Archive for the ‘Artist Interview’ Category

How’s the Wevther?

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

 

Archimedes, had his famous eureka moment while taking a hot bath. For Jacob Heftmann, it was a hot shower. While trying to figure out what he was going to wear after showering, Heftmann came up with the idea for Wevther.com, a stylish and smartly minimal site that offers up fashion inspiration depending on the weather outside. Heftmann created the algorithm and design himself, and despite the site only launching recently, it has already garnered praise and coverage from Swiss Miss to Refinery 29, and has even attracted a few resumes from those eager to work on the new project.

Heftmann’s studio/apartment in the heart of Bushwick is not unlike his website – it is tasteful, spacious, well-curated, but also approachable. It’s orderliness however belies the insane amount of work coming out of the space. Juggling the newfound attention to Wevther.com with Heftmann’s demanding client work can be especially challenging at times when there’s an overwhelming urge to work all the time when your studio is ten feet from the shower. To keep a balance between work and play, Heftmann often throws dinner parties at his ten seat table, and makes a concentrated effort to meet clients and collaborators at coffeeshops, or in our case, for a short walk around the neighborhood to shoot photographs and answer a couple of questions right outside the Morgan train stop.

What led you on the path to becoming a Graphic Designer?

I actually studied philosophy and art history at the University of California – Santa Barbara. I spent half of the year traveling and competing as a sponsored snowboarder, and in the summer and fall I would take 20 units worth of classes so I could graduate on time. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was in school. After I graduated I realized it was going to be hard to get by on degrees in philosophy and art history. I came from a very art and design conscious family so design just sort of happened on its own. I’ve always been interested in technology and when I started to see the potential of design in that context, I knew what I wanted to do. That was around 2007. I was frustrated by my choice of degrees at first but in retrospect I’ve come to appreciate their value; philosophy taught me how to think and art history taught me how to see, which are good tools for a designer.

What are your inspirations for your creative activities?

I’m dubious about the idea of trying to force inspiration. The best ideas come from a combination of seemingly unrelated concepts, and that has to happen organically. To borrow from Chuck Close, you have to kind of just show up and get to work.

The closest you can get is to put yourself in the right situations. I almost always have a camera with me. It reminds me to keep my eyes open, rather than just floating along. I try to travel three to four months out of the year, which is a big part of why I work for myself. It sounds pretentious, but I can’t stand glamorous travel. Traveling is the best way to learn if you allow yourself to be in uncomfortable situations.

One thing I try not to do is look at what’s happening in graphic design, especially digital. It makes for derivative work. I follow it, of course, but I’m more interested in other disciplines, like architecture, photography and science.

Can’t decide what to wear today? Visit Wevther.com, or view more of Jacob Heftmann’s work at his website.

Life of the Afterparty

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

We met Lauren Silberman recently during a night out dancing at Kinfolk Studios, and were thrilled to discover her great series titled Afterparty, a candid and colorful collection of the chaos, disappointment, and beauty that is the after party. We caught up with Silberman afterwards to ask her about her work.

What was your inspiration behind the Afterparty series? So it’s hard to say where the inspiration came from – I guess there are a few things. When I began the series, I was going through a very hard time and dealing with the loss of someone close to me. I was trying to negotiate finding happiness in the sadness that had consumed me. There is something obviously sad about these images. When printed large, they confront the view with a party that is over… the viewer missed the party.  The room is empty, with only traces and evidence of something that happened there. But the images are lush and full and colorful – all qualities that I am drawn to and find beautiful, and make me happy.

The series is shot in various unique Brooklyn spaces. How does your connection to the scene influence your work?
The series is informed by my connection to my own nightlife scene in Brooklyn that’s very (I hesitate to use these words because they are so overused) underground and DIY. I’ve been participating in events for years in some way or another, and I have a real connection to these events that are true labors of love by their participants. I am really drawn to the attention, care and sometimes obsession that people put into creating their own culture – and that’s exactly what these events are about. People spend so much time decorating the space, booking acts and DJs, and organizing the door and the bar – a lot goes into these to create a very special experience for people who attend the parties. Without events like this, New York would be really boring.

