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Design Shop Visit: ReForm School in Silver Lake

Published as: 
Continuing Education

Business as usual for ReForm School founders Billie Lopez and Tootie Maldonado means far more than simply managing their popular Silver Lake, California, shop. Whether exploring thrift stores for vintage finds, hosting a series of hands-on Home Ec. classes, or planning field trips to test out a new DIY-canoe kit, the duo successfully share their passion for unique goods with local (and loyal) customers and artists. With the addition of an online store, class is now in session for the rest of us, too.

Tootie Maldonado (left) and Billie Lopez have been friends since high school, but it was their years of shopping trips together after graduation that inspired them to open ReForm School. Now that browsing and buying are part of the job, they're able to stock the shelves with items that they would love to own.

Check out Billie and Tootie's top ReForm School picks in the slideshow.

What are your criteria for selecting an item to sell?
Billie Lopez: We want to agree on all the items, but there have been a few occasions where…
Tootie Maldonado: …one of us has to nudge the other.

Building a community around design was important for Maldonado and Lopez, and ReForm School has become a neighborhood institution promoting craft and artisan goods.
How do you source your products?
BL: We go to design and craft shows, but online is where we have the most luck. The Internet is a huge treasure trove. We’ll find one artist’s website, and they’ll link to other artists they like, and then we just keep clicking through from link to link.
What’s your most recent purchase?
BL: We just bought these amazing Amish-made scooters for the shop.They’re functional and look great.
TM: We can envision our customers scooting by on their way to the farmers’ market.
What’s your favorite item you sell?
BL: When people buy the We Are So Good Together print it means that they’re in a nice place in their life.
Is there an object that changed the way you think about design?
TM: I grew up with handmade design. My aunts made dolls for my cousins and me, and when I was young I’d sit with my grandmother and watch soap operas—–her “stories”—–and we’d crochet together to keep me busy and quiet. Why is Silver Lake a good place for a design store?
BL: We could not have picked a better location. A lot of the artists we work with started out as regular customers. It’s a very close-knit community and has probably inspired us more than we even realize.
What young designers or artists are you watching?
TM: Tanya Aguiñiga is on the verge of something huge. This girl is incredible; she’s known for her furniture, but we carry her Soft Rocks. She can do anything. And Esther Derkx makes wonderful repurposed crockery.
BL: Maxine Sutton, an artist from the UK, is making some little trinkets and kits that we’re very excited about. I love Ayumi Horie’s pottery, and Lorena Barrezueta does cool ceramic take-out ware. Mixed-media artist Hillery Sproatt pays such close attention to detail in every single thing that she makes, no matter how small the item.
Don't Give Up the Ship printThe dying words of Captain James Lawrence to the crew of his USS Chesapeake "Don't Give Up The Ship" This was definitely our battle cry during the dog days of the recession and we produced this poster ourselves which is why it is extra special to us.

Rope Bracelets by Tanya AguiñigaTanya is a local Los Angeles artist and a great friend. Her work never ceases to amaze us. These rope bracelets are the perfect accessory and can make even the simplest jeans and t-shirt look fabulous
How has the market changed since you opened the store?

BL: There’s a better understanding of the whole concept behind handmade goods. People appreciate the work that goes into the products and that sometimes it might cost a little more than something mass-produced.
What’s next for ReForm School?
BL: We have always wanted our shop to have an interactive community feel with more layers to it than the basic retailer-customer connection. Hosting the Home Ec. classes was about making, and our next venture will put the emphasis on doing: canoeing classes and races, archery lessons.
TM: We have got so many little crazy ideas.

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