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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
  • Jesse Benson (b. 1978) is an artist based in Los Angeles. Benson's complex practice is driven by the perversion of roles and representation that characterize his generational moment. In obsessively "skillful" objects like the Bureau Paintings, Catalog Page Paintings, Future Sculptures, and Repaintings, Benson constantly questions the authenticity of the document, the function of style, and the value of both art and artist. Benson is equally committed to a curatorial/organizational practice that openly overlaps and inspires his object production.

  • The Architecture/Landscape/Interiors Department at OTIS College of Art and Design is pleased to announce a lecture by Nick SeierupPrincipal | Design Director of Perkins+Will, Los Angeles, on Thursday, December 3, 2015.


  • Marisa Silver is the author most recently of the New York Times bestselling novel Mary Coin. Her other books include the novels No Direction Home and The God of War (a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize), as well as two story collections, Babe in Paradise and Alone with You. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and been included in many anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. Silver lives in Los Angeles.

  • Jesse Lerner is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles.  His short films Natives (1991, with Scott Sterling), T.S.H. (2004) and Magnavoz (2006) and the feature-length experimental documentaries Frontierland/Fronterilandia (1995, with Rubén Ortiz-Torres), Ruins (1999) The American Egypt (2001), Atomic Sublime (2010) and The Absent Stone (2013, with Sandra Rozental) have won numerous prizes at film festivals in the United States, Latin America and Japan.

  • Otis faculty member Dana Berman Duff will present a program of short 16mm and digital films in her "Catalogue" series.

  • Performing the Grid is an exhibition that brings together an intergenerational group of artists and cultural producers that utilize the grid as a performative strategy to examine, challenge and position philosophical, political, social, domestic, corporeal, and mythical perspectives. Rosalind Kraus famously wrote that the grid “functions to declare the modernity of modern art” in her 1979 essay, Grids.


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