ARTIST INTERVIEW: Erin Tavin of Tavin Boutique
Opened in 2009 in the bohemian enclave of Los Angeles Echo Park, TAVIN BOUTIQUE is a beautiful modern-day caravan of a shop carrying well-curated vintage clothing as well as designer pieces such as Isabel Marant, Sonia Rykiel, and Cacharel, from Victorian era through present day, with a notably strong collection of 1960s and 70s pieces. Tavin specializes in vintage easy-to-wear lifestyle clothing with an earthy/ bohemian/ natural /playful and romantic vibe. The boutique often serves fashion designers seeking inspiration for their next creation and stylists looking for unique pieces with a strong point of view.
We spoke to Erin Tavin, the creator of Tavin Boutique and a long-time artist of the Echo Park Craft Fair, about her passion for art, and what brings joy and wonder to her creative life.
How is your work inspired by or influenced by nature and your surroundings?
I️ feel that my work and my life are profoundly affected by nature and always have been, really. Living in such a busy modern city with all the technology, the driving, and the chaos, it’s difficult for me to slow down – to hear myself think. I️ always feel like I️ come back to myself when I️ am in nature, and that I slow down enough to be reminded of the quieter and calmer soul that I️ am. Then I can access parts of myself that get quite lost in all the noise.
The colors of the ocean trees sand sky plants pebbles seashells country roads – the feel of rain on my skin – the sound of thunder – old farm houses on country roads – and offbeat architecture grounded in the 60s/70s – the smell of the forest – skinny dipping in fresh water – sunsets sunrises on the mountains or by the beach. It’s like I breathe all of this in, soak it into my skin, translating into the colors of clothing I choose, the feel of fabric, the textures the I gravitate towards – all of this and more I️ bring back from my times spent in nature.
What does being in quiet surrounded by the earth, by the ocean, by the mountains and forest make me gravitate towards in my choices of clothing?
In the simple beauty of a perfect dress? The feel of soft aged cotton. Does the blue in a certain sky make me want to search out those blues? Does the color of sand make me gravitate toward pale browns? The color of a faded rose make me love that faded color on a cotton dress? Does splashing in a puddle in the rain make me want to wear green rain boots and feel like a child again?
This is how nature translates for me in all its powerful forces and all its magnificent beauty. Calm = beautiful, which translates into beautiful clothing.
What is a new idea you have been working with recently?
The idea of the caravan as modeled from the amazing Homework books – tiny homes on the move and tiny homes as simple shelters, and Roger Beck’s book Some Turtles Have Shells.
Every August my husband and I travel all over Oregon. In the past years we have seen in our travels so many different breeds of the caravan, from bohemian style to total hippie style to beautifully homey handcrafted homes on wheels. Our heads are always hanging out our car pointing out these caravans to each other! One summer we went to visit Roger Beck in Eugene, Oregon. He was a major caravan builder during the 60s and 70s, and the first one he built was there for us to take a tour of. I️t was then we got hooked on the idea of building one to create a moving shop.
The attraction in reading and studying photos in these books for me has always been the open road. I could say I’ve been obsessed with photos and literature about travels on the road for years and years the attraction to the freedom to just pick up go and do what one wants – the wanderer, the traveler, the free spirit, the unattached.
My husband Nathan is building the caravan. He’s been working on it the past year, building it from scratch at our house in Echo Park – it’s definitely a slow, thoughtful process. We plan to take it for a few days at a time to places and people we can’t ordinarily reach in our Echo Park location – and land it in some beautiful spots – to reach a wider audience and to take Tavin 2 on the open road. The caravan equates with a certain Gypsy movement to me and it seems a perfect combination for the clothing I️ sell – the vibe that we create – to put in into the setting of the moving caravan – of a cabin on wheels. I’m beyond lucky to be married to a man who’s so great with his hands, a true renaissance man really.
It’s a combination of my love of travel, and of my business of selling clothing, of creating a vibe – a place for people to relax and enjoy and to feel a nostalgia to a different time. Well if we can achieve all of that I️ would be very thrilled! So that’s what’s up next for us – it’s a pretty big project so hoping to get it out there in 2018, fingers crossed.
