Rena Tom is a multidisciplinary artist-researcher, curator, and cultural worker. Her curiosity about objects, making, and makers, as well as the spaces they inhabit, has been present throughout twenty years’ experience in the roles of craftsperson, designer, writer, editor, shopkeeper, gallerist, publisher, instructor, and event producer in San Francisco and Brooklyn.

More recently, while continuing to explore the relationship between craft and social dynamics, she also writes, produces, and performs in large-scale, participatory art installations and the occasional pirate radio broadcast. This highly collaborative work, grounded in craft history and theory, informs her solo practice. She lives and works in Berkeley, CA.


I have a weird fascination with discomfort. As a third generation Chinese American, my existence is privileged but sense of belonging remains liminal: I am a perpetual outsider based on my appearance, engaged in resisting expectations to be a ‘model minority’. I use my feelings of uncertainty and grief to propel explorations into seeming dichotomies including absence/presence, tangible/intangible, handmade/machine-made, and archival/ephemeral.

The conceptual nature of my research is anchored by the intimate, embodied aspects of craft. I investigate material and immaterial objects as sites where tensions play out to address personal and systemic issues of visibility, privacy, identity, and representation. Whether creating site-specific immersive environments, optical illusions with mirrors, or publications of found imagery, I propose alternative realities to reframe everyday experience and inspire generative critical thinking about the future.

Selected Publications and Interviews

Cultivating creative communities with Rena Tom,” Gray Area (blog), February 2020

Michael Calore, “Duuuuude. What Happens if the Earth Gains Consciousness?,WIRED, February 2020
RIchard Proctor, “’Uncanny Valley’ Explores AI’s Potential,” SF Weekly, February 2020

Justine Testado, “Flaunting foam and function in An Insulation Installation at Makeshift Society Brooklyn,” Archinect, July 2018

I for Individuality,” Metropolis Magazine, June 2015
Libby Nicholaou, “Creative Residencies: A Working Late Conversation with Rena Tom,” Adobe (blog), June 2015

Joseph Hughes, “Making Shift Happen,” HOW Magazine, November 2014
Tomorrow Today, Searching for Necessity: People Making a Difference in Cities Across the U.S., 2014
Noam Cohen, “Sisters in Idiosyncracy,” New York Times, March 2008
Mark Hampshire and Keith Stephenson, Circles and Dots (Communicating With Pattern), RotoVision, 2006
Stephanie Rosenbloom, “Open for Business,” New York Times, October 2005
Tess Wilson, “Why Work From Home When You Can Co-Work?,” KCET (blog), September 2013

Selected Presentations and Panels

“Chance,” Creative Mornings, December 2014 (video)
Presentation, Adobe MAX, October 2014
Panelist, “Gig Union Town Hall,” Bay Area Video Coalition, September 2014 (video)
Panelist, “Navigating the New Handmade Economy,” SXSW Interactive, March 2014
“Like Work, But Not,” TYPO SF, April 2013 (video)

Publications as Author

Stepping Up to Loss: Crafting Feelings through Encounters with Crafted Memorials,” MA Practicum Project, Warren Wilson College, 2023
“Invitations,” A Joyful Feast, Warren Wilson College, 2023

Elements of Surprise,” American Craft, June/July 2014
“Shopkeeper’s Report,” Anthology Magazine, Issues 10-19, 2013-2015
“Business,” UPPERCASE Magazine, Issues 11-20, 2011-2014



2023 MA Critical Craft Studies, Warren 
        Wilson College, Asheville, NC

1995 BA English and BS Mechanical  
        Engineering, University of California, 
        Santa Barbara, CA