Born and raised in Los Angeles, Heather Taylor exudes an inherently California-cool sophistication and incredible intelligence that inspires the inner artist and businesswoman in everyone. Not only is Heather the co- owner and creative director of Taylor De Cordoba, a contemporary art gallery in Culver City, she is also the multi-talented creative force behind beloved lifestyle blog L.A. in Bloom and founder of Heather Taylor Home, her travel-inspired line of textiles.
Since childhood, Heather had a passion for art and design; she even had her own business cards for a jewelry line printed at age ten. During college, she traveled 70 miles round-trip to an unpaid internship at an art gallery which then led to a desire to experience New York City—a mecca for artists and art lovers. After a couple of years spent learning everything she could about running a gallery, the California native returned to the West Coast. Working as an assistant to an extremely demanding Hollywood producer, Heather realized she could accomplish anything if she worked hard enough and gained the confidence to open her Taylor De Cordoba—a contemporary gallery that embraces emerging artists and young collectors.
Heather’s ability to balance her multi-faceted career as a gallerist, blogger, designer, and writer is incredibly inspiring. Today on The Everygirl, Heather shares how true hard work and determination helped her gallery and blog flourish, her continuous career aspirations, and invaluable advice that every woman should hear.
Full name: Heather Taylor
Current title/company: Co-owner and Creative Director of Taylor De Cordoba, Blogger of L.A. in Bloom, Founder and Owner of Heather Taylor Home
Educational background: Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Media Studies at Scripps College
Year you started your business and blog: Taylor De Cordoba in 2006, LA in Bloom 2008, and Heather Taylor Home in 2012
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it? How did you transition from that position to where you are today? Take us on a brief career journey.
Right after my college graduation, I moved to New York for a job as the front desk girl at a gallery in mid-town Manhattan. The story behind the job is that every Wednesday of my senior year of college, I drove about 70 miles round-trip to my unpaid internship at a gallery in Santa Monica. I worked hard and did everything I could to impress the people who worked there. When it came time to graduate, I told the gallery owner that I wanted to move to New York and get a job. She made some calls and hooked me up with an interview at a photography gallery. I started one week after I moved to NY and cried after my first day because the whole experience was so scary. I ended up spending two years working there, and it was a small staff so I was able to wear a lot of hats and learn so much about the business. After a year there, I expressed a desire to curate, so I planned my first exhibition, Berenice Abbott’s Circle, which was of photographs Berenice Abbott took of her fabulous friends in Paris in the early 1900’s.
What were you doing before you opened your gallery, Taylor De Cordoba? What was it like to take that leap and start your own business?
A couple of years into my New York adventure, I started to miss my family and California. I moved back to L.A. and spent a month or two floundering, not sure what my next move would be. I moved in with my parents while searching for a job. In the meantime, I worked odd jobs and found another unpaid gig at the Getty Research Institute. While I loved being around art, there was a part of me that was curious about the film industry, and I wanted to explore that. After many interviews, I landed a position as an assistant to an old-fashioned billionaire producer in Hollywood. He was extremely demanding, and I was asked to do nearly impossible things. While I learned about the language and culture of movie making, the more valuable thing was that I learned of my ability to meet my boss’ demands. I learned that I could do almost anything, and it was empowering. This experience gave me the confidence to start my own business.
What advice do you have for others who want to own their own business? What is something you wish you had known in the beginning?
Let both passion and rational thinking drive you. You must have extreme excitement for the business you are developing. The enthusiasm will help you sell it and it will get you through the hard times. Once you have the passion squared away, set it aside for a moment and ask yourself if this is something that the market needs. How is your new idea different from what is out there? How is it better? I think these are very important questions to ask.
In regard to what I wish I had known…I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself when I made mistakes. I’m not sure where I got the idea that I should be born knowing the intricacies of running a business, but I used to be pretty dead set on this. Now, when I make a mistake, I acknowledge it, analyze it, and most importantly, I learn from it. Along those lines, I wish I had realized earlier on that I don’t have to have all the answers. It’s ok to say, “I’m going to think about that, and I’ll get back to you.”
What has been the most rewarding part about running your own business? The most challenging?
There are so many rewarding parts—discovering a new artist, putting up a beautiful exhibition, watching one of your artists succeed on an international scale, and finding that first piece of artwork for a young collector are among the best moments. But the most rewarding part of this experience has been learning about business itself. Business is about failure as much as it is about success, and learning lessons like that has been so profound. Which leads to the second part of the question: taking risks, as all entrepreneurs do, which is inherently full of day-to-day challenges. The loftiest challenge for me is finding the balance between my personal and work life. I’m still trying to figure it out.
How did you initially market Taylor De Cordoba? What do you believe has contributed to your successes?
When we opened Taylor De Cordoba in 2006, it was a totally different world in terms of technology. We used to send out hard copies of press releases to a huge list of press contacts. I had zero contacts when I opened the business. I would sit at the newsstand and make a list of every art and culture critic for every magazine, and then I would send him or her a letter in the mail. It actually worked! Now, we do most of our marketing on social media platforms, which is far more efficient. Creating my blog in 2008 really helped me develop a brand around myself and the gallery, which helped us gain a wider following.
You began LA in Bloom as a creative outlet in 2008. How did you grow your readership over the past few years? Can you tell us more on how it has contributed to the growth of your gallery, Taylor De Cordoba and your new collection, Heather Taylor Home?
