Heather Taylor is representative of the modern woman. She’s always on the go, she owns a successful business, she runs a successful blog, she’s creative, she’s fashionable–Heather Taylor can do anything. She has a sharp aesthetic and a meticulous attention to detail, which is important as she owns and oversees Culver City’s Taylor De Cordoba. On a warm June afternoon, we sat down with Heather amidst deinstallation of Charlene Liu’s paper and panel work. Heather wore a smart red and blue sailor dress, gold zippers winking at the shoulders. Her lipstick is bright red, maybe even a soft orange. She wears discrete gold earrings: an uppercase H on her right ear and an uppercase T on her left ear.
“I grew up in Malibu, California. I’m a third generation Angeleno,” she says nodding her head. She has a casual, cool, cosmopolitan cadence to the way she speaks. It puts you at ease. “My family was always very supportive of me following my dreams. Alex–my partner–and I talk about how our parents always dragged us to museums when we were young, following them kicking and screaming. Now, we’re dragging them to museums.”
Going to museums as a young Angeleno was perhaps the most influential part of her growing up. It encouraged a need to find and consume beautiful things. “That always had an impact: I’ve always been very interested in art. Since I was sixteen, I found ways to put up shows. Like most teenagers, my bedroom walls were covered with pictures. I was tearing things out of my mom’s Vogue, like beautiful photos in Prada ads, telling her, ‘I love this!’ I didn’t know why I was pulling them but I was.”
“I discovered photography when I was a freshman in high school, which was my first great passion,” Heather says. “Up until high school, I wasn’t really good at anything. I hadn’t figured out what I was passionate about and I was a really mediocre student. I started taking photography in high school and my entire life changed. Finally, I was really good at something and really interested in something. Positive reinforcement from my teacher led to this life overhaul: I started getting straight As, I became an engaged, passionate human being. When I was fifteen, I wanted to have a photography show at a coffee shop in Santa Monica that me and my little girlfriends used to write poetry at. I noticed they had art and I told them that I did photography and wanted to put my art up. Looking back, it was a really small scale thing but it was so major in that moment.”
“It was really fun,” she says of her first foray into gallery work. The passion she had for photography and art grew and grew and landed her at Claremont’s Scripps College studying art history and media studies, two fields of study that she marries brilliantly today. “I ended up becoming president of the Student Art Society on campus and we mounted shows all around campus. Art was a major passion but I was always interested in other things, too. It all makes sense now with the different things that I am doing.”
After college, Heather naturally got the itch all born-and-raised Angelenos get: to see and experience another city, another place that isn’t within Southern California. “I interned at a gallery in Santa Monica and knew that I had to do something different after college: I wanted a change, maybe even a move. The gallery in Santa Monica hooked me up with a great job in New York so I went, interviewed, got the job, and moved there. I ended up there for two years after college. It was a great experience being young and in Brooklyn: it was fun and an incredibly formative experience. I feel like I got a Master’s degree in contemporary art! All my friends were working at galleries or in the art world, so all we talked about was artists or the crazy gallerists we were working for.”
It wasn’t after too long that Heather returned to Los Angeles. Like all native Angelenos with the itch to leave LA, she, too, had the itch to return. “I came back here because I missed the sunset,” she says. “I missed seeing nature. I really am a California girl. Living in New York was amazing but I knew that if I stayed there for more than two years that I would get sucked in. I was ready to be with my family and be in nature.”
“I came back here and started exploring,” she continues. Her move back to Los Angeles represented a homecoming and a need for something new, to discover what she wanted in her life and work. “I always had this little desire to work in Hollywood. I feel that growing up in LA you are always going to be a little interested in that. So, I did it for a couple of years, working for a billionaire producer as his executive assistant. It was very much a Devil Wears Prada job, working for a person who doesn’t understand the word, ‘No.’”
“I think jobs like those are really important,” she says with a smile. “While I was in it, I was crying and getting degraded in public and it was awful. But, I learned that I can get anything accomplished. If he wanted a salad from Spago at 10AM, delivered on a Wednesday and they don’t make it at that hour or deliver, I had to figure out how to get it. I realized quickly that I could do that.”
