West Elm Local: Front & Main
PF Director Toddy Stewart has been on the go, traversing the country documenting local craftspeople and designers for West Elm’s Front & Main.
Photographer Pat Dougherty was also on board through the trip to document the studio visits and create stills content for the West Elm site and production manager Eleanor Wilson kept up the initiative, employing local crew from each city to bolster the same inspired footprint.
“Although terms like “local” and “American Made” might have particular cachet in today’s day and age, these concepts have long been a part of West Elm’s DNA, and very much what drives our passions as a business. Two years ago, we launched our LOCAL program, an initiative that taps into our goal to create a positive impact in the communities that West Elm calls home. What began as a small, experimental endeavor with just two stores in 2013 has blossomed into a network that brings together over 200 local makers from around the country, providing a platform and raising awareness for these talented craftspeople and small business owners.”
Toddy employs a low impact, artist friendly process that uses minimal crew and put him behind the camera so the talented artists and designers can feel comfortable and the vibe is intimate. West Elm art director Cat Dunn and producer Andrea Leminske were great touring companions as we delved into an ongoing kind of city guide where one gets a close up look at what inspires local designers.
From Eric Trine, a furniture designer in the Los Angeles area to Tippy Tippens, a sustainable product maker in New Orleans to Matt Alexander a furniture maker in Nashville, Toddy and the light weight, travel-ready PF production crew were able to capture the stories West Elm wanted to tell.
Fast Company recently highlighted the West Elm approach in an illuminating article … How West Elm Became An Unlikely Incubator of Independent Design …
“We’re constantly in this dance of ‘what works for you’ and we can be flexible about that,” Mullen says. “Part of the reason Local has worked is with every vendor we do an intro interview, which isn’t just about pricing and policy, but also who do you want to be when you grow up? What kind of growth ambition do you have? What does success look like?”
West Elm: The Minted Collection
West Elm has teamed up with Minted to introduce a collection of prints from independent artists and designers from communities all over America. Toddy sat down with Brooklyn-based artist Christine Llewllyn about her trajectory as an artist, her inspiration and the excitement of being part of a creative community.
“We believe that great design lives and thrives in the hands of independent artists that people do not have access to through traditional retailers. Minted uses technology to allow consumers to discover great creative talent, making Minted a place where artists can learn, gain exposure, and build their businesses.”
Roar + Rabbit & West Elm
Through initiatives like their Collaborations series, West Elm is also committed to telling the stories of the talented artists and craftspeople they work with.
Toddy Stewart set off for Philadelphia with photographer Patrick Dougherty & cinematographer Kenny Wu to capture the look and feel of the Roar & Rabbit process. Working with West Elm’s art director Kristin Haff and video content producer Andrea Leminske, Toddy and crew filmed Mitzie and Wendy in their personal spaces to get a perspective on their sensibility and history.
“Design industry mavens Mitzie Wong and Wendy Wurtzburger are long-time friends, colleagues, and partners-in-crime. After years spent working in various fields and independent ventures, they have come together to launch their debut home collection, Roar + Rabbit, an assemblage of beautiful pieces inspired by art, nature, and one unifying term: harmony. They call this look “the new modern,” an aesthetic that balances theoretical approaches to design and color with timeless glamour and touches of the organic. Within the collection, hard-lined geometry rubs elbows with soft pastels, metal and stone stands side-by-side with exposed wood. An all-encompassing project that includes furniture, lighting, textiles, and decorative objects, it is our biggest collaboration to date—and it’s available exclusively at west elm.”
And Patrick’s shots for the blog:
Margo Selby & West Elm
Traveling solo to Whitstable, England as a one man documentary band (Director/DP/Camera) Toddy and Margo Selby hung out for a couple days, capturing her particular way of doing things and the creative community that surrounds her.
“It’s a beautiful thing when a designer’s love of their craft can be felt in their work. Such is the case for British textile designer Margo Selby. As much a love letter to the craft of weaving as it is a testament to the power of color, patern, and texture, Selby’s work explores what is possible within the finite confines of its process. Bright and wonderfully tactile, her designs meld traditional craft methods with forward-looking Modernist sensibilities. Today, we’re thrilled to share our recent collaboration with Margo Selby, a collection of bedding and home textiles designed in Selby’s Whitstable studio and handcrafted by artisans in India.”