Blogs Centerpoints Walker Shop

Curating the Shop: Michele Tobin on Buying, Selling, and Etsy Pages

When Etsy invited its first round of tastemakers to be part of Pages, a new initiative launching today that helps Etsy visitors navigate its universe of artists and artisans, it invited retailers, magazines, and design pros — from Swiss Miss and Apartment Therapy to west elm and Tom Dixon — to share their recommendations. Only […]

Walker Shop Retail Director Michele Tobin

Walker Shop Retail Director Michele Tobin

When Etsy invited its first round of tastemakers to be part of Pages, a new initiative launching today that helps Etsy visitors navigate its universe of artists and artisans, it invited retailers, magazines, and design pros — from Swiss Miss and Apartment Therapy to west elm and Tom Dixon — to share their recommendations. Only one museum shop was invited: Ours. Shop director Michele Tobin is always on the hunt for hand-crafted items that best illustrate the Walker Shop’s brand — “modern living, well-crafted” — and for Etsy she’ll be hand-picking her favorite projects from the site’s more than 18 million listings. To commemorate Pages’ launch — including the Walker’s Etsy Page — we caught up with Tobin to hear more about what she does in the Shop and how.

At the Walker we use the term “curate” carefully. But isn’t that what you do in the Shop?

In short, yes. In the Walker Shop, items are for sale, of course, so the selection criteria is different than in a gallery. But the idea of collecting items from a common point of view is the same.

What does curating a museum shop entail?

There are overarching necessities within a retail setting – price point, packaging, product type (do I have enough scarves for the fall?).  Then there are seasonal considerations – outdoor living items and vases for fresh flowers should be available in the Spring, messenger bags and hats in the Fall, for instance. For the Walker, there are several more layers. The themes and points of view of the artists we work with, along with the interpretation of our curators and the educational programs we present, inform the buying process and presentation in the Shop.

How do you keep up on ideas, products, trends, and makers?

You want me to tell you all my secrets?! Every buyer has their own methodology developed over time. For me, there are companies that work with designers that I have my eye on all the time. I also attend buyers’ shows in New York and Chicago to look for new lines and emerging designers.  There’s also a constant, steady flow of email pitches flowing through my inbox, and sometimes a hidden gem shows up there (but truthfully, there isn’t enough time in the day to read them all!). My favorite way to discover something new is word of mouth – someone I know found something I should take a look at, and I just have to have it!

Are “influencers” important to you, and if so, who are some of yours?

While I have my eye on what other retailers are doing, honestly, I like to forge my own way. I used to be much more focused on other museum stores and tastemakers, but I started to feel a little bit like I was chasing my tail. Now I get my inspiration from what designers are doing and items that excite me, and I bring them to the Walker to hopefully give our customers a fresh point of view and some of the same inspiration and excitement.

How does working with Etsy support the mission of the Walker Shop?

The Walker’s main mission is supporting creative expression, and the same is true in the Walker Shop. Etsy has allowed me to see scores of handmade items that I wouldn’t see otherwise, and now Pages will provide a way for me to tip the Walker hat to an artist or designer for a job well done.

What do you love about Etsy?

I love the unpredictable treasure hunt of Etsy. It’s fun! Sometimes you see some crazy stuff, but usually I’m just amazed at how beautiful or well executed a design is.

The Walker's Etsy Page, curated by Michele Tobin

The Walker’s Etsy Page, curated by Michele Tobin

What non-shop/non-consumer ideas or people influence your work at the Walker?

I love art installations – how things are organized, the pedestals or platforms that are made, how things hang on the wall or from the ceiling. I’m also fascinated by public places and how people interact with them. Why do some benches always have people on them and some never do? I think those things inspire me to create an experience that is beautiful but also engaging.

What would you love to sell that won’t fit in our shop?