“That gave me the confidence to start my own business,” Heather says. “I enjoyed working in Hollywood and I made great connections–and I met my now husband, Alex.” In their relationship, the two bonded and grew close as a result of art. They became the artistic force they are today by way of Hollywood. “Our whole social life and courtship was around buying art and collecting little things for fifty or a hundred dollars. We were getting out there and it was fun. We actually went to high school together and met in photography class when I was fourteen and he was sixteen. It was this exciting thing that we shared.”
“A couple of years in, I was looking for a career change, we were developing this group of friends that were artists and, with my experience in New York, I knew what it meant to run a serious gallery. In LA, I only saw serious, serious galleries like Blum and Poe and Gagosian or party galleries, where it’s all about the keg and a 6PM to midnight opening. I felt that there was some place in the middle that definitely is not a party gallery but is serious in an introductory way. I enjoyed working with young collectors who are building their collections: what better way to do that than with new artists?”
“We opened the gallery in 2006 when Culver City was getting ready to blow up,” she continues. “It’s been a really amazing experience. In the recession, things were very stressful and it was when I started thinking outside of the box, having different types of events from fashion events with new designers to generating different types of activity.”
“In addition to this, I wanted to start a blog,” she says. This blog is LA In Bloom, her Los Angeles lifestyle blog that has become an extension of her brand. “That happened in 2008. I started it as a fun, creative outlet and never really thought about it as a long term plan. It has become a huge part of my life and my business. It’s been very interesting how the blog relates to the gallery and how they both can feed each other, becoming this big story that all makes sense for me. The blog really started taking off about a year and a half after I started it.”
From the start of her site, she wanted to add a video component into it, which is where her web shows come from. The videos are the result of her loving cooking shows and her audience loving her cooking features. Why not marry the two on film? “Last Summer, Alex and I got married and I became incredibly focused and decided to just release webisodes, using all the connections I made from Hollywood with amazingly talented people. Because I worked in that world, I felt that I had an understanding of it and, although this is new media and completely different, there are connections that have helped me to navigate this different universe.”
Today, Heather and Taylor De Cordoba are positioned in Los Angeles as a hybrid of art destination and lifestyle brand, although she doesn’t (currently) sell anything beyond art. The fusion is something very LA, a collision of fine art and public persona. In a sense, it is very Hollywood. “They’re both very similar,” Heather recognizes, “There are big egos, big collectors, big executives–both are a high powered universe. You are contributing to the creation of some sort of creative product in both situations, whether you are making a movie or putting on an art show.”
Coming from the New York art world to the Los Angeles film world, Heather really did not know anything about the Los Angeles art community. Through her film job she discovered the local art scene, going to shows and art destinations from Chinatown to Bergamot to GR2 after work. “I basically got to explore this huge hobby, which was the LA art scene,” she says.
“It all fell into place, too. I thought so much about this as New York versus LA. At this point, I couldn’t have done what I am doing in New York. You can’t just open a gallery there. Here, I have a space that is reasonable and lots of people that I want to work with. LA is still finding its voice and I love that. In the grand scheme of things, it is still young. Even though LA is a huge cultural hub and it has been well recorded that the LA art scene is one of the most exciting in the world, LA is still figuring it all out. We’re able to make our own rules and do interdisciplinary, fun events that are exciting and stimulating.”
The need to constantly put on new, unexpected programming in art is very Los Angeles and something she found by way of a meeting with Paul Holdengräber when he was still at LACMA. He constantly was creating interdisciplinary programs for the art institution and offered Heather an internship. “He asked what I could bring to [programs] and I had no idea,” she says. “But, it stuck with me and inspired me. That feels like a very LA thing: to create experiences for people. That is one of the reasons we started our reading series Eating Our Words, where we bring in food people and writers and have these fun nights that aren’t snobby. You won’t ever feel isolated: it’s about being friendly and open while having incredibly stimulating programming. I feel like all of that is very characteristic of Los Angeles. These are things we can do here if we take the time to do them.”