The biggest uptick in traffic came when I launched my webisodes. At that time there weren’t too many similar projects out there and like-minded bloggers went nuts for the videos—linking to them and writing stories about each one. My traffic doubled.
The blog has been a really important marketing tool for the gallery. Having a virtual forum where people can follow along has only helped increase visibility for the gallery, which is my actual brick and mortar business. It always amazes me when a blog reader turns into an art collector. This was part of the impetus for me starting my line. Many of my readers can’t afford an expensive piece of art but still expressed a desire to buy something from me. When conceptualizing Heather Taylor Home, this gave me the confidence to pull the trigger and launch the new venture.
What inspired you to start your own line of homewares and linens? Have you always had an interest in designing and starting your own product line?
I’ve been knitting and weaving for years, so I actually have been designing handmade textiles since I learned to knit 12 years ago. I also love entertaining and setting a beautiful table but I couldn’t find linens I loved without traveling to some far-flung locale. I decided that I would start my own line, using inspiration from traditional textiles I have collected on my travels. The first time I thought about having a product line was actually when I was 10 years old. I was really into making jewelry at that time so a couple of friends and I started a “business” called The Jewelry Club. We even had business cards printed!
Being in the artistic community, you’re surrounded by like-minded people and there must be endless amounts of inspiration. What inspires you? What do you feel sets you apart from others?
Along with obvious sources of inspiration such as travel, I’m extremely inspired by the community of hard-working and creative young women here in L.A. Many of my friends are so devoted to their craft and that helps keep me motivated. I’m inspired by women who are trailblazers in their industry, such as Katherine Graham, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Martha Stewart. I am also endlessly inspired by beautiful flowers, plants, and things I find in nature.
You feature artists that work in a variety of medias. How do you discover the artists? What do you look for, and what draws you to them?
My partner and I are always doing studio visits and seeing shows—it’s important to stay current. People are often recommending artists they know, and I have a few people whose opinions I really trust. In the end, it’s a gut feeling that makes me pull the trigger and offer someone a show at my gallery.
The seemingly daunting process of purchasing art often intimidates many people. You have stated that you embrace young collectors. What advice do you have for those who want to begin collecting?
My first piece of advice is to be informed. Spend time trolling gallery websites in your town to see what artist galleries are showing. Or even better, spend one Saturday a month walking around the art galleries in your area. Start to discover what kind of work you are attracted to and don’t be afraid to ask questions! That way, you’ll learn something about what’s on view, and you will begin to familiarize yourself with the gallery staff as well.
When you feel ready to make a purchase, I always suggest buying something that you love and could envision living with. It’s not a bad idea to research the artist’s history and keep an eye on the investment potential but, first and foremost, you have to love it.
From running your blog and art gallery to contributing to various magazines, and launching your first home wares collection, you are quite the multi-tasker! How do you manage to dedicate enough time to each endeavor while balancing your personal and professional life?
Honestly, it’s extremely challenging. I am still trying to master this one. Making a list each morning helps me stay on track and prioritize. I am lucky that I have a husband and family that supports me emotionally and to whom I am constantly turning to for help. I am also pretty disciplined about carving out time for myself. Two hours at the Korean spa on a Sunday afternoon can do wonders for my well-being and get me on the right track for the week.
What is a typical day like in the life of Heather Taylor (if there is one)?
I wake up around 6:30, make coffee or tea, and do some work on my computer—blogging, reading the news, catching up on social media. Most days I work out around 8am. I go hiking, do yoga, or spinning class and make myself a healthy breakfast like a smoothie or an egg and avocado on toast. I head into the office around 10am and meet with my assistant and partner about the day’s priorities. Between Taylor De Cordoba and Heather Taylor Home, I’m always juggling so I really need to take the time to get organized. After a few hours of office work, I usually run out to a meeting, usually with a collector or an artist. Then it’s back to work, reviewing linen samples and talking to my manufacturers. Some nights, the workday ends with a drink with a girlfriend or an opening or party. Most nights, I head home for dinner with my husband, followed by Netflix and The New Yorker. That being said, every day is different.
We loved your food-focused webseries, and you are an avid cook, as documented on your blog. Having also collaborated with Look TV’s YouTube Channel, any thoughts on taking it further, career-wise?
Thank you! Doing the webisodes has been a real example of me having a totally outlandish dream (hosting a cooking show) and doing my best to make a version of it happen. I sat on my first webisode for over a year before launching it because I was terrified and felt so exposed. But to answer the question, yes, I am planning more webisodes and talking to various potential partners now.
What has been the best moment in your career thus far?
I can name a few that top the list. One would be the day when I launched my first webisode on my blog. It was empowering and the reaction was incredible. It taught me to trust myself. The second was when Frohawk Two Feathers (an artist we have been working with since day one at the gallery) opened a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver this past summer. And the third was seeing my linens featured in The New York Times Style section. It felt like an alternate reality.
Considering everything that you have achieved, is there anything else you’d like to do?
Yes, of course. I want to continue to grow the gallery and my linen line. We just moved into a new and improved gallery space so I am looking forward to hosting more ambitious shows. I am also working on new designs and products for Heather Taylor Home and have big dreams for expansion. I want to make more cooking videos, and I would love to eventually write a cookbook.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
The same things I tell myself today: the only way to succeed is by working hard; follow your passion; failure is part of it; keep doing what you’re doing; you’re right where you need to be. And to borrow an answer from the great writer Cheryl Strayed, “you’re not fat.”