Architects design new career paths
Shop Toast: Natural progression
Like being a doctor, being an architect seems to be one of those career paths that people don't veer from once they're on track. Sure, doctors and architects have been known to moonlight as musicians and artists, but few would give up their day jobs for risky pursuits.
Not so Jeremy Shoda and Michelle Kaneko, University of Hawaii graduates who spent five years working for local architecture firms before chucking it all to launch their event-planning and design studio, Toast Event Design, in early 2004. (In software engineering, "toast" refers to a small pop-up window that notifies users of various events.)
It wasn't an overnight decision. The two had helped to plan and promote their alumni get-togethers and discovered they had a knack for event planning as well as graphic design.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Shop Toast creators Michelle Kaneko and Jeremy Shoda design accessories (like the Stuff'd Monkey keychain, above) and candy apple gift items available at The Candy Shop. CLICK FOR LARGE
"We did graphics for invitations, marketing, and had a lot of fun, so we just kept doing it on the side," said Shoda. When it turned out to be increasingly time-consuming, something had to give, and they chose to heed the call of the unknown.
"It was taking a big risk, but we thought we could make it work," Shoda said. "We were doing a lot of graphics to go along with the events, and that kind of led to the idea that maybe we should look into marketing."
They started creating Shop Toast gift items at Christmastime, mainly to promote their company, but the line has turned out to be a natural extension of the Toast brand, giving consumable form to Shoda and Kaneko's visual ideas -- as gift cards or toys, such as a 4-inch felt Stuff'd Monkee key chain. Buyers can purchase additional buttons, bearing images of burgers, french fries, pizza and other food items, to "feed" the monkey, like a no-tech Tamagotchi.
"It's made by hand, hand-screened, sewn, stuffed and packaged by us," said Shoda, who likes being part of The Candy Shop's DIY community. "It's not like a typical retail outlet. We're not going to have a large quantity of stuff."
"Architecture was good training for us because it forces you to be hands-on," said Kaneko. "In school we were always making things, building models. It helps you understand construction, know how things are put together."
Although Shoda says he was never much of a DIYer when he was younger, he's doing his best to keep up with Kaneko, who said, "My dad was always good about giving us clay or papier-mâché. My mom sewed a lot, so I did sewing, cross-stitching, a little of everything."
The two are never at a loss for ideas. "We got to a point where, if we think of something that would be really cool to do, rather than wait until we had a client, we'd just do it," Shoda said.
Also available through Shop Toast is a line of string dolls by an architect in Thailand. Shoda and Kaneko plan to offer more items made by architects like they were a few years ago: in need of another outlet for their creativity but not quite ready to switch careers.