Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Creative Breathing Room: Meet Rodger Hostetler of Lot21 Gallery and Studio

Photographer Rodger Hostetler of Lot21 stands in back of the fine art photo gallery in his space in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA.

The large commercial space in the Esprit complex had long been vacant.  From time to time there would be rumblings of possible tenants -- there was much excitement for a few minutes when a grocery store was rumored to be interested but years slipped by without any signs of life at the corners of  20th and Indiana/Minnesota.  Then the universal sign of something might be happening occurred  -- brown kraft paper covering the windows was taped up and construction no parking signs were posted.   We then heard that a photo studio and a sushi restaurant were going to take the space.  Even for San Francisco that sounded like an unlikely combination and when we saw a new interior wall being constructed we understood that the space was being divided into two businesses.

The sushi restaurant space at 20th and Minnesota hasn't had much activity in the last few months and the paper covering the windows is now drooping sadly making us wonder if disappointment might be on that corner instead of California rolls.  

But the larger of the two spaces at 20th and Indiana is now the beautiful new home of Lot21 Gallery and Studio -- a 5800 square foot commercial photography space with 1500 square feet dedicated to a fine art photography gallery open to the public.

Because it much of the space is a photo studio, window coverings are typically drawn over the windows giving the overall impression that the gallery isn't open but once you are inside the space you realize that the muted light is necessary in order to enjoy the photo exhibit. 

Beyond the gallery space is the studio for executive director and photographer Rodger Hostetler.  Hostetler does both studio and location photography work for such clients as HP, Old Navy, Paypal as well as smaller clients such as Lunar Design.   His sole employee, Sara Chestnutt-Fry, curates and manages the gallery.  Hostetler sat down with us soon after their February opening to explain his journey from Southern California surfer to successful photographer and gallery owner.

Studio Space at Lot21 in Dogpatch. The stairs lead up to the kitchen, meeting area and customer lounge. 

Why do you do what you do?
Photography has been my life for more than 18 years -- I can't imagine doing anything else that would allow me to be creative and to also make a living for my family.

I grew up in Southern California and when I was a teenager I moved to Monterey.  I loved surfing so I moved to San Diego.  I became an art director and worked for a surfing publication as well as for Haro Design.  It was a good life but I knew at some point I would have to move to Los Angeles or New York City to advance in that career and I didn't want to live in either of those places.

So I changed directions a bit and started assisting on photo shoots.  I did that for many years in many cities and although I did take a lot of workshops I really learned on the job.  It was hard to be an assistant after being in charge as an art director but I learned a lot.

In 2001 I made a connection with The Gap so I moved to San Francisco to freelance for them.   Now I primarily focus on product shoots for large and small corporate clients.

One of the things my clients like about my work is my ability to shoot ordinary objects -- like an ice cream scoop from Lunar Designs for example, in a different way.  I don't cram lots of objects into a small space like a lot of photographers do.  I like to use a lot of space in my shoots. 

That's why the size of our new space works so well for us.  I can build a set in this space and still have the ability to walk around it.  Like a movie set, this space can be configured in many different ways -- like a house or an office -- and still have room for the photography equipment.  The large space allows us to shoot like we are on location. 

On the mezzanine level we have a big kitchen that can be used for food photography and we also have a room with a large dining room as well as a living/rec room space.

The gallery gives us another source of income but more importantly it gives unknown artists a chance to show their work and for some of them -- show their work for the first time.  All the work is for sale and we primarily look for work by photographers who are building some momentum for their work and are from the contemporary photography world.
Rodger Hostetler discusses his new photography studio and gallery in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA. 

Why Dogpatch?
I lived in Dogpatch when Just For You Cafe was the only place to eat in the neighborhood!  Sometimes the cooks there would even let my kids make there own pancakes.  Then Serpentine opened and the neighborhood just got better and better from that point in terms of more great places to eat but it still felt like it kept its unique character.

So I definitely knew the neighborhood even thought I've now lived in Noe Valley for about nine years.

When we decided we wanted a large space that could be both a studio and a gallery we first looked in Bayview but the space we wanted didn't work out -- it needed too much work.   This space was a bit bigger than we wanted but we liked that it was totally unfinished -- no electrical, plumbing, zip -- so that we could finish it out to totally suit our needs and the building management worked with us to make it happen.

