Monday, June 10, 2019

Terrific Museum.Terrific Museum Store. Bowers Museum.

Bowers Museum

It's always fun to see Dunitz & Company's fair trade jewelry on museum store shelves. And my recent trip to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, put a smile on my face. Not only because I saw an amazing exhibit, (more on that later in this post) it's also such a privilege to have my designs offered at the Bowers Gallery Store.

Nancy & Pauline
I entered the museum looking for the friend I was to meet. It was Sunday. And there at the 'Information Desk' I spotted Pauline Rusterholtz, the buyer for the museum's store trimming and arranging a vase of flowers. Yes, she's a woman of many talents. And as I waited for my friend to arrive, Pauline and I caught up and chatted. She told me I'd go nuts for the "Guo Pei, Couture Beyond" exhibit. And she was absolutely right. Guo Pei is an amazing Chinese clothing designer who first gained notoriety in the west when superstar Rihanna wore her golden cape dress at the 2015 Met Gala. If you're in Southern California, definitely check it out. It closes on July 14th. (And, yes, we're posing under a photo of Harry & Meghan in Pauline's office.)

Guo Pei Exhibit
I took this opportunity to ask Pauline if I could interview her for my blog and/or send her a few questions for the answering. She said yes. I know that Pauline supports fair trade when she can, and I knew she was also a member of Museum Store Association. My goal was to learn a few pearls of wisdom from this experienced buyer. I did. Keep reading and you will too.

NANCY: You've been part of the Bowers Museum family since forever. How did you come to work at the Bowers? Had you worked at other museums or done retail prior to taking over the gift store there?

PAULINE: I was moving to Orange County from San Francisco and knew the then manager of the Bowers Museum store. She asked me if I would be interested in working at the store and I said yes. And here I am, 25 years later.

NANCY: Each time I see your store, I'm not only impressed with the merchandising, but also the breadth of amazing products you offer in so many price points. We met in the legendary Kentia Hall World Style exhibits of the now, closed Los Angeles Gift Show - back in the 90's. How do you now source new things for your store?

PAULINE: Mainly by researching on the Internet. I also meet new vendors that come to the museum.

NANCY: You sell items from all over the globe in your store.  Is there a part of the world that you've visited, or products from a certain part of the world that excite you the most?

PAULINE: Just receiving different items from around the world is exciting for us, especially when we meet with different artists from different cultures.  (Yes, Pauline is a diplomat. And it seems she likes vendors to personally call on her. Makes me realize I wish I was 3 people, so I could meet with many buyers in person, on their turf.)

NANCY: When we first met, fair trade really hadn't yet been defined.  I'm sure you could tell which vendors seemed more ethical in the ways they did business. Does validated or certified fair trade play a part in your purchasing decisions now?

PAULINE: Very much so. We always try to work with Fair Trade [vendors].

NANCY: I joined Museum Store Association a few years ago. I have found it to be such a supportive group and I'm thrilled to know you are a member. Is there something in particular about this association that you appreciate or find most helpful? 

PAULINE: I find all of the available information they provide very helpful. I particularly enjoy "Shop Talk". It is a very good resource for so many things. (Shop Talk is an on-line forum of the Museum Store Association where members share ideas on products and store management. This alone, justifies membership.)

NANCY: And you know, I had to ask. Do you have a personal favorite design or designs from Dunitz & Company's collections?

Dunitz at the Bowers
PAULINE: You have such a great variety, it is tough to have a favorite. I try to pick out what appeals to our visitors. (always a diplomat!)

----end of interview---

It appears I wasn't 100% on my game on my recent trip to the Bowers Museum Store. I should have been snapping photos, and except for one of Pauline and me (show above), I didn't take photos in the store. This pic to the right is from May 2017. And yes, the Bowers has always done particularly well with our fair trade earrings.

I want to 'shout out' to the Bowers Museum social media team. I follow them everywhere. Definitely follow their Instagram account. Their feed is fun to watch and I've learned a thing or two from the way they engage their audience. They consistently ask questions of their viewers. (SO SMART.) I love when they ask their followers to caption old photographs from their collection. And guess what? I always do. And one time I even won entrance for two to the museum.

In Southern California? Can't make the Guo Pei exhibit? Don't fret. OK, fret a little. The Bowers Museum has another (what looks to be incredible) exhibit coming up September 21 - January 19, 2020. That's a big window of time which means I definitely will NOT be missing "Dimensions of Form: Tamayo and Mixografia." (Did you know I was a summer intern at the Guggenheim Museum NY when I was in college? And that summer, I was a docent guiding visitors through the Rufino Tamayo retrospective.) In the area? Want to join me?

Definitely visit the Bowers Museum for their exhibits AND their fabulous store. And while you're there make sure to treasure hunt for Dunitz fair trade jewelry. -ND