What’s up next for you (what’s after the Afterparty)?

As far as for what’s next, the Afterparty series is kind of a long running project that I’ve contributed to slowly over the past 5 years.  During that, I have spent a lot of time in New Orleans shooting friends and acquaintances who are loose members of the post-Katrina burgeoning art scene. It’s such an amazing city, where unlikely people flourish in an unlikely place. People really make things happen for themselves there in their own way, that is really different from the way people do it in New York, and I find it really inspiring. They’re not trying to be a part of something else or bigger, but just doing what they do, and doing it for themselves, and it’s a huge breath of fresh air. I’m also really interested in exploring the city of Los Angeles, and have been researching the history of its nightlife spots. The architecture in the the city is fascinating, and there are some really beautiful venues with a history that I would like to photograph… but that’s very much in the beginning stages.

View more of Lauren Silberman’s work on her website.

The Model Musician

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

If you recognize this Brooklyn musician, it’s because you’ve probably seen him in our Fall shoot in Redhook. We caught up with Sean Wood at his home which doubles as his studio in Bushwick, where the JMZ train roars along between takes right outside of his window.

What do you do? I am a musician – songwriter, singer, performer. I play the violin, piano, guitar and create programmed beats.

Tell us about your creative workspace and how you work in it? My workspace is in my bedroom in Bushwick. I have all of my instruments, mics, midi controllers, plug-ins, etc. in my personal space. It can be a little confusing at times knowing when to focus on sleep, and when to focus on “work”, but the intimacy and proximity to my own personal space I have found, can be a good thing in terms of efficiency :)

What are you inspired by? I’m inspired by a myriad of things. Love, loss, joy, sillyness, family, friends, cheaters, haters, lovers. I have way too many musical inspirations to name off.

How do you “Live, Work, Create?” When i think of this motto, I think about staying true to myself and my motivation in what I love to do, which is music. So I guess I “Live, Work, Create” everyday. I wake up thinking about music and my family and how to love people better, and how to be happier. I go throughout my day with this and I hustle, hustle, hustle. It’s the New York way. I will always be living, working, and creating music – for myself, my community, and for my sanity.

Shop The Arthur Sherpa Shawl Collar Jacket

Listen to Sean Wood’s music here, and check out the release party for his new record Sudden Love at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC on November 18th, 9pm.

Catching Up with Documentary Photographer Bess Adler

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

 

Bess Adler, braving the elements in the Alexander Wool Toggle Duffle Coat, the Alma Sheer Utility Pocket Blouse, Matinee Fine Checkered Shorts

Bess Adler’s white and gold bike and 5 pound bag always catches our eyes when she rides by. We caught up with her and wanted to know what catches her eye. Turns out it’s been a pretty wide range of subjects from the competitive world of American bodybuilding to the building of Ubuntu Blox Factory in Port-au-Prince. As a documentary photographer, she currently is exploring alternative approaches to sustainable living with a family who has created their home inside a gutted school bus which runs on vegetable oil.

“My work is driven by a curiosity to capture subjects who invite me into unfamiliar worlds which is why I try to travel as much as possible. I am extremely appreciative of the learning process that my personal projects have taken me through and I’m always excited to tell these stories.”

Within her ever growing body of work, we were especially inspired by her photojournalist work seen in some our favorite Brooklyn newspapers.

Outside her Greenpoint studio in the Charm Neck Tie Pullover and Mavi Denim

“I love shooting for newspapers because of the vast diversity in assignments. My day could bring me anywhere from photographing a new restaurant in Red Hook to documenting Brooklyn’s last working seltzer factory in Canarsie”

Having grown up in Midwood and now based in Greenpoint, navigating the borough to get from one assignment to another for this Brooklyn native is an easy task, made even easier with her single speed Trek District 3 which has not only become her standard form of transportation but also a source of inspiration.

“Riding is just relaxing – it lets me clear my head after one assignment so that I can focus on the work ahead. Also ideas will always pop into my head as I am visually taking in the landscape.”