Well, baby animals would probably drive traffic during the holiday season…

I would love to have the space to highlight more furniture and lighting design. I bring in some select pieces to showcase, but to do it well we need a different size and location. We also currently don’t have any real walls to hang posters, organizational solutions, clocks, etc. But, I’m working on that – stay tuned!

How do you feel about online shopping?

I think it’s very convenient! I know I certainly shop online (only for things that aren’t in the Walker Shop, of course!). What’s interesting is that there are many people who prefer it. Everything is easy to see, with good photography and detailed product information.  That’s very interesting, and an important consideration when developing in-store and online strategies. For example, we have many Minneapolis online customers. That wasn’t something I expected, but I think it’s great.

What was the first thing you remember buying?

Sequined ribbon globe ornaments.  That was a long time ago… no judging!

Snap-Happy: Interns’ Photo Spree Around the Walker

What happens when you give a trio of Walker interns some new snazzy cameras and tell them to spend the day photographing? Last week, Ashley Monk, Chyna Bounds and I got to test-drive the new Pentax K-01 camera designed by Marc Newson, which just got stocked at Walker shop. After assembling the cameras, charging the batteries, and […]

What happens when you give a trio of Walker interns some new snazzy cameras and tell them to spend the day photographing? Last week, Ashley Monk, Chyna Bounds and I got to test-drive the new Pentax K-01 camera designed by Marc Newson, which just got stocked at Walker shop. After assembling the cameras, charging the batteries, and giving the manual/cheat sheet a quick read, we were ready for adventure.
 
We soon gave up on the instructions and opted for hands-on learning – this camera is that easy to use. Below is a small sampling of what we captured around the Walker. All images were uploaded straight from the camera, unaltered. Anything that looks edited is merely an example of the awesome powers of this camera. (See more images on Flickr in the Walker’s group pool.
Our first stop was the kitchen at Gather by D’Amico, where the chefs were hustling with preparations for lunch, but kindly accommodated us shutterbugs. Even though the images here were the very first ones using the camera, it made all of that food look extra delicious! 

 

Chyna

 
Kitchen at Gather by D’Amico by Ashley
 
 
Next, we meandered outside to the new boulders sculpture by Jim Hodges, which on a bright sunny day was intensely glowing, its colored mirror surfaces bouncing off of each other.
 
Jim Hodges’ outdoor sculpture by Chyna
Jim Hodges’ outdoor sculpture by Rachel
 
Jim Hodges’ outdoor sculpture by Ashley

 

Then it was down the hill to the Sculpture Garden next – of course, the iconic Spoon Bridge has to be part of the fun.

 

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden by Rachel
 
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden by Chyna
 
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden by Ashley
 
After our outdoor fun, we headed back inside for a quick, behind-the-scenes tour of the Walker’s underground studio, used by staff photographers Cameron Wittig and Gene Pittman.  

Studio by Rachel

 
 

Studio by Chyna

 
Studio by Ashley
 Although we took photos of the same things, with the Pentax’s amazing array of modes and options, we each took a different approach and came out with some wonderful images.

Come try this camera for yourself at the Walker Shop from 5-9pm this Thursday (May 10). Use it to capture a Minneapolis spring evening and get advice and tips from Pentax pros. The first 100 test photogs receive a free memory card and cocktail, compliments of Cool Hunting.

 

Book/share: Magazines & Journals

Welcome to the second installment of a new monthly blog feature: Book/share. In this series, Walker Shop book buyer and book enthusiast Paul Schumacher picks a group of books he has recently discovered and writes notes to me, a fellow book enthusiast, about why he has chosen them. Magazines & Journals Tucked in the back […]

Welcome to the second installment of a new monthly blog feature: Book/share. In this series, Walker Shop book buyer and book enthusiast Paul Schumacher picks a group of books he has recently discovered and writes notes to me, a fellow book enthusiast, about why he has chosen them.

