Artist: Rena Tom
Web Site: Rare Device
Where are you located?
What do you create?
Currently, I don't feel like I can call myself a creator. I used to make jewelry, but stopped a couple months ago to focus on my store. I know at some point I will get back to it, but I need a little free time to be creative in the way I want to be.
Tell us a little about Rare Device and why you started it.
The idea to open a shop came about when I moved from California to New York and saw all the teeny little shops that seem to be everywhere here. I was designing and making jewelry and wedding invites out of my apartment, didn't know anyone and was quite lonely. I thought I would open a shop so I could see some people during the day - I'm not kidding! Also, I had met so many great designers at shows and fairs, and wanted to share my favorites with the world. I tend to decide upon something and THEN figure out how to do it, so I found a store going
out of business in the summer of 2005, charged right in and asked for the landlord's number, and that was it. We opened in October 2005.
How has your life changed since opening Rare Device?
Absolutely no free time. Every waking moment (plus half of my dreams) are spent fretting about work. I like to be busy but this is ridiculous! But - it's worth it, I have met so many great artists and designers and shopkeepers and customers. I feel very empowered to help
others, even though retail is not exactly selfless work. I like that I know so much more about this business and can offer concrete advice.
How do you get the word out about your business?
I blog, I tell my friends, I attend shows and meet people, I call back when an editor leaves a message. That's about it. I have been incredibly lucky with the press and exposure I have received in the last year and a half.
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
I want to have multiple stores, bigger stores, and carry everything I want to carry - bulky furniture, obscure and risky products. I want to show more art and set up more collaborations between artists and designers. I want to truly have a signature style.
Where do you get inspiration for your projects?
From my designers of course! I am thrilled to be able to do mini art shows in the window of my store...I think it's fun for the product-oriented designers to conceive an art installation of their work, something a little different for them.
Which of the tools you use is your favorite?
Actually, it is sad, as a designer and as a shopkeeper, the Internet is the best tool. I wanted to be on the computer less for health reasons (my wrists are blown out) but I'm on more than ever, getting inspiration, finding designers, working with people around the world, promoting, sourcing supplies. It's a necessary evil.
What keeps you motivated?
Remembering that the livelihood of others depends in part on how well I represent them. Also, trolling the web or a catalog and finding the absolute perfect product is a really nice feeling, and then seeing it take off as predicted is very gratifying that you know how to do your
What advice would you give to someone starting a creative business?
Take lots of notes. Do plenty of research in the field and online, talk to others who you think are happy and successful in what they do. Plan to spend more money than you'd like but less than you wanted to. Improvise and compromise. Opening the shop was stressful in the same
way that planning my wedding was - you want so much but there is a budget.
Can you recommend a good book or great music?
I spend all day at work listening to an Internet station called Pig Radio. It's a very funny mix of electronica, campy pop, indie stuff, and it's broadcast from Milan.
Who is your favorite indie designer/artist?
Can't really say, it would not be fair to all of my designers! Hmm, artists I like include Vija Celmins and Matthew Ritchie, James Turrell and Ruth Asawa.
What is your definition of a perfect day?
Being somewhere green where I can smell the ocean, a giant glass of iced tea, a nap with my puppy, and then gelato.
What's the best birthday present you've ever received?
A marriage proposal atop a big lookout rock somewhere outside of Lake Tahoe.
Thank you Rena!