Saturday, June 28, 2014

Proof Bakery & Individual Medley // Atwater Village

It's always very special when Frido and I have few hours here and there to explore the LA neighborhood by ourselves. (seriously... it gets expensive to step out when we think of a babysitter expense...)

Last Friday we had a few hours in the morning so we decided to have a late (and second) breakfast and little shop visit at Atwater Village. This little neighborhood changed so much in last few years. It's colorful, energetic and full of opportunities for people watching. AND It happened to be really close from our studio in Glassell Park. Just 5-10 minutes of street driving.

I love Proof Bakery for casual (but really tasty) coffee and pastries and we were able to visit Individual Medley for the first time. Independent Medley is one of those shops that smell amazing when you enter the door... and every corner you look has something special to discover.

Over coffee and pastries we chatted about logistics for next Napkin Sketchbook production, finding binding vendor for notebooks we are making (soon!!), future travel plans... and a mix of random things between.

After visiting these two places, I was pretty energized and was ready to get back to Baum-kuchen. A short but true inspirational investment...

Staying flexible... nurturing creative transformation and empowering her power to change.

The other day... we had a morning of downtime. These downtimes are so precious... and often a new seed of play idea seems to birth during these times when we are not constantly rushed to get to the next place.

Satchi and I were talking about how Coco got splinters on her legs because she crawled funny on our wood deck and Satchi had an idea to open Dr. Satchi's office. First she wanted to treat Coco but it didn't go so well since Coco was not into staying still for a pretend treatment. So we gathered up all her friends and made a impromptu waiting room with super lightweight floor seatings we got from my parents (we used to use them in our living when we were still living in Japan... nearly 20 years ago??). A toy table and kids' size chairs came in from our breakfast nook... and her doctor's kit. Before we knew it, the space which used to be open was filled with life. She mad sure that her patients had books to read while they waited. She then picked one patient at a time to treat their splinters. Our bandage consumption was steep... but it was fun to watch.  All the patients received "I am proud of you" stickers after they met with Dr. Satchi.

I am happy that we have a lot of flexible lightweight furniture around the house that can be moved around depending on our play, mood and occasion. Those floor seating move around from our breakfast nook to patio... to our dining room transforming a space, play and story told.

And as a child... how empowering to know that she can make a difference in a big space as well as little spaces if she choose to?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hello from our ever-evolving Baum-kuchen back room!

If you have ordered items from Baum-kuchen before... and recently placed a new order, you might have noticed a few changes. Yes... address labels are printed instead of hand written...  It is a minor change but symbolically a rather big change for Baum-kuchen.

For the longest time, I was the only one who processed Baum-kuchen shipment and fulfillment. Okay... for a long time, I was kind of the only one behind the entire Baum-kuchen. I corresponded with our customers, wrote blog posts and manually fulfilled orders (including writing address labels one at a time).  Last year... little before Coco's birth, Frido started to get more involved as a creative director of visual direction for Baum-kuchen. We started to work on more original products while continuing to curate special artifacts from around the world. Then in last September we moved into a new shop/studio space in Glassell Park. It has been a slow and gradual transformation from a miniature business that used to run in our garage into a slightly more public lifestyle brand.

Since we came back from Yakushima, we have been playing with an idea of "building a team" for Baum-kuchen... mainly for our back-end support (aka shipment/fulfillment) to start with. Because my hours that are dedicated to pure Baum-kuchen work is still limited to 3 days/week (It's my conscious decision to dedicate the other days of the week for our two sunshines and recently I realized that I am just a human who only has 24 hours/day...). Also a slowly growing number of orders... meant that I was spending more time fulfilling orders than sharing inspiration and love for life. And it is so important for us that we do our best to provide quick shipment... Emotionally it was one of the biggest decision that I have made for Baum-kuchen... probably bigger than signing a lease for our rental space. Hiring a help not only meant ensuring that we could support those hours financially but also shift the way I operated the entire shop process. The one that has become very comfortable for me... and also the one that was only designed to accommodate one person working.

After pondering for many months, I stepped out of my shell to ask for help. Then everything started to roll like a snowball of positive karma.

Our trusted friend Nerine has begun working with us few weeks ago. She is here few hours/week to support the hands-on shipping/fulfillment process. After giving her demo of Baum-kuchen signature packaging/fulfillment, I quickly realized that we needed a better space for facilitating the process to be effective. So we decided to move most of the fulfillment procedure to our backroom equipped with a dedicated laptop, printer and scale. It makes a total sense since the fulfillment station will be much closer to where our inventory is... but I have to admit that it was such a growing up process.

It will probably take sometime to feel that this is our new normal... but I am excited for the change. Now that I stepped away from being the only one who is fulfilling the orders, I can respond to our emails from our customers much quicker. Also a big chunk of my working hours can be spent on the creative process including writing for our blog, updating product photography... and telling stories of life. I am planning to pour some energy to slowly curate a backroom that inspires everyone instead of focusing on just the front shop area. For now we are getting by with foldable tables and found chairs to get going with minimum investment... but with time... I would like it to be a place that feels cohesive with rest of the shop.

