We had the good fortune of connecting with Brian Bernhard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brian, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
My grandmother was a huge entrepreneurial inspiration for me; for most of my childhood, she created, owned and ran a very successful restaurant. One of my first jobs was washing dishes for her. However, this restaurant wasn’t just any old run-of-the-mill restaurant, it was special, it was her world, and her vision, it was the only authentic Bavarian German restaurant and deli in Norfolk Virginia. There was nothing else like it, no one I knew, none of my friends, had ever been to or heard of anything like it at the time, until I brought them there. On one of the back walls of the restaurant, a huge mural of Neuschwanstein Castle was on full display, this Bavarian castle was the original inspiration for the Walt Disney castle. I spent many an evening eating my dinner while getting lost in the image of that castle, drifting into may flights of fancy while eating my authentic German potato salad. Realizing that my true calling was to explore a more creative path than the food industry would provide, I went to school, to explore my artistic vision. This exploration took me into the world of video art, which evolved into an NYC EMMY award-winning 15 year long career in professional broadcast television (primarily creating documentary content about amazing artists)! However, after 15 years of both exploring my own creative vision while also focusing on telling the stories of amazing creative artists, I decided it was time to level up my own personal art game and finally turn the page onto a new chapter, one where I would allow myself the opportunity to explore life as a professional fine artist. So I moved from NYC to California and pushed into my vision, I began getting my works into gallery exhibitions around the LA area, doing festivals, farmers markets, trade shows and all kinds of other art events, exploring any opportunity to get my work in front of more eyeballs. Engaging the public with my creative content, and being exposed to other amazing artists along the way, got me into the creative entrepreneurial mind set, seeking to build some kind of sustainable business model around my original artwork and vision. After a few years of making, doing and learning everything I could about creative business models, Embrace the Weird was born. I wanted to create a business that truly represented me and my creative vision, something that was the most me that could possibly be, and by being the most me that I could be, this vision has also been able to inspire other people to be the most them they could possibly be, as well! Embrace the Weird has become a lifestyle brand for weirdos, creative outside-the-box thinkers, people brave enough to truly be who they are. And this opportunity to inspire people, is absolutely at the core of everything I make and do. Its an amazing full circle because I am constantly getting inspired by people I have inspired. Just as my grandmothers unique vision of her authentic German dining experience inspired my flights of fancy as a child, I seek to inspire everyone to be as authentic as possible. Stay awesome, be weird!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Well, the art business is tricky. I have had some thrilling success stories and some hard falls along the way. Nothing in this business has been easy for me, the challenges are many and they are still coming, but every failure is another opportunity to learn something new and solve a problem. So after many years of grinding away at this creative adventure, the first two months of 2020 were amazing, the best 2 months I have ever had in business. Rockstars were collecting my art, workshops were selling out, I even made enough sales to donate a huge chunk of money to the Marine Mammal Care center in San Pedro to help keep them from having to shut their doors. However than the pandemic hit, all non essential retail in LA was closed for 4 months, after that time, we were given the green lite to reopen, however, nothing changed about the pandemic…the virus was still here, people were getting even more relaxed about wearing masks and keeping distanced, but we were still going to open…so I built plexiglass shield around the retail kiosk in my gallery, matted and framed a bunch of new art I had made during the shut downs…and now 4 months after reopening…I am still waiting for collectors and customers to come back in. I went from having a very successful retail art business, to now, I don’t know what…I am still trying to learn and figure it out. It may be that that I just need to put my physical retail business into hibernation until things get back to normal. I have created a new virtual 3D online art gallery, which was designed to have the same aesthetic as my real world gallery space, so folks all over the world can safely explore my art in a gallery setting, even in the midst of a pandemic. Who knows what may happen tomorrow, but I will just continue to create, overcome and do my best to inspire others to do the same!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If the pandemic never happened, the first place I would bring anyone would be to the Crafted Art Market in San Pedro, where my Embrace the Weird gallery, still (for now) exists. I would also take them on a tour of all the crazy craft breweries around the city. Would definitely take them on one of the amazing hikes around Palos Verdes. And the San Pedro Art walk with all the amazing food trucks was just insane. Although, stopping into Mrs. Fish for some jazz and a bite to eat in downtown LA after a stroll around the Last Bookstore was always a “must do” when friends came from out of town!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
At the beginning of my entrepreneurial creative journey I researched lifestyle brands based on the vision of a singular artist, one of which was Tokidoki, a brand that has inspired me for many years. I had the amazing good fortune to have an opportunity to share a lunch with Pooneh Mohajer, the CEO of Tokidoki., where she imparted some amazing bits of wisdom and enough validation for my ideas to give me the confidence to push forward. I would also like to give a shoutout to my amazing friend and mentor Susan Sofer Cohn, who encouraged me to open a small retail space, and even shared it with me for a time, to help with the rent, until she moved on to bigger things…like the book she is currently about to publish about finding your creative mentors! And last but not least, my amazing friend, client, collector and mentor Gregory Markel (digital marketing expert, vocalist and musician), one of the most consistently supportive and inspiring mentors I have ever had in my entire life!