Shop Name, Location, Type of Goods Sold: Pigment / San Diego, CA / Lifestyle Store
Tell us a little bit about how Pigment came to be. Pigment began as a gallery for artwork. Initially, there was a studio in back and gallery space in the front. Over time our art installations were complimented by a sofa, a side table and, eventually, fully developed vignettes. Design savvy gifts followed shortly after and an affinity for merchandising fully emerged.
Talk about your style. Style-wise, both merchandising and buying for Pigment is about graphic contrast and thoughtful color combos. It’s funny; my fashion sense is quite plain–jeans and a wife beater. The uniform, as I like to call it. With the shop, however, I’m all about color and pattern. I love planes of simple negative space balanced by small areas of vibrant spot color. Add pattern and I’m in heaven.
Simple Southern California architecture from San Diego architects, such as Irving Gill, helped shape my design sensibilities. As part of an architecture class in college I studied his work. One home in particular had large stucco walls with simple arches. At the right time of day, shadows from wind swept palm fronds divided the negative space. The temperature of the cool blue shadows against the warm wall was so beautiful to me. The magic of such simple choices and the interaction of the static building with the shifting organic shapes really left an impression on me. It influenced my artwork (I’m a painter too) and it definitely influences the shop.
On a less sophisticated note, I’m a product of the 70’s and 80’s and I’m still in love with old OP graphics. All that ombre shifting is right in my wheelhouse. I teach Color Theory at the local colleges and my color fixation plays a big role in the look of Pigment. With color, inspiration is all around at all times. I’m drawn to the subtleties of one color, the breadth of one color between temperature extremes, but also the contrast between two opposing hues as well. Color moments that whisper and draw you in and others that yell at you and grab your attention from afar, both stop me in my tracks on a regular basis. I can definitely say I’m color obsessed.
Do you have a favorite part of your shop + why? With merchandising, I geek out on every section of the store, so narrowing down one fav’ is really hard. I don’t have a favorite spot, but I have a favorite time to work. The magic of merchandising happens while the store is closed. I love the early morning hours before the shop opens. The anticipation of customers and the challenge to impress really keeps me going.
The Plant Lab is a crowd pleaser for sure. Inspired by the terrarium craze we created a spot in store where you can build your own. It’s a go-to for gifting and a place for adults and kiddos alike. Colored sands, mosses and rocks line the walls in a rainbow of color. We were literally thinking about a candy shop when looking for bins to hold all the sands and such. Just like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, we want it to feel like a wonderland. Customers can DIY or order up from one of our associates.
Where does your inspiration come from? Inspiration comes in many forms. As I mentioned above, color is number one. From nature to the city streets and the pages of a magazine, it’s everywhere at all times and little moments of color inspiration are constant. I also love vintage picking–buying, collecting, foraging. My vintage compulsion is one part treasure hunter and one part genealogist. I always feel a connection to the items I buy, like an object found from my own past. The preoccupation isn’t a rational one. I’ve even been moved to tears over old photos at the swap meet. I guess it’s easy to appreciate how fleeting life is when you see someone’s everything in boxes at a garage sale.
Tell us about some of your biggest achievements and challenges. Business-wise, opening and running the store, doubling our size and moving locations over seven years was the undertaking of our lives and, between my husband and I, is also our biggest business achievement. Every year that we stay in business puts us one year further from the statistical failure of a five-year window. Which leads, of course, to the biggest challenge: keeping it going. Keeping the quality strong in the shop and morale high among our staff takes constant effort. There’s no relaxing and basking, it’s constant work. There’s just more pressure now.
Name 3 pieces that define you + your space. I’ve been looking at this question for a week now. I’m trying to put my finger on why it’s such a hard one for me. People are constantly trying to understand what we do, what we are, what we sell. On the one hand, I’m eager to answer the question and help to establish our identity. On the other hand, I don’t want to limit what we are and put the shop in a proverbial box either. This may not be what you were looking for, but here’s my best attempt to answer.
Paint Brushes: Pigment’s focus was initially on local artisan vendors and the sale of their work, including my own (I’m a painter). Art is the backbone of the business. While we’ve grown well beyond a gallery, sales of art is Pigment’s foundation and our relationship to handmade wares and the artists & artisans who make them continues to guide our aesthetic as a whole.
Our towering Fig Tree: Aesthetically speaking, at Pigment plants in general soften an otherwise more industrial space. The matriarch of our collection, a huge fig tree that reaches up in to the rafters, dwarfs teeny tiny succulent counterparts. Like people, they each have a personality and temperament. You can cruise through and checkout the different specimen for inspiration or role your sleeves up and get your hands dirty at the Plant Lab, our in-store terrarium bar. The green element and our Plant Lab in particular set us apart from other stores.
A Stroller: We are family owned and operated and the growth of our store has paralleled our growing family. We have a pup, named Cash, and two daughters too. The shop and all of our events are family & pet friendly. I want Pigment to be a magical place for adults and kids alike and often draw on my own nostalgia for the items that we feature.
Biggest splurge and biggest steal: Splurge: Once a year we have a Tillandsia Trunk Show. It’s a time when we feature unusual specimen. They can be pricey, but oh are they beautiful! Be forewarned, there’s a certain pressure that comes with the purchase though. You become a steward of that specimen and the pressure to care for it properly is huge! Steal: Succulents, succulents, succulents! The largest growers in the nation are in our backyard, which means our prices are amazing. Even among our So-Cal counterparts, our prices are the best. Plugs start at a $1 each.
What are some of your go-to places when it comes to shopping for your space? When it comes to buying, I feel comfortable walking in to a fancy showroom and pouring over every item in the space. I can also turn around and sift through every dusty box at an estate sale. I go into it with a vision and a goal–no forum is too high or too low for me.
My buying style, I learned early on, is pretty unconventional too. I break every rule and order primarily based on what I like and would buy myself. I am often saying no to things that I could sell. I want to love every item and the space as a whole.