Heather understands that art collecting isn’t for everyone–but she still wants to engage them. For her, art in Los Angeles is about experience and sharing beauty. “Not everyone can buy art for thousands of dollars–but I still want to have experiences with them in some way. That really goes back to the feeling of my site and gallery not feeling snobby. That may come from my experience in New York where people always wore black and you don’t get a hello in the gallery. It is really important to me that this is a friendly space. I think it is something people could and would criticize in other cities but we live in a beautiful place. It’s beautiful outside. The city may have major problems but that is the backdrop to all of our lives here. It’s hard not to wake up and have a good attitude here. There are challenges! Everyone has challenges–but we have a baseline positive attitude.”
And, the world is always changing, especially the Los Angeles art world. Our scene and community is something that likely will never be able to be defined, which is why it is so exciting: anyone can be a part of it. “It all changes so quickly–and I’m okay with that. People are moving into this area and out of this area and into bigger spaces, smaller spaces, multiple spaces: I feel like it’s shifting–and I think that’s exciting. LA has cities within cities and is so spread out: you have to appreciate it from neighborhood to neighborhood. It’s really hard to sum up the Los Angeles art voice. It’s also shaken so quickly by things like the Writer’s Strike and the recession. These are things that shook our city and made us change. Right now, we’re in a great place with Made In L.A. and the biennial.”
Heather isn’t planning on changing what she does any time soon. If anything, she’s navigating her identity as a public art figure and an online personality. “I’m still trying to figure things out. It’s always interesting what part of my work people focus on. For example, our wedding was written up in Martha Stewart this past winter. They led into the article with, ‘Heather Taylor, blogger and founder of LA In Bloom…and Taylor De Cordoba.’ That’s really interesting.”
“For me, both the gallery and the blog are about living a beautiful life, not taking things too seriously, and creating a space for people to experience. That can be in the gallery for an opening or on the blog,” she says. This sensibility of tying passions together is an incredibly modern concept. She is one of a handful of young women who are this hybrid of business owner and online personality. Her friends–like bag maker Clare Vivier and artist Jeana Sohn of Closet Visit–are doing similar ventures. Blogs are brand extensions and these Los Angeles women blending the two seamlessly.
Taylor De Cordoba and LA In Bloom are going to continue growing and developing into bigger institutions in Los Angeles and online. For the gallery, Heather has very practical future goals. “We’d love to move into a bigger space as we’ve nearly outgrown this,” she says. “We love being in Culver City so we won’t be moving that far–but we would like a bigger space. We’ll continue to produce great shows and great events. One of our artists, Frohawk Two Feathers, just had a solo show open at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. That was really a career highlight for us, to have one of the artists that has been with us since we’ve opened and was one of the reasons that we opened the gallery go all the way. We want to continue building relationships with amazing artists.”
“For my site, I’m currently in the process of a blog redesign,” she explains. “I look at that vertical format and see it as very 2008. Yes, there are many blogs that work in that format and do look beautiful–but I’m ready to take things to the next level.” Additionally, she’s working with a production company to produce new webisodes, specifically an an upcoming style series of six episodes debuting in early fall. Most excitingly, Heather is developing a product line, which she describes as “travel inspired homewares–items that are cozy and beautiful.”
Heather is excited to keep going and doing what she’s doing, continuing to share her style and aesthetic in an easy, carefree, LA way. She also is very interested in the future of sharing–which she does not envision to be on television. “When I started doing the webseries, everyone asked me, ‘Oh, do you want a show on the Food Network?’ You know, I really don’t. But, look, if they call me and offer a show, I’d probably take it. I’m not pursuing that avenue, though: I’m thinking about the future. What’s next? The Internet and these little machines are filled with so much promise. There are so many things that are interesting that can happen here and I don’t think a thirty minute show on the Food Network is the future. Maybe I’m wrong but I feel like there is unchartered terrain. I’m really interested in pursuing that.”
For more on Heather, give her a follow on Twitter and check out LA In Bloom. Be sure to stop into Taylor De Cordoba on La Cienega, who have currently have a new show up through August 18. Keep up with Heather’s reading and food series Eating Our Words on Facebook too, which has an ice cream social with Cheryl Strayed on July 29.