But her favorite way to relax is Thursday night tastings at Dandelion Wine on Franklin Street.

“It’s a great community activity and I always say yes to delicious wine and cheese. The only times I don’t go is when I have a lot of editing that needs to be done. Then I bring my laptop to Troost and order a beet sandwich with iced tea. I guess it’s a win win situation.”

Adler, relaxing on her couch and mini gallery, with the Lace Applique Pullover and Ornament Lace Pencil Skirt

See Bess’ work at www.bessadler.com

 

Artist Series: Lauren Bahr

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Hailing from Houston Texas, Prop Stylist by day and all around Visual Artist Lauren Bahr  gives us a glimpse into her hectic schedule and how making Greenpoint, Brooklyn her home base has allowed her to Live, Work, Create.

“I’ve got a little studio room in my house, which I’m quite grateful for. My favorite way to work is to have people come over and do their projects while I do mine—sort of like an art collective vibe where I get to serve everybody tea or booze and we bounce ideas off of one another as we work.”

Aside from hosting her own informal artist salons, Lauren clues us in to her favorite down-time spot Troost. “It has top-notch coffee during the day, and at night it becomes this groovy, totally relaxed bar with great food until 11pm,” Bahr explained. Having a neighborhood go-to is a must when you’re building sets and propping shoots for the big names in print and fashion. With such a busy schedule, Lauren still finds the time to work on her own art and has landed two upcoming shows at Moma PS1 and Gallery/Project Space Envelope.

“This year I found myself transitioning from 2d to 3d; I’ve been really drawn to making sculptures that can exist on a wall. Without fail, it seems like I choose the long way of doing things; right now I’m hand making these 1/4” beads that will eventually combine to fill a very large tapestry. I could get my objects pre-made or order a custom fabrication; but I enjoy the hand-made process too immensely.”

Dalmation, 2012. Hand-dyed twine wrapped around a wooden frame

Above:

The Donna Belted Shirtdress

The Woodstock Anorak Coat

The Grand Snap Fleece

Photos 1&3 by Bess Adler 

See her work Sunday at the grand opening event of Gallery/Project Space Envelope, 164 Orchard Street, NYC, September 16th, 6-9pm. Lauren’s pieces will also be featured as part of the The Perfect Nothing Catalog and Andrés Jaque’s performance Ikea Disobedientsat P.S.1 MoMa, 22-24 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave, Long Island City, NY, Sundays September 16th and 23rd 2012, 3 – 5pm.

Get inspired by her awesome color coordinated inspired blog: http://sevendaysofshade.tumblr.com/

and purchase her rope sculptures at The Perfect Nothing Catalog

Building A Studio One Table at a Time

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

The Lawrence Plaid Shirt

At 32 years old, Matthew Fairbank did not expect to be a boss. After working for a number of furniture design companies for six years, he had no capital, startup money, or game plan, just five pieces of furniture he had designed and constructed. Fairbank hauled those to the now defunct BKLYN DESIGNS show at St. Ann’s Warehouse in DUMBO, where small, local craftsmen could get their work in front of an audience. At the show, Fairbank was able to land a client, which led to another, then another, spending each project commission on a new piece of machinery. “I was making no money, basically borrowing from Peter to pay Paul,” Fairbank reminisced. Eventually, Fairbank’s long hours, hard work, and scrappiness afforded him the ability move out of his shared Williamsburg studio (similar to 3rd Ward in Bushwick), and graduate to his own studio in Greenpoint just four months ago.

Inside the designer’s studio

“When I was working for design firms, I missed the touching, making, and working in the wood shop like I had been doing at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design).  To be honest, I don’t want all this responsibility, but I’m very grateful to have it. My friends think it’s cool to be your own boss, but there have been times where I’ve had to wait weeks to pay myself because I’ve had to pay vendors or my employees,” Fairbanks hard work and sacrifice has most recently led him to signing on to a showroom at the New York Design Center in Manhattan, where potential clients can touch, see, and examine the surfaces and tight gaps of his handmade, custom furniture rather than trying to scrutinize them online.

