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L&G interview with Rena Tom

I had the pleasure to meet Rena Tom when I went to Meg Mateo Ilasco's "Crafting A Meaningful Home Book" launch party at Rare Device last fall.

Rena is the co-owner of Rare Device and a multi-talented lady with a well-rounded set of skills and knowledge especially when it comes to being a creative entrepreneur.

Her blog, focusing on ways to strategize for creative retail business, is a place where I regularly check out to get helpful tips and honest perspectives from the buyers/retail store owners point of view.

We were honored when Rena asked us to be part of her Profile column on her blog where she regularly interviews creative designers/artists!

You can read the interview here!

Thanks Rena!

 

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Designer Profile No.2: Urbancase

Is it October already?! I guess that means it's time for another JOIN Designer Profile interview!

On a quiet dead end off the main strip of Seattle's working-class South Park neighborhood sits the dynamic hub from which Darin Montgomery of Urbancase spins his creative web of multi-faceted design efforts. The Urbancase studio is well organized and compact, smaller than we expected for a predominantly furniture-centric studio. As we learn more about what goes on there we were convinced more and more that we've quite possibly stumbled upon a Utopian design studio.

Here creativity is kept fresh by experimentation with materials, ideas, hands-on prototyping, and occasional contract work, but kept a sustainable business by smart, selective outsourcing to skilled local craftspeople and manufacturers. In a format reminiscent of Italy's post-war designers, Urbancase has managed to use it's local resources to create great products with minimal in-house manufacturing capabilities opting instead to use the services the Northwest has to offer. What was so striking was the ease at which Darin delegates his production work to others while keeping the critical creative functions firmly centered within his company. When asked if trusting others with the critical task of executing his vision was in any way problematic, Darin shrugs it off "I pick people who care about what they do. I try to work with others in a similar position to my own."

He went on to explain his belief that keeping production local and small scale has allowed him to replace a rigorous QC process with a level of trust and confidence in his suppliers. "I was inspecting every box they gave me and realized at a certain point it wasn't necessary. They cared about their work as much as I did." This absolutely shows in the work: curved cabinet edges executed seamlessly, beeswax candles (in the shapes of classic cameras) casted with precise details, finishes carefully applied and rubbed by hand. Can't wait to hear more:

Studio Name: Urbancase

Member(s): Darin Montgomery

Location: Seattle, WA

Website:urbancase.com

Started in: 2002

What's the story behind your company/studio? What made you finally realize that you wanted to start your own design company? Take us back to that exact moment when you thought "I'm gonna start my own freakin' design studio!"

I was in Vancouver, BC for a weekend getaway with my girlfriend Rachel. I left a job several months earlier with the intention of starting my own business but was still trying to figure out what direction to go. Rachel finally suggested I should just do what makes me happy. It seemed so obvious. Design makes me happy...so that's what I did.

What's your design philosophy and approach?

My philosophy is pretty basic and I try to apply it to every aspect of my life. Whatever I do...whether it's design, cooking, or interacting with people...it should be simple, functional, thoughtful, and beautiful.

What are some highlights (life changing events) you've experienced that influenced your current work or design?

Growing up, my Father owned an auto body shop and for many years it was the gathering place for my Dad and his buddies. He had a group of extremely talented friends and I spent countless hours working on projects with them. They would engineer everything from suspension systems for hot rods to enclosed motorcycle trailers with fold down seating and eating areas. Material and budget limitations were common and more often than not they would solve problems by committee. It was a great environment to grow up in. The experience of working with them influences every project I approach. The level of craftsmanship and functionality they achieved is something that is with me every day.

What's your favorite place to visit and get inspiration?

We took a trip to Berlin two years ago and it had a huge impact on the way I look at design. Unfortunately, I can't pop over every time I need inspiration. But...I have the photos to which I refer frequently. Any industrial or area in disrepair is a great source of ideas for me as well.

What do you like to do when you need a break from design?

I try to keep a project in the shop that I don't have to think too much about. Something that requires sanding or polishing. If I'm having difficulty resolving an idea or I've been on the computer all day, repetitive motion can be very relaxing.

