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Meet Amy Robertson of Mar Vista Art Department in Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy Robertson.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was working on renovating property in Maui in 2013 and 2014 while running a design blog. I’d leave for 2 to 3 months and then head back to LA for a month. I had a deep fascination with the maker world while dabbling in furniture myself. When I was home in LA, I would drive around to different studios and interview the designers. My partner, DJ Neff, had this amazing space that he used as his art studio but he never used the store front. He’s an art director and graffiti artist. He came to visit me in Maui in March of 2015 and we dreamed up a few different ideas, one was a juice bar (but who needs another juice bar) …the one that stuck was the Mar Vista Art Dept.

From there, we cleaned out the studio where he was restoring his 1961 Econoline along with the area where he would build his CANLOVE art pieces (canlove.org, graffiti recycling program). He had just finished this sculpture for Toyota and had a bunch of reclaimed wood left over so he had some custom tables built that would then become our workshop tables. He also built these awesome mobile shop doors that close off the studio space to his shop space where he keeps his spray cans and tools. We can open them if we need to throw a bigger event. They’re really cool!

The pop up retail space is a lot of fun…. now! It wasn’t always that way. There was a big learning curve in the beginning since neither of us had retail experience but luckily, we partnered with someone who does and they were willing to grow with us and the neighborhood. We have so many amazing small brands. The best part about having the pop up space is that we get to talk to customers about the makers and each maker has a unique story or technique that I love sharing.

The third part to what we do here is design and fabrication for mostly experiential and festivals. That’s where the ‘Art Dept’ comes in. We have a few big ideas that we’re working on!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I talked a little bit about that above, how neither of us had retail experience. But another challenge was that we started with no capital. Pretty much -45 cents but it paid off last summer. We become profitable with two big projects and since then it’s been a steady stream of big and little projects.

Plus, our neighborhood is becoming more walk-able.

Please tell us about Mar Vista Art Department.
Our business consists of 3 parts: pop-up retail, workshops & in-house events and then event production, design and fabrication. I specialize and focus on the workshops, events and help produce the projects that come in.

I’m most proud… hmmmm of it all. Start to finish, I love talking about what we do, what interests us, the random jobs that come in… it’s always exciting and new. I also love our community! They make me happy and feel supported.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memory was living in Clark Fork, Idaho. It’s pretty close to Montana. My mom was in nursing school at the time and during her time off we would pack a lunch and drive to this beautiful lake. She would leave her car door open and blast all of our favorite artists and we would sing at the top of our lungs. Heart, Kate Bush, Belinda Carlisle, Joni Mitchell. I really loved the fact she had me listen to strong female artists. Plus, I hold northern Idaho and Montana close to my heart. It’s such a peaceful beautiful part of the country.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 12513 Venice Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90066
  • Website: www.mvartdept.com
  • Phone: 310-601-6383
  • Email: amy@shopmvad.com
  • Instagram: @mv_artdept

Image Credit:
Birdman Photos

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