• Spartan Conversations: Makeshift Society's Rena Tom

    Today we're excited to pick the brain of Rena Tom of Makeshift Society, a shared workspace for creative professionals, freelancers, and small teams.

    The physical spaces are anchored in San Francisco and Brooklyn, but the impact of Makeshift Society extends much further. As Tom explains, "Everybody is at a different point in their journey: some people are exploring new careers, trying to learn new skills, improve their existing business, or looking for help on a dream project. Our goal is to give you tools, resources, and permission, and then get out of your way."


    Spartan: do you have any advice for people who are looking for creative collaborators? what are some strategies for finding your creative place in a city or community?

    Rena Tom: Join mailing lists, take a class, ask questions of shopkeepers and gallery assistants and anybody who interfaces with a lot of different people. Check out meetup.com to see what people are interested in, where they tend to hang out. If you’re shy, Twitter and Instagram are actually great places to scope out like-minded people.


    SP: are you a list-maker? If so, can you share some specific items/tasks on a recent to-do list

    RT: See images!


    SP: you are a consultant to creatives and small business owners — are there any pieces of advice or guidance you find yourself giving to EVERYONE? 

    RT: I generally tell people that they already know the answers to the questions they have. Maybe not the tactical details, but the big-picture questions…when I sit down and have people explain those problems to me, during the act of telling me, they tend to unravel or reveal the problems. It’s a little like therapy for small business owners!

    Also, being really aware of externalities - whether that’s the buying habits of an actual customer, or the time constraints of a buyer you want to reach - is important. Research and empathy are so key to being able to do business efficiently yet in a non-icky way.


    SP: What are some of your favorite books? 


    RT: I buy non-fiction and craft books, and I get fiction from the library. Shop Class as Soulcraft was a good recent read, and The Flamethrowers was pretty electrifying fiction about a woman artist in the 70s.


    SP: What are some favorite websites you have bookmarked or visit daily?

    RT: Oh, very few consistently anymore—there’s been a shift to only reading things recommended to me by others, usually via Twitter. That said, if I need a visual pick-me-up, I usually check out Present & Correct’s blog or Sight Unseen and In the Make for some process stories about artists.




    SP: what are some of your favorite organizational tools?

    RT: I use Todoist on my computer/phone. It’s a fairly lightweight to-do list that has just enough features, but is not totally baffling to me. However, I do tend to make paper lists when I stress out. There’s something very satisfying about physically crossing something off that can’t be replicated on a screen.

    I also have a ton of Google Docs, when I need to share information with my staff and partner. Incoming, larger files live in Dropbox, and I use Evernote for ideas, cool links for cities I travel to, and websites I want to go back to. When I want to share image files, I put them in Dropmark, which lets me drag them into the order I like to see them, like a pinboard.


    Images: top image from SF magazine, all others by Rena Tom

  • Spartan Conversations: Ceramicist Mirena Kim

    New in the shop this week are a handful of beautiful new ceramic pieces from Mirena Kim, a Culver City, CA-based potter who came to ceramics after "a fruitless search for a simple, unadorned cylinder caused me to decide to make my own." We talked to Mirena about graphic design, daily ritual, and making work for "the rough and tumble of everyday living."




    SPARTAN: Tell me about your background and how you came to start your own line? 
    MIRENA KIM: I'm Korean-born, from Seoul. I came to the US as a very young child and grew up in mostly in Los Angeles. I studied Modern Dance Choreography at UC Santa Cruz but made my living as a graphic and clothing designer, in LA and in NYC.
    While living in Park Slope, I discovered The Clay Pot, and became fascinated with all of the handmade ceramics there. I was inspired to make something myself, and started to take a class in the neighborhood. I was hooked. I didn't formally start my line until last year (2013), but I've been steadily learning, making and selling my pots while continuing to work in design and raising two boys.

    S. What's your process like? 
    MK: I'm inspired by the small actions and rituals that make up our lives. The morning coffee, the dinner with friends, buying flowers for the table. I start from there and then begin to design for those moments. Then I try not to add too much— keep the form very, very simple. Almost minimal. I let either the shape or the glaze do all of the talking.

