Events
  • Shila Khatami

    Oct 04| Lectures
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    Though Shila Khatami’s paintings make use of pop cultural references—sometimes the titles quote Blondie or Cyndi Lauper lyrics—her works are ultimately about the tradition and material possibilities of painting. As the base for these works, Khatami uses readymade or manufactured objects found in common hardware stores, such as smooth sheets of aluminum, fiberboards, pegboards, and phonic isolation foam. Her painting process includes a wide range of non-traditional tools, like rubber bands and masking tape, and methods such as rolling, dripping, and scoring.

  • John Keene

    Oct 05| Lectures
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    John Keene is the author of the novels Annotations and Counternarratives, as well as several other works, including the poetry collection Seismosis, with artist Christopher Stackhouse, and a translation of Brazilian author Hilda Hilst's novel Letters from a Seducer. The recipient of a Whiting Award, Keene has been a member of the Dark Room Writers Collective and a Cave Canem fellow. He has served as the managing editor of Callaloo and taught at Northwestern. He currently teaches at Rutgers University-Newark and lives in New York.

  • Leonardo Bravo is an artist, curator, and educator and the Founder of Big City Forum. Big City Forum is an interdisciplinary project designed to explore the intersection between design-based creative disciplines (Design, Architecture, Urban Planning, etc) that take into account public space and the built environment. Big City Forum facilitates the exchange of ideas through gatherings, symposiums, exhibitions, and special events that promote forward-thinking projects and the individuals at the forefront of this vision.

  • Chris Coy

    Oct 11| Lectures
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    Chris Coy is an artist and filmmaker. His work has shown at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Sundance Film Festival, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, the Netherlands Media Art Institute, and numerous international art festivals and exhibitions. He received his MFA from the University of Southern California in 2012. He is represented by Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles.

  • Professor Karen Tongson joined the USC faculty in English and Gender Studies in fall 2005. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Before coming to USC, Tongson held a University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship in Literature at UC San Diego, and a UC Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) Residential Research Fellowship at UC Irvine.

  • Artist Polly Apfelbaum in conversation with David Pagel, within Apfelbaum's exhibition Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes.

     

  • Patrick Jackson studied at San Francisco Art Institute (BFA) and the University of Southern California (MFA). In May 2017, Patrick Jackson will have a solo exhibition at The Wattis Institute, San Francisco.

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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 

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