My commercial clients and gallery visitors love how easy it is to access this location and parking is generally pretty easy and will become easier now that we have daytime access to the parking spaces in front of our building.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
I'm a big outdoor adventure person so I would probably live in Tahoe and mountain bike, ski and snowboard.  Maybe head to the ocean to surf a bit.  Actually, I'd probably be the old guy at some high-end resort giving skiing lessons! 

And the name -- Lot21 -- where did that come from?
We wanted a name that had some history to it and also sounded industrial.  Lot 21 is the lot this building was on before it was divided up to be developed -- it was ACME Paint before it became the Esprit headquarters.

Editors Note:  The current exhibit, Joshua Dudley Greer:  Point Pleasant runs from April 12-May 15

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Recreation and Re-Creation: Meet Brett Eisenberg of Triple Aught Design

The team from Triple Aught Design (TAD) poses in front of a 70s era Gama Goat. Top Left to Right: Mike, Skylar, Jessica, Kyle, Dave, Gianni, Al, Peter, Brett. Bottom Left to Right: Evan, Raquel, Richard

Brett Eisenberg, CEO of Triple Aught Design (TAD), does not want anyone to think that TAD is defined by him or by any one individual.  He is adamant that the success of the company is because of their amazing team and the products they offer.   Even the clothes he wore the day we met with him blended in with the sea of camouflage and khaki clothes that surrounded him in the TAD retail space on 22nd Street at Third.

It's true that for many years after Patrick Ma founded TAD in 1997 the image of the company and the founder were indistinguishable.  In the early years the mission of TAD was to curate high-end third party products and it built its early reputation and a cult customer following on custom knives and other third party products followed.  Its first clothing product was introduced in 2000 - a soft shell explorer jacket.

Today the company sells its outdoor gear and apparel direct to customers through its Dogpatch and Hayes Valley retail locations.

Over the last few years TAD has transitioned from a non-manufacturing company offering only third party products to a manufacturing company that controls every single aspect of the products it offers.  Although Patrick Ma left the company in 2013, TAD continues to build upon its earlier success to become one of the largest producers of apparel in the Bay Area.

The company recently completed a remodel of its Dogpatch headquarters and has now grown to 30 employees.  All design, pattern making, prototyping, production management and fulfillment of products take place in Dogpatch with the actual manufacturing occurring in Oakland.  The company still offers non-apparel products like those custom knives but those items are now co branded with TAD to ensure they meet the company's standards.
Brett Eisenberg, CEO of Triple Aught Design at the company HQ in San Francisco's Dogpatch Neighborhood.

Why do you do what you do?
I was a customer of TAD since its early days.  I grew up in Colorado and was always an outdoor adventure guy so I loved and used their products.

I wanted to be in technology so I eventually moved to California.  I spent most of the 1990s primarily as an engineer helping technology and biotech companies reach their potential.  Although I enjoyed that business I really wanted to be in a business where I could be involved in all aspects of the life cycle of a product -- I wanted to actually be able to touch the product.  That became harder and harder to do in the technology world where so many products are produced overseas.

I felt like I had an opportunity to do that with TAD -- to be involved with all aspects of the product and I joined the company in 2009.  I really felt like I could see what the company could become.  We effectively relaunched the company September 1, 2010 rebranding as a manufacturing company selling direct to customers.

Why Dogpatch?
The original location of TAD was in Jack London Square in Oakland.  In 2004 the company moved to Dogpatch.  We love the industrial, very hands-on feeling of the area -- we feel like it mirrors what we are doing and we really feel like we fit in here.   We have a great support network in this community.  The landlord of this building, Greg Markoulis, and his team have gone out of their way to help us grow and be able to stay in the American Industrial Center.  They have really been a partner in our growth.

We love the feel of the small community in Dogpatch.  The same folks we see when we are out having lunch are the customers we see in our shop. 

What is the story behind the name Triple Aught Design?
Engineers use 000 (triple aught) as shorthand for a thousandth of an inch, which is the high standard of precision tolerance.   We apply those same high standards and attention to detail to our products. The name was later changed to TAD Gear but we changed it back to Triple Aught Design in 2010 when we decided to relaunch the company as a product company and not a curator of third party products.  We felt it truly reflected our new mission.
A mannequin stands gurad at Triple Aught Designs in San Francisco. TAD features precise designs made to military precision in the Dogpatch Store.