Every Sunday Rachel and I have a ritual. We make breakfast, have coffee and listen to records then walk through Freeway Park on our way to the library. Even though I'm surrounded by incredible architecture, it's routine and comfortable so I don't even think about design. It's a great way to recharge my batteries.

We recently started learning French. I'm not very good so it takes all my brain power. I don't have the energy to think about anything else. I also play guitar and even though I don't practice often enough, 10-20 minutes a day is a real treat. In the winter I play hockey. When I'm on the ice, design is the FURTHEST thing from my mind.

What do you consider your most successful and or rewarding project?

The projects I rush through or don't resolve completely are the most successful. I learn so much from them and usually have one lying around to remind me of what not to do. Perhaps the most rewarding project was a wine glass rack I made for my parents when I was eight. I built it from scraps found in the garage. It was hideous. My Dad cried when it got knocked off the shelf and shattered.

What are the strengths of design in the Northwest? How do you see it becoming stronger?

I love that design in the Northwest has a feeling of honesty and sincerity. It's not arrogant or pretentious. I believe if the design community in the Northwest continues to communicate, share information, ideas, and resources, it will only get better. JOIN is an awesome organization and the people involved are unbelievable. It's a great feeling when you pick up the phone or e-mail someone in the same discipline that you work and know they will share whatever information they have. 

dp_urbancase1.jpg

What's your favorite, well-designed food? why?

I would say a seed of any kind. They're perfectly designed for their environment and have a little secret tucked away inside. Salsa is a pretty close second.

What's your favorite object? Why?

A micrometer that belonged to my Grandfather. It's beautiful, functional, and very satisfying to use. It doesn't give you a sense of how much effort it took to design. I love objects that conceal their complexity.

Tell us about your very first experience when you did ICFF. What was it like? How did you prepare yourself? Any tips or words of wisdom to share about ICFF?

It's funny to look back now, but I remember being very anxious at the time. My friend and I shared a booth and it was the first show for both of us. I arrived at the Jacob Javits Center bright and early with a box of postcards, order forms, and comfortable shoes. I was set. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the booth I found a big hole in the side of our crate. I have no idea what happened, but needless to say...I freaked out. I couldn't open it because my buddy had the cordless drill and was nowhere to be found. I ran around frantically trying to find a drill. Workers at the Javits Center won't loan tools and it seemed as though EVERY other exhibitor was wandering aimlessly looking for a cordless drill. It felt like complete mayhem. I called my friend continuously for the next two hours. Eventually...he answered the phone and the first thing he said was..."do you know the bars stay open until 4 AM?" When he finally arrived at the Javits center he'd forgotten to put the drill on the charger. All we could do was laugh. Once we got the crate open all was good. That was my first three hours of ICFF.

I was naive enough to think my product would sell itself and underestimated the importance of booth design. I'm still learning because there's a science to the dynamics of a trade show. The booth layout has a huge impact on how people approach you. It's sort of like being alone on a dance floor waiting for the music to start. All it takes is one person to join you and others will follow.

I would strongly encourage anyone who feels their product(s) are suited for ICFF to figure out a way to make it happen. There are opportunities you won't find anywhere else. And...if you go one year, plan on going the next. It's an incredible experience, lots of energy, inspiration, and seriously cool people.

For anyone thinking of going I would suggest:

1. Hook up with someone who has done the show. They can help with simple things like finding a hardware store, shipping facilities, and ways to cut through the red tape at the Javits Center.

2. Set aside plenty of time to design your booth and presentation materials. Some people want postcards, some want electronic communication. You should have several options.

3. Most of the rumors you've heard about the staff at the Javits Center are true. They're not on your schedule, you're on theirs. It's all good if you roll with it. Fight it and you'll be miserable (it took more than a year for me to figure that out).

4. Try to have two people in the booth. It's exhausting to do it by yourself. And...somehow it makes your booth more approachable.

5. Eat right, brush your teeth, and don't run with scissors.

What other design shows have you done or would like to do in the future?

ICFF is the only show we've done. Milan is on the radar. We're shooting for 2011.

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Interview with La Casita De Wendy

I am super excited to share a little story behind the magic of La Casita De Wendy. Thanks to the invention of blogs, I had the pleasure to "meet" Inés & Iván on my blog through L&G blog!