Magazines & Journals

Tucked in the back corner of the Walker Shop’s wall of books is a section for magazines, from literary journals to lo-fi zines. This month, Paul has selected five of his favorites to share with you. I’ll also just add my two cents: The Walker is the only place in Minneapolis where I have ever found my favorite art journal, Paper Monument. Want a publication you’ve only seen featured on your favorite blogs or seen once in a bookstore in New York? Try the Walker.—KF

Bad Day

More below the jump. (more…)

Book/share: 38th Street Publishers

Welcome to the first installment of a new monthly blog feature: Book/share. In this series, Walker Shop book buyer and book enthusiast Paul Schumacher picks a group of books he has recently discovered and writes notes to me, a fellow book enthusiast, about why he has chosen them. As this feature continues, we expect our […]

Welcome to the first installment of a new monthly blog feature: Book/share. In this series, Walker Shop book buyer and book enthusiast Paul Schumacher picks a group of books he has recently discovered and writes notes to me, a fellow book enthusiast, about why he has chosen them. As this feature continues, we expect our dialogue and the way we communicate about the books to evolve, as well as provide you a closer look into the Walker Shop’s selection. Stay tuned.—KF & PS

38th Street Publishers

Located on West 38th Street in New York City, artist Josh Smith and his friend Todd Amicon created a small press in 2008 with a simple goal of publishing affordable artist books.

Holy Crap, Rob Pruitt

This is going to be image heavy. (more…)

Sneak preview: Spring at Walker Shop

We are just back from the New York International Gift Fair and eager to share some of our favorite finds (and the people who created them). Watch for them their arrival in the Walker Shop this spring! (In the meantime, you can shop our current stock online.)

We are just back from the New York International Gift Fair and eager to share some of our favorite finds (and the people who created them). Watch for them their arrival in the Walker Shop this spring! (In the meantime, you can shop our current stock online.)

Flight 001 travel products – one of our favorite shops in the Village is Flight 001. Now Walker Shop will have these exclusively in Minnesota! ($6 - $46)

“Teabag” porcelain mug (and other pieces) from Bailey Doesn’t Bark. ($38 mug)

Bailey Doesn’t Bark designer Re Jin Lee, or “RJ,” shares her drawings and designs on consciously produced home and life accessories.

Ever Bamboo charcoal purifiers – minimally and beautifully packaged bamboo charcoal deodorizers that are sustainable, reusable, and recyclable - Minnesota exclusive ($9.99 – 14.99)

Shine Labs sonic classic woodblock clock – This wood veneer alarm clock features two internally powered speakers for your connected portable device. LED clock features 6-cycle snooze and night economic power mode. And, by the way, Shine Labs' president Jim Henderson is great-grandson of Walker founder T.B. Walker! ($128)

“Y-Grinder” twin-chamber salt and pepper mill – from Joseph Joseph, with adjustable grind ($48)

“Orb” 3-piece mortar and pestle – from Joseph Joseph, made from non-absorbent vitrified porcelain. Base and lid can be used for crushing and grinding. ($48)

Tea infuser – Stainless steel extra-fine “brew-in-mug” tea infuser with silicone-rimmed lid. Flip the lid and it becomes a holder for infuser. ($19.99)

mt masking tape set – Set of 20 colors of narrow masking tape from Japan. ($40)

Hadas Shaham jewelry – Contemporary jewelry in sterling silver, gold, concrete, and lava, handcrafted by Tel Aviv jewelry artist Hadas Shaham. ($45 - $195)

Warhol TV

As the Walker book buyer for the last eight years, I routinely come across unusual titles. I thought it would be interesting to blog these notable discoveries as I see them.  Typically, I’m attracted to quirky material and seek out books that just haven’t been conceived before.  During some recent scouting around for new titles […]

As the Walker book buyer for the last eight years, I routinely come across unusual titles. I thought it would be interesting to blog these notable discoveries as I see them.  Typically, I’m attracted to quirky material and seek out books that just haven’t been conceived before.  During some recent scouting around for new titles for the shop, I came across one such incomparable volume.  Warhol TV is a magazine-like publication that documents the exhibition of the same name held last winter at La Maison Rouge in Paris.  Even with the countless exhibition catalogues and books devoted to Andy Warhol—some of which home in on just his fashion drawings, portraits of Jews, or motion pictures—there hasn’t been a book, until now, on his role with television.