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
Travel travel travel
Culture culture culture
Art art art
Growing up in New York City I️ was pretty much awash in culture – I️ went to the theater every week, museums, etc. Art has anyways been a huge influence in my life.
I️ just went to SF MOMA and saw the Ragnar Kjartansson video exhibit called The Visitors. After the first time I️ was like, oh my god what is this beauty??? Wow, this is really hitting me! Then I️ stayed for the second show and sat on the floor, shoes off, crying, it was so much intense beauty! Who are these artists who made this? What is this music? I️ am on a carpet in a museum totally transformed/ transfixed for that hour – so powerful to be moved like that from art – that’s pretty special I think.
Art energizes me – it allows to go back to the drawing board and feel emotions and energy that I️ badly needed in my work, in my life, in my body. Like the first time I saw Sophie Calle Show at Musée D’Orsay in Paris years ago I️ was just transfixed – what world have I entered here? Who is this artist? My mind suddenly just exploding with energy and thoughts and feelings and childhood memories memories of past loves all washing over me, all allowing me to FEEL.
Or for instance reading all of Paul Bowles’ books one after the other set in Morocco / Tangier and suddenly there I️ am in Tangier in the sixties at that cafe with all those artists, and I️ just can’t get enough of it – getting so immersed in his works or whoever I happen to be reading at the time that I can feel that I am almost there.
ART sustains me and inspire me in my everyday life. ART takes me away from the everyday – from the mundane – from the normal day-to-day chores – to the beauty and total complexity of life – sad, happy, and all the grey in between. How can I raise my spirit to such a high level – how can I be the artist and do the work that I want to do in this lifetime?
Art keeps me going – keeps me believing – keeps me feeling – keeps the faith.
Did you have any mentors or important creative influences?
Leonard Cohen. I know this seems sort of crazy for a singer/musician to have affected my work as a vintage curator/collector so deeply, because you might think – where is the connection to my art there? But ever since I was a young girl, I’ve been listening to Leonard Cohen – even rollerblading to high school through Central Park on the Upper West Side listening to Leonard Cohen on my headphones. Hanging out in the village as a young girl – Washington Square Park, Bleeker Street, his old haunts – and his words to his songs always repeating themselves in my mind over and over, creating images of Suzanne, of Marianne, of all the female figures he sang about.
Marianne my little darling, he sings… So long Marianne / it’s time we began / to laugh and cry – who was this lovely Marianne? Creating the image of her in my mind, the clothing, the light, the dreaminess – envisioning it all. When I first heard the song Suzanne I was sort of stunned – moved to tears – it was a sort of prayer for me I think.
His body of work is so exquisite, so powerful and sublime, filled with all the pathos of such a well-lived full life – really all the good, the bad, the ugly – full of such depth and so much fierce grace. I must have as a very young woman found myself in his words, I must have dreamt I was Suzanne going to the river carrying the tea and oranges, imagining myself as Suzanne in a white old long dress in the woods, old boots, picturing the cabin, the old plaid blanket – the two lovers – the fire – putting his words to a painting I was creating in my mind.
In his later years we went to his concerts here in LA and my god he was so personable! So caring to his audience – so involved in taking us on a journey with him. Really at 80 getting onto his knees, top hat in hand – beyond just beyond!!! Touring all of the world at that late age was such a triumph truly.
Then to read his last interview in the New Yorker where he in his own indelible, subtle way was saying goodbye to us all – but not saying explicitly he was dying when in fact he was dying. People were asking after that article, is Leonard Cohen dying? It was his way of leaving us once again with his words with so profound, so tremendous a goodbye from this great and beautiful man. In one of his very last songs “You Want It Darker” he is clearly facing death square on – “You want it darker we kill the flame” he sings, “I’m ready my lord,” he sings. Just incredible, recording that last album at home with his son while clearly so ill – just astounding!
I loved him as a young girl and I love him as a woman now. His music has truly and utterly transported me – allowing me to dream, to wander off – to be the romantic I am – to then be able to create – to rise above the mundane, to try to make some beauty in this crazy chaotic busy world to try to add my own form of romantic beauty – my own form of a song of a prayer.
My own attempt to translate Suzanne and all these other wonderful and beautiful female figures into the world of clothing, colors, textures, fabrics, into a higher place of beauty – my own very small prayer really.