MIA RUSSI: GALLERY OWNER | JEWELRY DESIGNER

Interview by: Taryn Marly Anderson


Where are you originally from and how do your roots influence you in everyday life?
I’m from California, Los Angeles/South Bay Area, and I always would scavenge thrift shops and I’ve always had a ton of vintage furniture and vintage clothes. Even if it didn’t fit I would come home and I would remake it in some way. Same with jewelry, I would take it apart and put it back together. I worked for my friend’s mom who had this little jewelry store and so that’s where they would solder in the back, so they would fix and make things and that’s where I learned [about jewelry making].

How did you end up in Hawaii?
I get bored really easily; I like to do so many different things. So I was a chef and I owned a market and deli in California. It was so busy! It’s still there, my brother owns it. I was feeling overworked and I just moved to Hawaii. So I left [the market and deli] with my brother for a year and then I sold it to him after. [Around 2001] I just wanted to move to Hawaii and wait on tables for a little bit; I was like, “Work four hours a day, great!”


What was the inspiration behind Rocky Point Collective? How and when did it blossom from an idea to reality?
I get really bad island fever and I need to travel and see new things and I always get inspired from my travels. I go to wild places all the time. It’s so funny all the little nooks and crannies you find all over the place. I was in San Francisco staying with my friend and I was taking some jewelry classes in the city. I met this lady and her and some of her friends just started a little shop together [in Truckee] and they would just go make their jewelry and have their door open downtown and people would just come in and buy it. I was thinking, “I have this building in front of my house; I should just do it!” So I did it! And this lady really inspired me.


Was that when you decided it was time to make it happen?
What I was gonna do was start a food truck because everybody always tells me that they want me to cook again. I literally had worked on calling all the food providers and looked at a few locations and I couldn’t find a commercial building to open a restaurant. I was just going to park a food truck in front of my house down there. But food dies, it’s perishable. We have weird island things happen here like storms and flooding stuff and it doesn’t happen like that everywhere else. So I decided to not do the food truck and that’s when I was like, “Hey, wait! I already have this jewelry line and my husband’s a photographer and I already have all of his photos. I’m just gonna start a gallery.”

 

When did you first open your doors for the gallery?
I just slowly opened around September 15th [2017] just to see what I needed. We just kind of soft opened since then.


You mentioned your husband Jim Russi and his photography; what kind of photography does he specialize in?
He actually went to Brooks Photography School for college and he went for fashion, but he’s a surfer. He came over here and he just never left. He’s actually a water specialist, like a water photographer. He started the whole Roxy campaign. He sends his photos out to hundreds of magazines around the world. He’s done it for 30-something years. All the hang tags, posters, ad campaigns, everything for Roxy when it started has been him. He only stopped working for them maybe three years [ago] now. So the whole time he traveled around the world with those guys.


How did the two of you meet?
I was his favorite waitress. When I moved here, it was funny because, I was working at Breakers in Haleiwa and he did all the photos in there for Barb so he got to eat free food. He was a single guy so he was like, “Okay, free food, great!” It was fun in there and he would eat there all the time so we’d always talk and I’d wait on him. We lived down the street from each other, you know everyone does on the North Shore. It turned out that we knew all the same people because he’s from Palos Verdes, I’m from Hermosa Beach. I have a huge family and he knows all my aunts and everybody. We had these really funny coincidences and so that’s how I met him over here.

 

 

 

How did you collaborate on the vision of Rocky Point Collective? What roles do the two of you play at the gallery?
He basically just let me do whatever I wanted. He physically worked the construction part with me and one other guy. He’s literally just let me do whatever I want. It’s my deal, so he kind of just financed it for me, made all the images for me and he let me do whatever. We’ve gone through this though because we built our house and we remodeled a bunch of houses. We’ve been married for about 13-14 years so at first he always wanted to have a say in stuff and now he’s like, “Just do it!”


What other artistry can customers expect to see within the gallery? What’s the overall vibe and how would you describe RPC?
The vibe in the gallery I would say is, I just want people to come in and feel a welcoming, friendly place where their eyes feel happy from seeing everything. I have so many different mediums in there but I also filled it with a ton of plants and plants are super cleansing to the air. They’re just so inviting; I just loaded it up in there. I love Hawaiian furniture, like Hawaiiana and rattan. I’ve always been a total 60’s/70’s person; I love it! That whole vibe I just love. Vintage fabrics, like the 60’s mod fabrics, is what I have at the shop. I wanted it bright and girly and just cute Hawaiian mod 60’s. So I just went with it in there. So far everybody tells me that they love coming inside and that they really like the place. I just wanted it to be a friendly, non-intimidating type of gallery. I just feel like most the time when you go into a gallery they’re too sterile and you can’t just sit and look around. I just want people to come inside and feel comfortable to sit and imagine what the art would look like in their house.

 

 

How does the location [on the North Shore] add to the ambiance of the gallery?
Everything in there is literally, it’s all community. It’s everyone in my neighborhood. I have my neighbors across the street, they’re artists, their art is in there. Uncle Butch, he goes and finds every shell and piece of sea glass and makes these big Hawaiian shell leis that I have in there. He’s in his late 70’s and he knows all the history of the North Shore, he’s born and raised right here. I have Jenn Johnson’s work, who lives right down the street. Everyone is different in something artsy. It’s so cool because everyone is from right here. It’s super community based and neighborly. We’ve got all this crazy traffic on the North Shore now and none of us wanna get in the car and drive anywhere. We can ride our bike or be walking the bike path and people can stop by [the gallery].


Where can you be found when you’re not at the gallery?
I have a horse and I love riding horses. Right now, I know this year is gonna be super hard and I’m gonna have to work a ton so I kinda gave my horse to my husband. He likes to ride also, that’s something we like to do together. [In my free time] I would normally be at the ranch and I spend all my free time, when my kids are at school, at the ranch. I just love my ranch friends and riding horses; I’ve done that since I was two so I’m a total ranch mountain girl. I’m more of a mountain girl than I am a beach girl. Besides that, then I would be traveling. My most recent, I went to Spain and Portugal and London and
Gibraltar this summer for 3 and a half weeks.

 

What would you like to accomplish with Rocky Point Collective? What’s next?
I would love to just have one job and be in there and not be out all over the place anymore. It’s nice because I’m home, even though I’m there. My kids come running through and I get to see them and ten friends pull up on bikes after school, on their way to surf. It’s somewhere where I can see my friends as I’m working. Everybody stops by and it’s really fun when they stop to get gifts for something. Or if we’re gonna have a girls night we can meet in there. I can donate the space sometimes to community things or events and still be home. Like with Coco’s Trading Post, Nicci and I have such similar style on the vintage Hawaiiana that I can’t wait to do this [event] with her because I love watching what she’s gonna post for her photoshoots or blog and the models that she works with. Hopefully it’ll be something we can do more often! Everything’s so new, who knows what I’ll think of next?!

 

 

If you had any words of wisdom for our readers, what would they be?
Don’t get discouraged because I think the waves of “work, work, work” need a break. So take the break! We all probably get in a rut so I feel like taking a little time off is healthy for your brain so that way you can get re-inspired. I need to get re-inspired all the time. [I always say] if there’s a will, there’s a way. You can’t just wait for it to happen, you have to make it happen. You have to put the time in. It’s not just gonna come to you. Nothing good is easy earned. You’re not just gonna have something handed to you so it’s all about the work ethic.

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