As for his creative process, Fairbank’s describes it as amalgam of influence and inspiration. “There are a lot of artists who are sure of what they do and make, but I feel like the vast majority of artists don’t really know what they want to say when they are in the process of making something. I try and have an idea of things that I like, like Mid-Century Modern, Art Deco, super minimalist sculpture and architecture, but how all that stuff filters through my hands – I don’t know how it’s going to come out. Or maybe it’s something that influences me that isn’t in my field. Maybe it’s a different art form. Maybe it’s a material – something in nature. I’m a big fan of untampered with materials, and I also really love contrasts – shiny things next to rough materials. I hate decoration, but I love finding an old historical detail and making that detail the main feature of the piece. For example, for the Moellar Table that I built, I used the distinct shape of the Queen Anne leg and exaggerated the silhouette of the shape, but everything else about the table is sparse – it’s just about the leg.

left: Matthew’s favorite – the joinery cutting machine, right: The Moeller Table

 

To see more of Matthew Fairbank’s work, visit his matthewfairbankdesign.com

Meet the Photographer – Courtney Chavanell

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

For our 2012 summer campaign, BKI reached out to Austin, Texas for photographer Courtney Chavanell. Living in the “Live Music Capital of the World” has afforded Chavanell the opportunity to capture intimate portraits of some of our favorite musicians, including Sonic Youth, Spoon, the Flaming Lips, and the Black Angels. As there’s a tangible musical and lyrical quality to the streets of Brooklyn and the colorful people that inhabit them, Chavanell’s music background was a perfect fit.

How did you originally get involved with photography?

My dad was a photographer and I grew up assisting him without even realizing it at the time! I didn’t even know I was interested in becoming a photographer until I picked up a camera of my own around age 15 and began photographing myself, my friends and pretty much everything around me. When I moved to Austin for college, I became immersed in the music scene, bringing my camera to shows and finding inspiration in the musicians in the city and the ones passing through.

You seem to have shot a lot of great bands in the past. What’s your draw to music photography?

I am drawn to music photography simply because I love music. When I hear a song that resonates with me, I become curious about the songwriter or the performer, then I do my research and often times, become motivated to capture that personality visually. To me, it’s the same thing that anyone experiences when they hear a song they love. They want to tell their friends, their family or anyone that will listen. I do the same thing – I just prefer to do tell the world visually. My aim as a photographer is to document musicians in a creative and respectful perspective, as unique and profound as their music.

What do you love about shooting in Brooklyn?

Brooklyn is amazing because of its history and the eclectic mix of people. So many different cultures together creates some of the most interesting faces. I’d love to spend more time photographing those faces… beautiful, hardworking folks I encounter on the street, from the youth to the elderly.

To view more of Courtney’s work, visit her website.

Thurston Moore

Meet the Artist/Model: Ibrahim Baaith

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

To walk into Ibrahim Baaith’s spacious and colorful Crown Heights apartment is to walk into the mind of the artist himself. With every inch of the wall covered in murals and paintings, Baaith’s home is an outward expression of the artist’s personality, philosophy, and journey – capturing the artist’s vibrant story in a way that no gallery could. While Baaith, the model for our Summer 2012 campaign shot in neighboring Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, is comfortable in front of the camera, his real talent lies in turning the lens on the colorful world he inhabits.

While many artists take years to discover their artistic talent and voice, Baaith, as he described it himself was “born creative”. Though his family was poor and couldn’t afford art supplies, paper and pencils were always readily available, and he constantly took advantage of them, drawing comic book characters and portraits of family members and friends by the time he was six. He also scrounged raw materials from his multi-talented father who had built the home they lived in, to construct alternative worlds for his GI Joe action figures. Baaith received no formal art training until his senior year in high school, when an unfortunate skirmish with a fellow student led him to being dismissed from the track team, but fortunately lead him on a track to art schooling. Starting with a mentorship with an art teacher his senior year at the Corcoran School of Art next to the White House in D.C., his mother and mentor then encouraged him to apply to Pratt in Brooklyn. His past nearly derailed a promising future once again, as another fight landed him in jail right before the open house at Pratt. Luckily, he was accepted into the prestigious art school, but on a subsequent trip to D.C., he was mugged and shot in the face. For Baaith, the incident was the cessation of one timeline – one where he died, and the beginning of a new timeline that has led him to a life in the arts, positivity, and the magnificent home and neighborhood he resides in now.