As the father of artistic and social promotion, Andy Warhol used every means of communication to self-promote his reality.  Photography, film, magazine, and paintings were employed to document and showcase his surroundings and the creative social scene.  Turns out that Warhol also wasn’t shy about tapping into television, which only seems natural given its mass appeal and accessibility.  It was the ultimate contemporary tool, a perfect platform for exposing his reality.  Andy Warhol utilized all avenues of the medium from as early as 1964, when he made an imitation Soap Opera, to his guest appearance on Love Boat, in 1985. He was also an early adopter with cable, creating a program back in 1979 on the newly formed New York Cable Network, and his MTV show in 1985, Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes.

Warhol TV focuses on the artist’s involvement with television and the beautiful talent who were a part of his world.  Marc Jacobs, Tama Janowitz, Kenny Scharf, Glenn O’Brian, and Brigid Berlin are just a few who recall their encounters with Warhol and TV.  The most interesting feature in the book, besides the rare images, is Warhol’s television filmography listing episodes with such guests as Debbie Harry, Courtney Love, Steven Spielberg, Moon Zappa, Cindy Sherman and Pee Wee Herman.  I can only imagine Andy’s relaxed, subtle reaction to the energetic Pee Wee.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V69IJ962Q4g

 

Purchase Warhol TV at the Walker Shop.

Finds from the planet’s biggest gift shop

Walker staff members Nancy Gross and Michele Tobin have been on the mother of all shopping trips in New York – including, first and foremost, several days at the New York International Gift Fair. With several thousand designers, artisans, craftspeople, etc. exhibiting their wares, this gargantuan buyers’ mart takes up not just the entire Javits […]

Walker staff members Nancy Gross and Michele Tobin have been on the mother of all shopping trips in New York – including, first and foremost, several days at the New York International Gift Fair. With several thousand designers, artisans, craftspeople, etc. exhibiting their wares, this gargantuan buyers’ mart takes up not just the entire Javits Center, but also Piers 90, 92, & 94. Nancy just sent this update as they prepared to make their final rounds at the Fair before returning to Minneapolis tonight:

“In spite of the current state of they economy, and light attendance at the show by vendors and buyers, we have found some great new merchandise for spring and summer. Some highlights include Alessi’s adding to its already successful line of “Banana Brothers” products by Stephano Giovannoni. We loved the collection, including the placecards, corkscrews, canisters, toothpick holders, etc.

Monday evening, we were invited to a special dinner event hosted by Alessi. We enjoyed connecting with our colleagues from Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (Mark and Maxine) and our Alessi rep, Diane O’Donnel. And for the pasta course, the chef demonstrated Alessi’s ingenious “Pasta Pot”: a crock-pot-like appliance designed by chef Alain Ducasse and designer Patrick Jouin, which allows vegetables, pasta and sauce to cook together and go straight to your table.

One of our favorite companies, Kid-O toys (mentioned in our last blog post), introduced a new, well-designed wooden memory game and also an interactive depth perception toy. Look for them in the Walker Shop in June.

Some other fun things we found were a Ipod speaker with a Lego-like look, a roll of packing tape with Shepard Fairey-inspired graphics, real “Wee Plants” the size of a fingernail that grow in a glass vial, and specialized lenses for your camera phone that create special effects (wide angle, kaleidoscope,etc.).


A fresh color trend we found was citrine yellow combined with grey – a look that we’ve incorporated into our spring assortment of Chilewich placemats. Turns out that Michelle Obama’s Inauguration Day outfit was right on trend!”

eavesdrop 05.05.08

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqfdIeUl_r4[/youtube] The Walker unrolled its first Jewelry Artists Mart, in the Skyline Room, at Free First Saturday.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqfdIeUl_r4[/youtube]

The Walker unrolled its first Jewelry Artists Mart, in the Skyline Room, at Free First Saturday.

