keiko Matsuo and Tsugu Wado for sharing their amazing story with us, and an even greater thanks to Sumiko-chan Watanabe  for translating/facilitating the interview in Japanese! Please visit Studio Cue LA’s website to find booking information for daytime retreats at their studio space in Topanga, California and to purchase GOLDA products from their online store.

Alicia Fairclough-Buford

Based in Portland, Ore., Alicia writes and illustrates for Infashuated.com. Follow her on instagram.