Photo c/o Max Wanger
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Wakako from Story Of, who is also currently showing her work on papernstitch. Wakako’s photography shop is different than most others, because each of her photos is accomponied by a short story or inspirational note. I love it!
And as luck would have it, Wakako and her partner Frido just celebrated their two year anniversary (congrats to them!) and had an absolutely stunning photo shoot with the talented, Max Wanger. So, a couple of Max’s photos made their way into the tour as well. Hope you enjoy the interview and studio tour….
– You currently live in Los Angeles, but are originally from Japan. Was that transition difficult for you? What are the main cultural difference in regards to art for Los Angeles vs. Japan?
My family moved from Japan to Los Angeles when I was 16. Not being able to speak the language was a huge challenge but living in a new country felt like an adventure to me. Everything from food, people to everyday rituals were so different in the U.S. compared to Japan. My love for observation definitely kicked in when I went through the drastic change.
What I love about Japanese design is that a lot of objects are designed to have a dialogue with their users. People build relationship with their tools and take care of things they own as a long-term commitment. I try to be conscious with what I buy and own and live with the attitude. On the contrast, I think of Los Angeles as a place full of optimism and cultural fusion. You can find a Taco track that serve tacos with Korean BBQ! I am also fortunate to have many creative friends in Los Angeles who are always making things.
– How did you get started with the Story Of? Have you always had an interest in photography?
I think I was born with a camera in my hand (just like a great commercial from Kodak:). I’ve always taken photos and loved the process of archiving memory. My passion of documenting the world around me became something more than hobby when I started attending a design school. Over many years my angles of photography has matured and today I am interested in capturing something that is beyond obvious and often invisible like an emotion or a story behind the moment.
STORY-OF is a thread of photography postcards that collectively tells a story of life. Each image is accompanied with a short episode that captures the essence of the moment. When I started to think of STORY-OF, I was looking for a way to document gems from everyday. I wanted a project that grows organically as I get older and helps me to stay tuned to my life. I also love postcards as a media to share my journey with other people as well as for them to be able to share their journey with their loved ones!
-Is Story Of your full time job? If it is not, how do you balance both?
I work for a design consultancy in Seattle, teach once a week at a design school in Los Angeles and am married to a husband who also works and lives in a design field in LA. So usually I spend my work days in Seattle and weekend plus Monday in LA and have a crazy commute between these two cities every week. The great things about STORY-OF is that this slightly out of ordinary lifestyle ultimately fuels the contents to be richer both philosophically and visually. I take my sketchbook and a camera to literally everywhere I go. I jot down thoughts and inspiring words religiously as it merges in my mind and share some of those thoughts on my blog so in a way I am always working for STORY-OF. I get my big bulk of production and administrative tasks on the weekend such as updating website with new contents, printing new postcards, and bookkeeping, etc.
Sometimes it does get hard to juggle everything (we only have 24 hours a day, right?). It has been great to have a husband who is super supportive and the work I do for all these avenues are all in a creative field so they seem to inspire each other.
-My absolute favorite part of your studio is this incredible type drawer turned wall display, which houses mini treasures. Where did you come up with such a great idea? And where did you find the drawer initially?
I have to be honest. This drawer was a brainchild of my husband. He had it before we met and now we share it to display our little treasures. It’s an old letterpress type drawer. You can find it on eBay! We’re thinking of purchasing more of these drawers and give them as gift.
-I love the fact that you have maps on your wall that show all the places that you have traveled to. What place has been your favorite so far and why?
My husband and I have a saving account called “Inspirational Investment” to fund our travels. Our philosophy is that just like we invest into our future with our 401K, we need to invest in collecting inspiration so that we can always spark new ideas when time arises. We just came back from Burning Man and added a new pin on Northern Nevada last night. My ultimate favorite is a trip we took to Yakushima (an island 500 km south of main islands of Japan) to visit my grandfather. It’s a very spiritual place and overgrown natural elements were so majestic that I felt very small and humbled. I think that the successful trip stirs inside of my spirit and helps me to see things with a new perspective and our one week stay on Yakushima island definitely did that.
-Your studio also doubles (actually triples) as a living room/ dining room space as well. Do you ever find it difficult to work and live in the virtually the same space?
We spend quite bit of time in this space. It helps that both my husband and I are in the design field and we live and breathe the life of being creative. We try to keep things simple and uncluttered so that we don’t feel claustrophobic and only display items we really love and adore. We also change the scene depending on our activities. When we have dinner, we put away all the work related items and lit candles, bring out nice linens, etc. on our table so that the space transforms itself. I find it difficult when I work for 10 hours at the table and dinner is served at a moment when I close my laptop. I end up not moving an inch from the chair! I need to get better in taking short breaks and walk away from the space time to time.
-What advice would you give to others who are looking to work more efficiently in a small space?
Less is more. Everything should have a place to be put away and be diligent in sticking with the system. (label maker is great for this!)
I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I use some of his theories to stay organized and not to get overwhelmed.
Surround the workspace with inspiration! And embrace the small space (I think it’s so cool to have everything within my reach!)