We had the good fortune of connecting with Tori Puente and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tori, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I think accepting risks is absolutely essential, particularly in creative pursuits. Until I was out of college, I’d been made to believe photography should be an orderly, formal kind of art. And while there’s a place for that style, it wasn’t me, and I wasn’t really getting anywhere trying to pursue that direction. Once I was in a more experimental environment and started using the Holga, it clicked. But even after that, it was baby steps to get to what works for me now. I was still trying to market my work in the wrong way: traditional products for an untraditional method. I had to take a step back for awhile, both because my life was kind of in an upheaval, and what I was doing art-wise wasn’t working. I can’t quite remember what gave me the idea to start combining my photos with unusual surfaces, but I just knew it would work. And I loved it more than anything I’d ever tried before; it was just a bonus that my audience did, too!
Now, even though I have a day job, my goal is to be fully self-employed. I don’t think I’d ever be content playing it safe in any case. I think the biggest risk that kind of intersected life and art was about six years ago. I’d just gone through a huge breakup, right before a month-long trip I’d planned for three years, to Scotland. Almost everyone was telling me I needed to cancel the trip, save those ticket & lodging fees, work on stabilizing my life. Be “realistic”, in other words. But I was already miserable, and that would’ve made it worse. It might’ve delayed getting back on my feet a bit, but in the end I was SO glad I went! Besides the needed breather, I took my cameras (of course), and got some ah-mazing pictures that I’m still using for my products today.
Whether in work or life, I make it a point now not to get complacent in a situation that’s not pushing me toward where I want to be. And most of the time, that means stepping outside my comfort zone.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I feel like I’ve been in a good place with my creative business for nearly 4 years now. It took overcoming a mindset of what I felt like I SHOULD be doing, and basing ideas on intuition and what I actually enjoy. I tried both traditional and Holga photography on prints and cards, which is an oversaturated market already, and went nowhere. I tried focusing on my illustrations. While I still enjoy that, I had to realize it didn’t appeal to broad audience. Once I combined my love for travel and outdoor photography with the Holga style, things just fell into place, both on a personal and business level. Customers love the variation a Holga-shot image gives, plus making my photos into functional forms of art really appealed to them. I have a range of photo-on-wood ornaments and coasters, and more recently, have started seeing how well magnets might do.
I liked figuring out how to affix images onto different surfaces, what worked and what didn’t. Some colors and scenes just don’t fit right on a coaster or ornament shape, or look great on wood, so I’m still figuring it out! I feel like with all the places in the world I have yet to visit and document, my vision is constantly evolving. And getting customers’ mini stories in reviews on why they chose a particular product just encourages me to keep going.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ha, well my best friend lives only a couple hours away, so we’ve done a couple mini-excursions throughout LA. I love a trip to any kind of art or natural history museum, but I’m a big fan of the Getty and the Getty Villa. I feel like the Villa is an amazing experience, even for people who don’t usually like art. Then while you’re in Malibu, you can go to Broad Street Oyster Co. for the best lobster roll you’ve ever had. For more food, go to the Grand Central Market in downtown. It’s one of the locations of my favorite donut place, Donut Man, but there are other interesting places to sample over several visits, too. And since I’m a big outdoors and plant person, the arboretum in Arcadia is a relaxing place to spend a day. For something more strenuous, I’d suggest one of the hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains, Circle X Ranch. There’s a 6 mile loop, and if you make it to the top of Sandstone Peak, there are mind blowing panoramic views and a guestbook to sign.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’m grateful for the organizations, big and local, that give artists an outlet to display our work for the public and find a new audience. My first craft fair was the Patchwork Show in Long Beach, which being only 1 day, is the perfect starter to crafters just getting into shows. The Odd Market is another inclusive, venue-revolving storefront. You also get to meet and network with fellow artists at these events, which are great connections to make. Plus, it’s so interesting to see new forms of creativity.
I’d like to mention a fellow NoHo creator, Tahre Hale, from Oils of the Earth by Tahri. She runs an all-organic skincare and beauty line, great for general use or those who need gentle products for skin conditions. She sells online and at various local markets, but you can find her regularly at the Toluca Lake Farmer’s Market. https://otebt.com/
Eric LeBrun Feng Huang Tori Puente