I have also shifted the way I perceive my role for Baum-kuchen. In a way..., Baum-kuchen has been the representation of myself and that partially explains why it was so hard for me to delegate the process. I now think of myself as a mother who unconditionally cares and loves the brand and provides a safe home to facilitate the healthy growth.

change is the only constant... and it always will be.

p.s. I've never shared backroom photos but here are some! I hope you would be proud of where our back room is today... and what will be in the future:)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A day off...

Today... we had a day with no external commitment to start. It started early since Coco woke up at 6am... (and went back to sleep at 7am for another hour). We slowly got ready when everyone woke up and headed to a local bakery... and had a spontaneous breakfast with our friends who happened to be there right before us.

Followed by a brief shopping at Michaels to get some craft supplies for Satchi, a morning nap (for me and Coco) and whole a lot of play time in our backyard which felt like a brand new space after we got a used play structure for Satchi's birthday.

Frido and Satchi worked together to make signs for her play structure. We named it "Baum-haus" as a word play for Baum-kuchen as well as Bauhaus. It means "tree house" in German and it's Satchi's multi-story shop / tree house where she sometimes sells pizza and ice cream made of sand. Day was long... and we maximized our patio by removing all the furniture... which made the space to be bit like an extension of the house. As we ate a leisurely dinner, both girls kept going in and out... eating few bites then playing little bit outside. We usually like to sit through the meal as a principle of a table manner... but sometimes exception is totally acceptable:)

I focused on taking a day off... to rest and regroup both physically and emotionally... since I am making a lot of small changes at Baum-kuchen and they are making a bit of ripples in my work flow. Change is awesome but it is definitely an adjustment and adjustment requires energy to get through.

I am excited to get the fresh new week started!

Friday, June 20, 2014

[Metamorphosis] Dimensional Pouch // new vs. + 2 months

Few months ago, we started sharing our documentation of products we carry at our shop not only in a brand new scratch free condition... but also after and during being used and loved everyday...with a story that can only be shared by earning a medal of scratches. A side by side comparison of new and aged. It has now become our obsession to see how each product morphs over time. After the first feature of Superior Labor Shoulder Bag, I am happy to share a new post about the metamorphosis of Passport Size Dimensional Pouch designed and made by 1.61 Soft Goods in downtown LA.

Frido has been using his Passport Size Dimensional Pouch in charcoal color for a few months and here is an aging process of as is today. The charcoal leather of this pouch is really similar to Traveler's Notebook in brown and it seems to wear in a similar way. I can see after only a few months of using it, the color of leather is getting slightly lighter where there are scratch marks.

On the below picture, you can see the color difference between a new Dimensional Pouch (left)... and Frido's Dimensional Pouch (2 months old) on the right.

I asked Frido what is his favorite part of using this pouch is... and he told me "the volume". Because of the way the leather is stitched, the Dimensional Pouch can accommodate quite bit of volume. Frido keeps his camera as well as small digital tools like his remote control and adopter in this pouch which used to get lost all the time because they get buried on the bottom of his bag.

In a series of pictures below..., you can tell his pouch (right) is a lot more puffed up than the one on the left. He also told me that he likes being able to see all the contents in the pouch when he opens it.

Since the strap is long enough to adopt, you can still keep the pouch securely closed even when it's full. I was wondering if the strap closure was little bit cumbersome to open and close but the tactile closure has been delightful for him.

Below... you can see the difference in volume side by side. The stitching is still very much in tact...which we really appreciate.

I can't wait to share the updates perhaps in another 6 months or so to see how it continues to change. Stay tuned:)

Celebrating Satchi's birthday...

Satchi turned FOUR last week.

As her birthday approached, Frido and I had a big discussion about how to celebrate her special day. We wanted to send a message to her that we are excited to welcome the day without going too overboard with the facade of celebration. So that our focus of the day is on her and to cherish her growth... instead of being caught up by styling the day too much...

The night before after girls went to bed... Frido baked her strawberry shortcake (A Japanese recipe... of course), filled her room with pink balloons (her favorite color...), put together her birthday shrine while I did a night shift in the studio/shop to fulfill the orders since I was taking a day off and finish making her a special leather bound journal as a birthday gift.

We all woke up on the day... super excited... candles, balloons, gifts... and cake.

Luckily... I was able to take an entire day off so that I could spend the morning just with her while Coco stayed with her beloved babysitter at home. After the birthday cake as breakfast, Satchi and I went to a local swimming pool (her request:), played like silly kids in a shallow pool, had a lunch date followed by a toy vending machine and ice cream at Carmela. Yep! We were totally sugar loaded messy kids:)

In the early afternoon we regrouped together as a family and headed out to share the celebration with "her" closest friends at a local farmer's market. We brought all the balloons to the market where there was an adjacent grass field which made it a perfect early dinner picnic. She and her friends were running through the field with these balloons being kids while parents relaxed on a picnic blanket... After everyone munched yummy goodies from the farmer's market, Frido brought out another cake he baked to sing the birthday song with a small group of friends.

It was a special day.

There are a lot of different styles and scales to celebrate little one's birthday... and I am glad we kept it simple and authentic to who we are as a family. I know she would remember the day and everyone who were present to celebrate the special occasion.

Happy birthday, Satchi. We are so grateful to watch you grow...


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