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Monday, June 20, 2011

Q+A with Owners of Indie Publisher Little Otsu -- Back in S.F. in Rare Device Gallery

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 5:00 PM

Little Otsu at Rare Device
  • Little Otsu at Rare Device

Little Otsu was a favorite seller of paper products in the Mission for the greater part of the past decade. The independent publishing company sold beautiful illustrated paper, "uncommon illustrated books," and other handmade goods first on 16th Street and then from a Valencia Street storefront leased by McSweeney's from 2002 through the end of 2010. Many among us can recall lazy afternoons spent flipping through exquisite decorative planners and books or eyeballing dozens of hand-drawn cards.

Some of its products still live online, and owners Jeremy Crown and Yvonne Chen -- now based in Portland, Ore. -- are making more available all the time. Yet with the closing came a physical loss. There's something added by a brick-and-mortar space -- the touch and feel of fine craftsmanship. For the rest of this month, that tangible part of Little Otsu is back in S.F. in the back gallery of Market Street design-friendly boutique Rare Device.

Little Otsu stapled zines at Rare Device
  • Little Otsu stapled zines at Rare Device
Why is Little Otsu in pop-up form at Rare Device?
Rare Device co-owner Giselle Gyalzen asked us if we would be interested in doing a pop-up shop in the gallery space, and we thought it was a great idea and happened to be going back to the Bay Area anyway, so it all worked out. Rare Device previously sold our products, so we felt like it fit in well among its goods.

How long will last?
Until June 29.

Will there be more Little Otsu pop-ups around San Francisco?
At the moment we don't have any plans, but we'd love to do it again.

Drawing on paper
  • Drawing on paper
Why did the S.F. store on Valencia close?
Our S.F. store closed as we lost our lease. We'd subleased from McSweeney's. Last year it started a new nonprofit called ScholarMatch and ran out of room, so it wanted the space back to accommodate ScholarMatch. Our manager also gave notice to leave to work in another industry.

So between not having a good space, and a good manager leaving, we thought it made sense not to move to another location. Also, having been there for eight years, our rent was not in line with the current prices, and it made it untenable for us.

How did you choose the items to be displayed in Rare Device?
Our pop-up shop is focused on our own published goods and includes nearly everything we've published that is in print. We recently started a new series of mini art books called The Little Otsu Living Things series, and the pop-up shop is in part a celebration of the release of the series. It includes some original artwork that's for sale in the gallery.

Postcards, bookmarks, and notes
  • Postcards, bookmarks, and notes
Do you think you'll open another store elsewhere in the future?
We currently have no plans to reopen, however, we are open to anything and so you never know what will happen. We continue to be an online store and publisher and you can always find our things in other stores, so we're around in some form.

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Emily Savage


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