Tyvek jackets and bags in the Walker Shop

The Walker Shop always has unique and interesting merchandise, and often has special items related to current exhibitions. For Worlds Away, Walker shop Director Nancy Gross came across some clothing that makes use of Tyvek, a common building wrapping material. Since the exhibition deals with sprawl and construction, and the same time there is a […]

Tyvek Jacket by mauThe Walker Shop always has unique and interesting merchandise, and often has special items related to current exhibitions. For Worlds Away, Walker shop Director Nancy Gross came across some clothing that makes use of Tyvek, a common building wrapping material. Since the exhibition deals with sprawl and construction, and the same time there is a focus on re-use and green design these days, the work is an obvious fit. I asked the designer, Marian Schoettle (a.k.a. mau) to write a bit about the Tyvek jacket and Tyvek bag:

My name is Marian Schoettle and my work has recently been included in the store – clothing and bags out of Yyvek a featherweight non-woven material with the label post industrial folk wear by mau. It looks like paper but it’s not so perishable. The material is made by Dupont and it is known primarily as a house insulating material and the material of post office envelopes. (tough, right?) It is comprised of 25%recycled HDPE 2 and is recyclable.

This work is part of a twofold project. The work at the Walker consists of modern featherweight clothing and bags (none weighing more that 500 grams) that challenge some of our ideas about suitability’. The Walker has white jackets, coats and bags that are made with hard structure tyvek. They also have jackets that are actually made from house insulating tyvek (with the advertising writing all cut up). Ironically the house insulating material is not as abrasion resistant as the hard structure tyvek, I guess because it’s supposed to be covered over with vinyl siding!

The other part of post industrial folk wear is a global psycho-geography project in which volunteers create interactive scenarios while walking around cities, wearing my jackets (drawing or writing on them). Under the auspices of Chashama and the New York Foundation for the Arts this project will occur in NYC May 18 – 24, 2008.

Tyvek Bag by mauIn the past I’ve collaborated with the weather to create storm dresses, devised sound and image installations in abandoned monasteries in Eastern Europe, built tepee space modules in the National Building Museum in Washington, designed performance clothing and art wear, as well as taught in art and design academies in Western Europe.

This collection is sewn in the New York City garment district, the tyvek material is made in the USA, and the surplus materials are gathered from local computer, snowboard and automotive industries. All cutting room scraps are recycled via DuPont’s in-house recycling.

Art, commerce and the vanishing line between them

Lee Rosenbaum, author of CultureGrrl, blogs about spotting a Richard Prince “joke bag,” sold and marketed under the Louis Vuitton tag, at her neighborhood mall. Rosenbaum wonders “whether a Vuitton boutique may be added to the Guggenheim-organized Richard Prince show that opened Saturday at the Walker.” A quick answer to Rosenbaum’s query comes with a […]

Lee Rosenbaum, author of CultureGrrl, blogs about spotting a Richard Prince “joke bag,” sold and marketed under the Louis Vuitton tag, at her neighborhood mall. Rosenbaum wonders “whether a Vuitton boutique may be added to the Guggenheim-organized Richard Prince show that opened Saturday at the Walker.”

A quick answer to Rosenbaum’s query comes with a stroll to the Walker shop, where a table of products timed to the Prince exhibition is stocked with dozens of posters, postcards, DVDs of films Prince selected as personally inspiring, and stacks of handsome, shrink-wrapped exhibition catalogues. Alas, no handbags.

“It’s a very high-end line and a very specific distribution. It’s not something (Vuitton) would just sell to anyone, anywhere,” says Nancy Gross, director of merchandising and facility rental at the Walker. “Will I look into it? Maybe.”