maker: alena rudolph of schoolhouse


say hello to alena rudolph of schoolhouse, creator of the ever adorable, always useful “pot luck pal” for our maker weekly!  even if you can’t scramble an egg, your mom will forgive all your burned-to-a-crisp sins when she sees how cute your carrier is!

 please introduce yourself…

i’m alena rudolph. i’m a fine artist, crafter and teacher. i’m a california native- born in la, raised in the mountains north of santa barbara and have been in the bay area since 1996.

what do you make or do?

the focus of schoolhouse (my business) is the “potluck pal”. it’s the perfect companion for anyone who likes to share dishes at parties, potlucks, picnics- you name it. or, if there’s a need to transport something in a practical yet stylish manner. it’s a hot dish, cold side and/or pie tote. i like to remind folks too, that you don’t have to be a cook to own one! it sure beats a paper bag!

i’ll also be carrying napkin sets, aprons and a few other items as well.

alena rudolph schoolhouse

where can we find your creations?

right now, as i’m really just getting this off the ground, i have a picasa page. my next step is a facebook page, then hopefully, a real website.

i’m mostly doing select craft fairs, which is a lot of fun. i meet some great, creative folks out there and have created some inspiring alliances.

my “pals” will be available this winter at holidayland, a several week pop-up holiday shop located at marion and rose’s workshop in oakland, ca.

my most lucrative exposure was being selected to participate in shadowshop at the sfmoma- a pop-up store featuring goods mass-produced by select artists around the bay. a very impressive feat in commerce, design and how it affects the art world.

how long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?

i’ve been making potluck pals for about 4 years now. i also make quilts and tinker with new ideas all the time. i’m currently working on smaller “tiered” goods so i have more to offer for those who don’t see themselves buying one “big ticket” item (but want to support and like what i do). unfortunately, this is not my full time gig.  i’m a preschool teacher with a side business… someday, perhaps!

alena rudolph schoolhouse

when you’re not making things, what do you do?

i teach preschool year round and during the summer. i also teach a prop building class for a children’s theater arts summer program.  it’s like an art class, but we make functional articles that are then used in the plays they’ve been rehearsing. i have a background in prop building and soft good fabrication (sewing), but teaching is my passion, so it’s the best of both worlds.  it’s something i’d love to do full time.

is creativity a luxury or a necessity for you?

creativity is inherent. my mom is a classical pianist and an amazing, inventive kitchenista. and, my dad is a career artist in functional sculpture, furniture and architectural design. although, like anything, it comes in waves and i just have to roll with the slumps and pick up again when the current carries me creatively.

what obstacles have you had to overcome to lead a creative life?

well, i’m a parent and sometimes time is not on my side. i’ve had to give up a lot but now that my daughter is older and more independent, i have more time and resources to be available for my craft. and, she’s great because she really supports what i do. she thinks i’m cool! (we’ll see how long that lasts!)

alena rudolph schoolhouse

did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?

parents, siblings, family friends…my mom is known for asking people what they do for creativity rather than what they do for a living.  it’s always been ingrained in us to be creative first because out of that can come lucrative opportunities, or at least a sense of fulfillment.  as kids, we were always surrounded by creative people, like artists, musicians, writers and teachers, people who inspire.

where do you find inspiration?

i’m often inspired by color combinations.  since i like functional crafts, quilts are a great example, i mostly like to come up with ways to perfect something. i like a challenge and then try to come up with the easiest way to pump out as much product as possible by formulating a personalized “assembly line”. it’s my very own industrial revolution in my basement.

what’s on the horizon for you and what you do?

if i can find a pace that increases production and doesn’t break the bank, coupled with the time required to produce and show- i’d like to see a possibility to someday sell the rights and move on to new ideas. the potluck pal could be a hook, line and sinker and should be available to anyone, as its simplicity makes it so accessible. but, right now, each one is hand crafted and unique which raises the value (although i try to make it as inexpensive as possible without insulting myself).

alena rudolph schoolhouse

if money wasn’t an issue, how would your life change with regards to your art?

i’d be living on a chunk of property somewhere on the outskirts of, say, nevada city or something. close to the yuba river, near enough to snow, with space between me and the neighbors. i’d convert a barn into a sewing & crafting classroom and offer seminars to kids. for now, i’m in oakland, 4 feet from my neighbor on a busy street- dividing my time between my kid, school commutes, work and creativity. in essence, in the right environment, i’d give back- and in return, be able to flourish.

what would be your perfect day off?

i have just recently rediscovered the glory of staying in bed all day, save for bathroom breaks, tea and meals. there’s something decadent about the laziness of a me day and this should be guilt free.

what inspiring advice would you give to other creatives?

do something you actually like doing, your dedication is inspiring. and, don’t feel bad when there’s a slump-out of those quiet times are ideas hibernating, possibly incubating.

alena rudolph schoolhouse

 -varci h.

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