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  • Rendering female models and celebrities on large-scale canvases and with quick, expressive brushstrokes, painter Katherine Bernhardt examines representations of beauty in mainstream media and fashion photography. She paints her subjects with severe, exaggerated features and emaciated limbs that sometimes morph into abstraction, recalling the works of Pablo Picasso. “Some people ask if I hate the models I paint,” she says. “I say no, I don't hate them.

  • UpCycle Day 2014!

    Sep 03| Special Event
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    Join us for the 3rd Annual UpCycle Day!

    Learn about the Resource Exchange

    Bring your excess supplies and materials to share and trade. 

    Stock up for the school year with Free supplies and materials. 

    Help divert our collective waste from ending up in landfills.

     

  • Forrest Gander

    Sep 03| Lectures
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    Otis Books/Seismicity Editions is pleased to publish Panic Cure: Poetry from Spain for the 21st Century, an anthology of poems from eleven contemporary Spanish poets, active from the 1960s through the present. Selected and translated by Forrest Gander, Panic Cure is notable for its impressive range of poetic voices.

  • Jan Brandt

    Sep 04| Lectures
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  • Joel Kyack

    Sep 09| Lectures
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    JOEL KYACK Lives and works in Los Angeles.

    ghebaly.com/artists/joel-kyack

  • A dynamic portrait of the life of computer prodigy Aaron Swartz who championed free speech and data sharing, this must-see documentary premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and was the opening night film at the 2014 Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. 

    We're excited the film’s director Brian Knappenberger will be our special guest speaker for the Q & A moderated by Movies that Matter series producers Judy Arthur and Perri Chasin after the screening. 

  • Koenraad Dedobbeleer lives and works in Brussels.

     

O-Tube

Planet First

Aug 25, 2013
Wanda Weller and Modern Folk Living
Spotlight Category: Alumni

by George Wolfe

When it comes to sustainability, there’s virtually no line between Wanda Weller Sakai’s home life and business life. After eight years as Patagonia’s director of design, and teaching fashion design part-time at Otis, she now runs her own sustainable business, Modern Folk Living, in Ojai, Calif. And her freshly remodeled sustainable home abuts the mountains, where she lives with her footwear-designer husband and their son. 

Though she’s branched off on her own in recent years—something she attributes to her decade-long cyclical yearning to do something different—she notes the deep influence that Patagonia still holds on her: “You drink the Kool-Aid there (in a good way) and you keep wanting more … you’re compelled to keep going in that direction.” 

From a property that required extensive resources for upkeep, Wanda’s family downshifted to a Cliff May-styled mod ranch home with reflective white stucco, solar panels, south-facing double walls, whitewashed interiors to disburse the light, extended patios to keep cool, low-E windows, permeable exterior gardens with native plants, and garden boxes adjacent to the kitchen. Throughout are favorites like Heath ceramics and other hand-picked items she also sells in
her store.

At Modern Folk Living, Wanda finds that “the goods I curate are an extension of what I did at Patagonia. I pull together a line of items with a common language that reflects my point of view—brands like NAU, Prarie Underground, Stewart+Brown, Coral & Tusk, Heath Ceramics, and Pi’lo.

“According to Wanda, customers don’t want to be hit over the head with the notion that something is ‘sustainable’—which has become overused. Rather, I focus on simply telling the item’s story, which appeals to people. Prior to World War II, most “farming practices” were done in an organic, sustainable way, as part of the culture. But the war’s excesses left us with the need to make use of those ‘pesticides and chemicals,’ and we’ve kept making more things ever since. Now, instead of fixing a TV, we throw it out and buy a new one. By contrast, at our store we carry a handkerchief that’s been repurposed (thoroughly cleaned, of course) with added handmade embroidery that says ‘Bless You.’ So it’s ironic that we’re returning (and in many ways longing for) a way of life that our grandparents and great grandparents lived so naturally.

As a retail business owner, what I often struggle with is the simple fact that I’m selling stuff and contributing to the ongoing dilemma of consumption.  I try to provide a sustainable business, but in reality, to be truly sustainable I wouldn’t be in this business—so the way I ‘rationalize’ it is by focusing on products that are local or domestic; organic, recycled or recyclable; handcrafted, fair trade, and timeless. I try to tell the stories behind the items I’ve curated for the store, to offer some awareness of and a deeper connection about my clients’ purchasing decisions. And with those connections, there is perhaps a reduced likelihood of thoughtless disposability. That was a big lesson from my years at Patagonia. The relationship people have with their Patagonia products goes with them everywhere ... they held memories —how could you possibly get rid of them? !”  

How to balance the sustainability ethos of running a profitable business while adhering to her values? She looks no further than her own backyard. Her ex-boss in nearby Ventura, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, noted recently: “I know it sounds crazy, but every time I have made a decision that is best for the planet, I have made money.” And Patagonia brings in $540 million in annual revenues.

If she keeps the faith, Wanda may find her own way to make a light but substantial footprint as her own legacy.    

 

Above: Wanda Weller Sakai (’88 Fashion Design) with family in their Ojai house, which embodies sustainable practices 

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