Because of his turbulent past, Baaith’s paintings are charged with social, political, and emotive content, never relying on style and aesthetics to push feeling. His compositions ask viewers to look at the work and rely on their own interpretations to understand themselves and their feelings – in other words, to “get it” the way one personalizes the emotive content of a song. Unsurprisingly, music is a reoccurring thread within his paintings, from iconic reggae artists to a popular mural of Ol’ Dirty Bastard gracing a corner in Bed-Stuy.

These days, between painting and modeling, Baaith has found time to cofound Artist Republic, a nonprofit with the goal of finding inspiration within all artforms for children, whether it be painting, nutrition, filmmaking, or even martial arts – another passion for Baaith. Opening the art school is important for him so that other kids could have the opportunity that Baaith himself did not have, and to avoid the dangerous pitfalls that could have wiped out his own career.

To view more works, visit www.ibrahimbaaith.com

Shop the collection here.

Meet the Artist: Adam Aleksander

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

photo by Sumner Dilworth

Event and party designer Adam Aleksander talks about the creative process, the business side of art, and creating fantasy environments for you to play in.

I met Aleksander in the kitchen of his two story, beautifully worn in Lower East side tenement at one of his regular artists salon/dinner parties, known as Les Salonnieres. Downstairs, guests sipped on Sazeracs in anticipation of a four-course dinner prepared by Aleksander himself, followed by performances by artists representing various disciplines. For most people, bringing their work home on a weekend night would be unthinkable, but when your day-to-day job consists of throwing elaborate and interesting parties, Aleksander’s fete appeared effortless, natural, and consummately stylish.

Les Salonnieres Supper Club and Artist Salon

For almost every accomplished artist in New York however, there is usually an accompanying arc that begins with pursuit, struggle, and self-doubt. After arriving in New York City 11 years ago, Aleksander saw a performance of De La Guarda, and was inspired to create fine art experiences himself, enrolling at the School of Visual Arts and learning drawing, painting, and theory. Frustrated by the institution’s lack of tutelage for real world applications, Aleksander dropped out and decided to blaze his own path, beginning with an internship at a costume shop that sent him on bike errands around the city where he familiarized himself with fabric and millinery districts, learned where to hunt for props, and the intricacies of intensely multimedia costumes. His next internship afforded him the opportunity to fly down to Atlanta to work on a mural for the Coca Cola museum with the renowned artist, Takashi Murakami. Paid gigs with Macy’s and Lord & Taylor soon followed, where he found himself in prop shops working with 3D modelers, carpenters, and animatronics designers to design holiday windows. While he acquired invaluable construction skills, one key element was still missing. “I grew up addicted to T.V. and the props department was just rigging thing for viewers,” Aleksander recalled. Instead of creating environments for passive viewing, his true desire was to be able “to live in it.”

Carnival of Ascension

Aleksander’s first foray into designing events started at the Macao Trading Company, where he threw the Drunken Dragon Party, but when the economy crashed and funding dried, he was forced to throw his own parties, beginning with the Carnival of Ascension, a high concept theme party that recreated the progression of life to death. Participants came dressed as either the living or the dead, and dined off the raspberry and spongecake covered flesh of each other’s bodies. Other parties followed, including the Epic Prom, where he ended up losing $3,500, nearly putting an end to his short career. But Aleksander persevered, eventually landing a high profile gig for Hendricks Gin, designing an immaculate enchanted forest, where woodland sprites served cocktails in a woodsy landscape complete with moss laden floors. “I really knocked it out of the park,” Aleksander beamed.

