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Support Otis Alumnx Small Businesses This Holiday Season

Forget the big box stores, visit these small businesses run by Otis alumnx. 
Anna Raya

The pandemic has thrown so many things out of the norm that even the crazy shopping frenzy around Black Friday seems to have started weeks ago. Thankfully, what hasn’t changed is that Small Business Saturday is still being celebrated, this year on Saturday, November 28. There’s no time like now to support and celebrate all small businesses (take that, Bezos!), and what better way to start than with these Otis alum-owned studios, shops, and art and design practices. Whether it’s a floral arrangement from Bloom & Plume (be sure to grab a latte from Maurice Harris’s coffee shop down the street), or a vegan, natural skincare product from Fleur & Bee, a sustainably-sourced garment by Selena Saunders, or a floral tattoo by Light Grey Tattoo Studio, there’s something for everyone in the list below. Shop small this winter! 

Actual Source is a book publisher and store owned and operated by Davis Ngarupe (’12). 

In their own words: “Actual Source is an American publisher, brand, and book store that collaborates with contemporary artists and designers, to release limited edition books, fonts, clothing, and objects. Actual Source  celebrated 5 years of independent publishing in 2019.”

Bates Design is an upstart marketing and design agency based in Long Beach that is owned and operated by Michelle Chipres-Bates (’07). 

In their own words: “I’m always looking for inspirational projects for which I can help find solutions or create beautiful imagery.”

Bloom & Plume is a bespoke floral design studio in Echo Park owned and operated by Maurice Harris (’05). 

In their own words: “Maurice’s unique point of view, sense of humor, craftsmanship, and dedication to his community has made him both one of the most sought after floral designers in Los Angeles and one of the most followed florists on Instagram.”

Bloom & Plume Coffee is a coffee shop, also in Echo Park, owned and operated by Harris and his brother. 

In their own words: “Bloom & Plume Coffee is not just a coffee shop, but a community oriented brand that wholeheartedly seeks to unite people. Community means everything to us, which is why we resonate deeply with the South African philosophy ‘ubuntu.’ In essence it means ‘I am because you are’ and it embraces the idea that humans cannot exist in isolation. Our deepest hope is for every customer to feel like they have a place where they belong, because your story is our story—the community’s story.”

Chubby Cheeks Cakes makes custom-order cakes, cookies, and cupcakes, and is owned and operated by Laura Magardechian (’12). 

In their own words: “Chubby Cheek Cakes has taken on hundreds of cake orders for events such as birthdays, weddings, baby showers, and much more. They combine great tasting cakes with beautiful artwork to make unique edible masterpieces.”

Connie Tao Designs is a custom atelier for wedding and evening gowns owned and operated by Connie Tao (’08). 

In their own words: “All of our custom dresses are handmade in our Pasadena bridal boutique. Due to our expertise in bespoke clothing, we also work with redesigning existing garments and bridal gown, evening wear, and ready-to-wear tailoring and alterations.”

Donde el Agua Acaricia el Cielo, the self-published, Spanish-language book by Javier Luna (’20), can be purchased here

Fine Art Stretcher Bars makes art canvases and is owned and operated by Juan Capistran (’99); Alex Sanchez (’10) is on staff there. 

In their own words: “Fine Art Stretcher Bars has been providing painters, galleries, and museums with custom ready-made panels and canvases since 1986. They also offer materials like water-based gesso, rabbit skin glue, canvas by the yard, and Belgium linen in-house. If you have existing paintings that need to be stretched or restretched, they can help with that too!”

Fleur & Bee is a vegan, natural skincare line created by Matthias Hug (’09). 

In their own words: “We started Fleur & Bee to offer natural skincare products that are good for you, good for your wallet, and good for our planet.”

Frogtown Photo is a digital photo lab owned and operated by David Roy (’13), Forouzan Safari (’17), and Mike Rees. 

