After having started RISD Works more than a decade ago, Matthew Bird was wondering what to do next. After seeing a vacant space on Wickenden Street he toyed with the idea of another store, but why consider a venture similar to the one that you just left? “There is increasingly more and more great stuff out there in the world and it gets overwhelming,” Bird said. “There are amazing things that nobody can find.”
In some cases, Bird believes an item can be best found online; other objects, however, need the human touch, need to be seen and held. As time goes by, he sees the Internet superhighway making shopping impersonal, just a point and a click away.
Bird considers one of his strengths to be curating, the seeking, organizing and displaying of items that are, in his current venture, for sale.
The gifts he sells at The Curatorium are a unique and sometimes humorous hodgepodge, from tote bags to the “fisticup,” a coffee mug with fake brass knuckles for a handle. Quick inventory changes keep things fresh and interesting, even for the owner who often likes the items as much as his customers.
It’s an interesting combination because Bird frequently buys items that he might normally buy for himself. He is a curator of sorts, with his “museum” his store.
Ever watchful, Bird always has an eye out for spotting opportunity, especially for that one particular item that could create a buzz. This unique style is the store’s main attraction.
Presently he’s proud of being able to acquire books from authors like Monique Felix and Lynda Barry. “It’s really fun to get stuff in that I really care about and find other people that care about it,” he said.
“There are a couple of things that my employees tease me about, they tell me, ‘No one is going to buy this, and I tell them, good!’ It’s nice to sometimes live with the stuff for just a couple of months and then off it goes,” he said.
As for a theme to the store, there isn’t any. The choices run from housewares and jewelry to books. His only criterion is that whatever he sells has to be well-executed. He points to his experience at RISD Works, where the theme was simple, everything must be made by RISD students. He may have not liked an item there, but if its origins were at RISD and it told a cohesive story, it was included. “That made me really excited to open this store, where the only logic is, ‘Do I like it?’”
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