I decided on a whim to contact Inés & Iván to share my love for their clothes. I wanted to find out how I can get my hands on their adorable dresses! (especially the top right, and the dress with the mug prints...actually all of it!!) I also asked them if I could do a blog post about them, and to my delight, Inés & Iván replied kindly and agreed!! I was thrilled that they took the time out of their busy and exciting life to do this. Thanks guys for all your awesomeness!
So,
I'm excited to share everything about them and what they do! They make work seem so effortless and life more fun than the Wii! There's too much to talk about and I wouldn't do justice if I didn't share all this goodness with everyone! So be prepared to read a long post!
Inés & Iván are two super talented fashion & textile designers based in Madrid,Spain. (cool!) They often use colors and patterns that are nature inspired and motifs that reference Iberian fairytales. The result is carefree, passionate, romantic,and expressive. In essence, their designs capture the spirit of a fairytale girl living in a modern world...
Their designs are in tons stores around the world including Barneys in New York, Matsuya, Lamp, Koh Samui and Fenwick in London, Surface to Air in Paris, Suite in Barcelona, Deli Room in Madrid, and more. (even cooler!)
The two of them started La Casita De Wendy in 02' and they both actually first got their degrees in architecture. Clothing design started off simply as a hobby, but it's a total meant to be, because it seems that everything just fell into place for them....one word.....Bjork.
Yes, no joke.....Bjork wore their designs for one of her photoshoots for a magazine spread at one point!! (WHAT?!? that's just freaking ridiculously insane cool!) I can't even imagine how I would react if Bjork ever came to me and wore clothes I designed....if that ever happened to me in a million years...I think I would be happy to just dig a grave and bury myself alive...Yeah...since I'm pretty sure that I would probably just freeze and fall into a OH-MY-GOD-BJORK-WORE-MY-CLOTHES-coma for the rest of my life anyways....
Change subject. So here's my first little interview with La Casita De Wendy!
What's the main vision behind La Casita De Wendy?
We want to design beautiful stuff for creative people and we want to be inspired by the greatest beauty of nature.

Both of you hold an architecture degree, so what inspired you both to get into fashion design?
we started to make clothes just like a hobby and because it was difficult to find beautiful designs in Madrid, so we started to sell our collections to friends... and after a few years we realized that we liked designing soooo much that we decided to continue. It was a great help that we had a big success the first time we went to an international trade show and many shops like Barneys in New York wanted our stuff... and Bjork wanted to wear some of our designs...

How did you two meet and how did the teaming up happen?
We met dancing Pulp!! and we start to go out together and that's all... we connected!

What are your main roles in the Company?
Now we have a lot of work so we have to organize ourselves, Inés takes care of the collection, the samples, the sales... and Iván takes care of the production and special events, collaborations, consulting etc...
Where do you get your most inspirations from?
We are inspired by Fairy tales, imagination, painting and of course nature.
Besides your love for fashion, what are some other loves you have?
we love cooking, staying at home, reading, painting and living.
What would your dream studio look like and where would it be?
we love our studio as it is, but we would love to be more in the country, we are doing a vegetables garden in our backyard and we dream about having a big garden in the mountains and being able to work from there...

So, I found out after the interview that besides all the amazing things they do designing clothes and textile...it ALSO turns out that Inés & Iván have started teaching fashion workshop called El Estudio!! They teach fashion workshops right from their atelier with students from all over Spain, Britain and beyond! They teach them everything from creating their own sketch/inspiration book, to creating their own line, to branding, to ways to start their business! So by the end of the 16 week course, the students themselves can achieve their dream of designing their own line! You can see lots of great process photos from their El Estudio blog, too. I love seeing all the rich watercolor drawings and inspirations.
God! I so want to take off and live in Madrid for 4 months and take that workshop! (I'm talking to you God....can you make this happen?? it can count as my birthday present!)

Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing about them!
Okay, gotta go and figure out a plan to live/work/study in Madrid now since God isn't responding to me....I can never count on that guy!

You can also read their blog to read more about their inspiring lifestyle! If you can't read Spanish like me, use the handy google translate to read their site!....I don't know what I'd do if google didn't exist. Cheers!

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