    S: Before you were a potter, you worked in graphic and interior design. Can you talk a bit about how this influences your work now? 
    MK: My design background forces me to see my work in context. At best, my work seems to slip into an environment and look like it's always been there. I see myself not designing for galleries, but for the rough and tumble use of everyday living. I make my ware rugged and simple. I've even taken my bowls on camping trips!
    I am also inspired by the beautiful food photography that's everywhere these days. So in that sense I also see my work as part of 2-D visual art.

    S: What is currently inspiring your work? 
    MK: Vegetables. I absolutely loved "Plenty", the cookbook by Ottolenghi. The food in that book is so beautiful and whole—I want to build my life around that aesthetic.

    S:What are you reading right now?
    MK: Glaze recipes. Hundreds of them.

    Click here to order:
  • Spring arrivals at Spartan

    New Spartan arrivals this month:
    Erin Considine jewels, Sharktooth NYC vintage and overdyed textiles, Electric Feathers puffy canvas bag and trio of pillows.
    Come to the Austin store or call 512-579-0303 to order!
  • Signs of Spring

    Our lovely Leigh Patterson shot these beautiful Spring images with the help of Nora Frank. The Creatures of Comfort bags are on the site and in store. Give us a ring (512/579/0303) or pop by the shop if you are interested in the Reinhard Plank hats.

  • Spartan Book Club: Part 1

    Friends have been asking me for book recommendations rather frequently lately, so I though we might start a regular posting about our favorite reads. We would love to hear your recommendations! 

    Part 1: a pair of short novels that are set in the middle of the last century. Clever' lovely page-turners - you'll fly through these guys.  

    *Oh, and don't forget to buy your books locally friends!  None of us want to live in a world without independent booksellers.




  • Fresh Start

    After December's festive madness, I like to take advantage of the first month of the year to lounge around the house a bit more- cook big meals, read, catch up on movies, have friends pop by instead of heading out on the town. This year, more than ever, I am taking full advantage of this cozy homebody time, but I also want to use the fresh momentum of the new year to invest in good habits when cooking those big meals and carve out time for yoga at the house. 

    Here are a few of my current favorite healthful cooking sites and my go-to for online yoga classes at home or when I am traveling. 

    What's Cooking Goodlooking  (You had me at "glutenfree, vegan hazelnut thumbprint cookies with chocolate almond butter filling)

    Bon Appetite  (I stumbled across a really nice 2 week series of clean eating menus on their online site)

    My New Roots (a friend just turned me on to this one and it is a gem)

    Yoga Glo (a really diverse variety of classes and teachers, so you'll never get bored, and at $18 a month, you can't beat the price- my personal favorite is Tiffany Cruikshank - her classes are fun, challenging and she so stinking cute.)


  • January Day Dreaming


                                             Frantisek Kupka "Chute" 

                                          Katrin Coetzer



  • DOSA


    Beauty in the minimal, industrial headquarters of LA's sustainable clothing line DOSA

    o t h e r w o r l d l y 

    Images via here, here

  • mexico city



    These depictions of Mexico City from 101 Cookbooks' Heidi Swanson are inducing major wanderlust. Endless inspiration in the palette of washed-out pastels for a dreary winter day. —lp

    Some products in similar hues we're digging:
    Subtle detail in Rachel Craven textiles


    The covers of the new Synonym Journal (in the shop in Austin now!)

    Mixed patterns in a recreation center mug:


  • THE SPARTAN GIFT GUIDE: gifts for the epicure

    Beautiful tabletop pieces for making every meal feel special


    The best combination — marble and brass:
    • Marble Fort Standard trivet
    • Hand-forged brass ladle
    • Hand-forged brass serving set
    • Hand-forged brass coffee/tea scoop


    Practical beauty — A simple linen napkin, a classic ceramic bowl:
    • Auntie Oti linen napkins
    • Eric Bonnin ice cream or cereal bowl


    An assortment of unique utensils and a cutting board that's as sturdy as it is handsome:
    • Driftwood and ceramic spoons
    • Inlaid wood-handled bread knife
    • Gold salt spoon
    • Maple cutting board with leather strap


    Easy staples for a casual table setting: 
    • Mango wood plates and bowls
     Spanish wine glasses
    • Small olive wood bowl

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