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  • Otis Fine Arts hosts a Visiting Artist lecture series featuring John Houck, a Los Angeles-based artist. Read more about him here.
    Contact: Soo Kim, skim@otis.edu
  • Join Otis’ new President Bruce W. Ferguson and new Director of Galleries and Exhibitions Kate McNamara at a special reception for alumni and friends at the historic National Arts Club.

    Tuesday, October 6, 2015
    7:00 – 9:00 pm

    National Arts Club
    15 Gramercy Park South
    New York, NY 10003
    Business Casual attire is required by the National Arts Club
    For dress code information, visit: www.nationalartsclub.org (under About Us/FAQs)

  • Angela Flournoy’s first novel The Turner House was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. Her fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, and she has written for The New Republic, The Los Angeles Review of Books and elsewhere. Flournoy has taught at the University of Iowa and Trinity Washington University. She lives in Los Angeles.

  • Adam Linder is a choreographer based between Berlin and Los Angeles, working both in theatre and visual art contexts. He has been developing a dance based  format he calls Choreographic Services since 2013. This aspect of his work is focused on underscoring real time and economic conditions that are integral to the discipline of  choreography. At Otis Linder will introduce this format both conceptually and practically, discussing why 'servicing' is the relevant way for his work to publicly engage.  

  • Otis Fine Arts hosts a Visiting Artist lecture series featuring Oliver Payne, a Los Angeles-based artist. Read more about him here.
    Contact: Soo Kim, skim@otis.edu
  • Kimberli Meyer trained as an architect and an artist, and has been the director of the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House in West Hollywood since 2002. She has initiated and curated many programs there, including the exhibitions How Many Billboards?

  • Industry Spotlight

    Oct 15| Special Event
    An advertising creative director for more than 25 years, Otis alumnus Josh Weltman was the Mad Men co-producer responsible for Don Draper's credibility as an advertising genius.
    Join us for a behind-the-scenes look at the hit series, plus hear key insights from Weltman's new book Seducing Strangers: How to Get People to Buy What You're Selling.
    October 15, 6:30 - 9:30 pm


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