Hendrick’s Gin Enchanted Forest of Curiosities

These days, Aleksander recognizes the importance of establishing strict business principles to his endeavors, even hiring an agent to manage and attract bigger clients… and to play hardball. “I’m too nice to people,” Aleksander admitted. “I talk too much and I turn into the grandmother that holds peoples hands.” He also explained the importance of starting off client relationships with the right expectations. “I always take the initiative over the art director. First, I send out an introductory package detailing exactly what I do, I set a price for each service, and I outline payment schedules. I can’t get excited about projects if the client is underpaying or being cheap.”

As for his approach to developing compelling creative deliverables, Aleksander is strategic and methodical, employing a four-part progression that consists of information gathering, which involves learning as much as possible from the people who are in charge, incubation where he gathers inspiration and passively thinks about ideas, illumination, where ideas are molded into concepts, and elaboration when budgets and marketing decks are built. And one more thing, Aleksander added, “a lot of espresso.”

“My favorite class I ever took was a creativity course I took in high school, where the teacher taught principles of creativity and how famous creative people work. He taught us that the fear of failure is the single greatest inhibitor of creativity. People who don’t want to try something new and unchartered are the most dangerous to work with. Every person on my team needs to be intrepid.”

Putting the finishing touches on his four-course meal, Aleksander appears neither intrepid nor anxious. Cooking, he admits, brings him a sense of balance and calm to his life. Downstairs, guests dressed in ostentatious outfits are cavorting and sipping their cocktails, awash in the moody glow from the candelabras, and unaware of the long journey their host has undertaken to create the world they get to play in.

Behind the Campaign: Creative Director, Vahap Avsar Discusses “Crash”

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Vahap Avsar, artist and BKI’s Creative Director talks about J.G. Ballard’s Crash, the inspiration behind the Spring 2012 Collection

What sparked your initial interest in Crash?

When most people think about Crash, they think of the (David Cronenberg) movie, which I haven’t even seen, or fetishism, or about J.G. Ballard as a science fiction or post-apocalyptic writer, but I see him more as a postmodern theoretician – and artist. Ballard was a huge influence on some of the great writers and artists of the late 20th century, from Bruce Sterling to Tracy Emin to Damien Hirst. I think his vision of a dystopian modernity deeply resonates with the age we live in, and our psychologies are clearly affected by the technological commodities we use. Crash isn’t about sex – it’s about using sex as a representation of our acceptance and fetishism of a technology that kills a large number of people every year.

Speaking of Damien Hirst, how do you see Ballard’s effect on the art world?

Well, Ballard’s ideas were a major influence on contemporary American and British artists, especially the Y.B.A. (Young British Artists) and their tactics of pushing psychological boundaries. Actually, before he wrote Crash, Ballard exhibited a piece at The New Arts Lab consisting of wrecked cars called Crashed Cars in the late 60’s that many critics at the time labeled ‘perverse’. Ballard often considered his books a literary version of the ideas expressed in his visual artwork.

How did you come about fusing Ballard’s ideas with a fashion collection?

Just as Crash is a conduit for his theories, I wanted to use the spring line as a conduit for Crash. To be frank, fashion can at times be a bit vapid, so I wanted to come up with a thought provoking theme expressed through clothing that the audience could hopefully catch on and get them talking about Ballard. As we design a wide variety of products, it can be difficult to tie all the items into one singular idea, but we encourage the designers to interpret the theme according to their perspectives and personalities. With just this one idea, we were able to come up with a number of different designs across a wide variety of disciplines. We made a seasonal collection, we designed and hand-painted a custom bag series, our window designer sculpted amazing installations for our stores, our multimedia designer created video collages that we  incorporated into the photoshoot for the campaign. In the end, we’re putting it all together in a fashion/art event at our Union Square store. To me, it’s amazing that our designers made so much great work out of a single idea.

Come see the Crash Into Spring event at our Union Square location on Friday, February 10th, 2012 from 7pm-9:30pm, featuring live art demonstrations by the BKI Design Team, music by DJ SoSuperSam, and food and drinks from Dough and Brooklyn Gin.