In their own words: “The mission of Frogtown Photo is to create an inviting and intimate space for artists and designers to realize their best images. We offer custom master printing and scanning, as well as direct-to-print and DIY services.” 

Gray Area Print is the printmaking studio of Maggie Lomeli (’05). 

In their own words: “Because Los Angeles is home to a multifaceted community, my endeavors include projects that range from large scale installations, to marketing materials, to custom wedding invitations. I enjoy working on any project large or small, and always welcome a challenge.”

Hood Vangogh is Ed Herrera’s (’14) illustration, design, directing, and animation practice. 

Light Grey Tattoo Studio is co-owned and operated by Rebecca Dado (’10). 

In their own words: “We specialize in soft florals, dainty tattoos, delicate line work, and black-and-grey. All of our art is customized for each client.”

LUCTA-LA is an online art school founded by Hayley Quentin (’08) that counts such Otis alums as Ally Wallace (’20) as instructors. 

In their own words: “We know that any technique or concept, however complex, can be taught by breaking it down into simple, reproducible steps. We are here to show you how and to support and guide you along the way.”

Melanie Abrantes Designs offers goods and gifts for the home that are handmade by Melanie Abrantes (’12). 

In their own words: “Working with a variety of unique materials, Melanie strives to create products of the highest quality that are equally beautiful and functional. Through the technique of lathing, she turns simple pieces of solid wood and cork into one-of-a-kind bowls, plates, cups and stands.”

Muchas Flores Studio is the Etsy storefront selling stickers, “magical tumblers,” and more by Jaqueline Vigil (’20). 

MUCHO is a made-to-order wearable painting studio owned and operated by Sofia Enriquez (’14). 

In their own words: Enriquez’s practice “consists of murals, large scale paintings, and her fashion collection MUCHO, that consists of one of a kind painted garments. Enriquez’s visual language includes simplified portraiture that is inspired by androgyny, traditional catholic paintings, and ‘Spanglish’ phrases that are used as captions on some of her paintings to comment on her cultural diversity growing up in the United States.”

Paper Eight is a contemporary clothing line that features the hand-drawn designs of Matthew Wardell (’09) that can be found at his Hollywood storefront or online. 

In their own words: “[Wardell’s] art practice explores and illuminates the manner in which Hollywood myths are entwined with our imagination, and through his use of Hollywood iconography he creates a hybrid of art and cinema which is not only visible through his illustrations and apparel designs, but the store itself.”

Pie in the Sky Press is the Etsy storefront of Rebecca Chamlee (’85), where her letterpress prints and books can be purchased. 

Sara Hunsucker Studio is an Etsy storefront featuring handmade gifts and home goods by Sara Hunsucker (’02). 

In their own words: “I am offering the things I feel passionate about making. That may be natural indigo shibori pieces, block printed items, drawings, jewelry, functional ceramics, and non- functional ceramics.”

Studio Hecha is a ceramics studio owned and operated by Haley Ann Bradley (’08). 

In their own words: “Each piece is painstakingly hand-thrown, hand-painted, hand-glazed, fired, and individually wrapped for safe shipping. Because each piece is handmade, variations in color, sizes, and glaze will occur, but is embraced as true one of a kind pieces.”

Selina Sanders is a sustainably-made clothing line designed by Selina Sanders (’05). 

In their own words: “I make clothing that is always one-of-a-kind, upcycled from fabrics that are unwanted or donated. After over a decade of working as a designer in fashion and seeing the massive wastes produced by the industry, I felt a deep sense of responsibility to start a clothing line that helps reduce our carbon footprint and is environmentally responsible.”

Totallee, also founded by Matthias Hug (’09), is a purveyor of cell phone cases and accessories. 

In their own words: “Since 2013, we’ve focused on two simple, but important goals: offer the best minimalistic phone accessories and provide an incredible customer experience.”

Main image, from left: Art classes at LUCTA-LA; an upcycled garment by Selina Saunders; cork and wood planters by Melanie Abrantes Designs.