Posted in DesignVisual Arts on Aug 06, 2010


angie and ted of poketo

I’m not normally someone who has to be the first to have something, nor do I often use this space to tout blatant consumerism, but things are different this time: Poketo – a company that  designs limited edition art products, accessories, apparel and decor – is launching a line for Target.

I’ve been following Poketo now for about 6 months and admire what they do: make art for everyday living. Ok, I have to admit that I like them not only for their unique and alluring aesthetic, but also because I share the mission of trying to make the arts accessible.

I’m thrilled for Poketo’s founders/owners, Angie Myung and Ted Vadakan (partners at the office and home.) They are enterprising artists and designers who started out helping their artist friends and ended up with a full-fledged business. Another example of following your bliss to success!

Poketo’s line will be in-store on Tuesday, August 10…and I dare say, I might just have to be there early in the morning! For those of you who don’t have a Target nearby (hello Vermont readers!) or don’t need to fondle your products before you buy them, you can check out Poketo’s line for Target at the store’s website. You can also see Poketo’s full array of accessible, functional art at Poketo’s website.


(all images are for Poketo’s line for Target except for the Ted Biskup items which are at Poketo’s website)

I see Poketo art as contemporary, kinetic, vibrant, whimsical and, of course, functional and affordable. How do you describe Poketo art/artists?

Yes, all of the above would describe Poketo. Eclectic would the key word! The art, and artists are so different. The artists are from around the globe. Everywhere from the U.S., Europe and South America to Asia and Russia – literally all over the world! As the artists are from all parts of the world, our artwork runs the gamut, as well. Using our eclectic taste, we curate each collection. So you’ll see everything including graphic, hand-drawn, realistic, surrealistic, colorful, monochromatic and character-driven artwork on our products.

tim biskup poketo lamp, $2500

How do you select artists who become part of the Poketo roster? And can you talk about some of the renowned artists who are now pro-actively approaching Poketo to have their artwork featured on Poketo designs?

The process is pretty simple. Poketo is by invitation only. We don’t take submissions, but artists are more than welcome to write us and send us links to their online portfolio. And dozens of artists from all over the world do so daily. Though we don’t have time to write to everyone, we do look at everyone’s work. Sometimes we might contact them much later to invite them to join our Poketo family. We also actively find artists by going to art shows, traveling the world, and searching the internet. In the very beginning, we worked with our friends, but now the Poketo family is over 200 artists worldwide and growing.

We have worked with everyone from an unknown college student to world-renowned artists.

tim biskup poketo wallet $20

Most notably, Tim Biskup, who’s kind of  an art star. Tim is an amazing artist, both in the commercial and the fine arts realm, as well as a good friend.

Gary Baseman will have a line of products coming out in October. Marc Atlan is a famed artist and graphic designer from France who’s worked for brands such as Comme des Garçons, Helmut Lang, Tom Ford, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Marc Jacobs, Philippe Starck and more. He approached us a few years ago wanting to designs some wallets and tees with us.

Not only artists, but musicians and bands that we love and admire reach out to us to create special products for their fans. We’ve worked with Weezer, Arcade Fire, The Shins, The Postal Service, Matisyahu, and more. We’ve also been commissioned by fine arts institutions and brands like SF Moma, de Young Museum, Parsons School of Art, and Nike.

checkbook wallet

Talk about how you actually work with the artist: Does an artist submit the art they want to use for a product, or do you select the art pieces and then adapt the art for an item? Or do artists know what product their art will appear on and then produce original artwork for that particular Poketo product?

It all depends on the artwork. Sometimes when I see an artwork that would be perfect for a certain medium, we will use the artwork. Other times, artists create something original for a product. We are very careful in our art directions. We try to keep the art true to its original intent as much as possible.

Tell us about Poketo for Target – it must be so exciting to get distribution like this, especially since your mission is to make art accessible.
It’s a dream come true collaboration. They’ve never worked with an art brand of our scale, so this is especially exciting. It’s a chance for us to reach a wider audience to promote our artists, and promote what we believe in: that art doesn’t have to be expensive; that art isn’t only for the rich and privileged, or only for those in the urban areas; that “Art for Your Every Day,” as our tag line states, is possible.

To work with Target was amazing. For one, we were given a complete creative freedom and all we had to do was to focus on design, not manufacturing and distribution. I handpicked most of the silhouettes and chose the artwork and they were completely open to all our ideas. We didn’t want this to look like a big box store collection. We wanted to give each and every product a unique feel, hence the 52 -piece collection featuring over 40 artworks by 21 international artists. This is a major undertaking, even for a huge manufacturer, due to all the logistics that are involved, but they loved the unique and boutique feel of everything.

laptop case

Most all the items have different artwork. Also many of the silhouettes were designed by myself inspired by old school Japanese bag silhouettes, like the bowling bag, origami laptop case and so on. So we’re incredibly proud of this collection. It’s what we usually do, but 1000x bigger and will reach 1000x wider audience. It’s “Art for your everyday” on everyday things, like weekender bags, totes, pouches, umbrellas, laptop cases, water bottles, keychains, and more. Poketo but Bigger!

The line is incredibly affordable from $4.99 – $29.99. At this price range, I would say most people can own a piece of art…or two or three!

weekender tote

wallet with keyring

You are an inspiration to all of us who desire to bring ideas to fruition. Can you share how you actually got your first run of wallets made…how you found a manufacturer, funded it, etc.?

It’s funny because we always tell people that we didn’t start Poketo, it started us. It’s true! When we were living in San Francisco
(before we moved to LA in 2004), we were part of the tight-knit art community there. All our friends were artists and musicians in one form or another. We also come from art backgrounds. I was a documentary maker turned graphic designer. Ted, a filmmaker. So none of us had any money to buy original art. So we decided to make something that everybody can use and afford. Our first products were wallets.

At the launch party for the first collection, we sold out of all the wallets! So we had another series, and another, and the rest is history. Because we never thought that Poketo was a business and felt we were doing it for fun, we just went with what we knew and what we could afford. So even to this day, we make a very limited quantity of products, and once they sell out, they are gone. The limited edition nature is great for all the artwork that we present. So in a away, people start collecting the pieces and they become more valuable.

Is it challenging to make choices that stay true to your artistic values while you simultaneously try to grow your business commercially?
I don’t think so. I think it’s a blessing that we come from arts backgrounds, not business backgrounds. I definitely see that knowing more about business and numbers would be helpful, but so far it’s worked to our benefit to be true to our core beliefs and values of working with artists that we admire, to promote them, and to make products that we would use and love for a long time to come! The world is already full of so much useless junk. We don’t need to add to that.


What Poketo item can you not live without?
Our wallets, plates, mugs, bags, stationery… pretty much everything. We love everything we make and use them daily.

Any new Poketo items on the horizon?
Expect more great art on wallets, t-shirts, homeware, accessories, stationery and more! You can find out about our travels around the world meeting artists, as well as our daily thoughts and inspirations at our blog.

Proust Questionnaire

My favorite snack is:  Tacos! LA has the best tacos. But don’t go to restaurants, tacos are best when they’re eaten from taco trucks on the streets!

Don’t ask me to:  Clean the toilet. I love to wash dishes, though.

I would put into a time capsule my:  Photos of friends and family

My favorite place is:  home. If not home, Paris.

When I have a creative block I:  walk the dog around the block.

My favorite mantra is:  Be true to yourself and to others.

keyring (sweet for kids, too)