How Does Your Studio Stack Up?: A Peek Inside 24 Ingenious Artist Spaces, From Brooklyn to Tokyo

How Does Your Studio Stack Up?: A Peek Inside 24 Ingenious Artist Spaces, From Brooklyn to Tokyo

A lot of inspiration can be found in the lovely, fun new book "Open Studios with Lotta Jansdotter," as long as you're not eaten away by envy — of the spaces, the talent, the wares, and the lifestyles of the designers whose studios Stockholm-born textile designer Lotta Jansdotter has captured, with photos by Jenny Hallengren. Twenty-four artists and designers in three cities — Brooklyn, Stockholm, and Tokyo — opened their doors to Lotta and shared their studios, their organizational principles, and a bit of their creative spirit.

Unsurprisingly, the book itself is a skillfully-designed object with great images, but it also aims to be useful: Jansdotter interviewed all these makers of clothing, jewelry, ceramics, quilts, custom-printed stationery, paintings, and photographs, and clearly enjoyed the discoveries she made. Here are some lessons that ARTINFO has gleaned from the pages of "Open Studios."

BROOKLYN IS SO COOL

OK, you can't open up the New York Times — heck, even the Kansas City Star — these days without reading about how wonderful Brooklyn is. But it is still fun to read about designers from all over the borough (especially since I'm a Brooklynite myself) and the amazing stuff they make. I am really curious now about Radka Designs' hand-crocheted jewelry and Sesame Letterpress's custom-printed stationery and cards (produced on ten printing presses in DUMBO dating from 1885 to the mid-1940s, no less). Also, space is at a premium in Brooklyn — but compared to Tokyo it's abundant, which somehow makes me feel less cramped.

STOCKHOLM IS FOR BIKERS 

I knew it was a paradise of social safety nets and paid maternity leave (even for freelancers!), but it was enlightening to learn how Lotta's friend, illustrator Maria Raymondsdotter, bikes to her studio every day in "safe, well-constructed bike lanes" and loves how the city "is built on 14 islands, with a fantastic archipelago with more than thirty thousand islands, islets, and skerries." In case you're wondering, I looked it up, and a skerry is a reef or rocky island, from Old Norse sker. Stockholm's geography is so cool it even features words I didn't know!

TOKYO OFFERS GREAT COMPANY

This is pretty much what I would have expected from Japan's capital city. According to Tuesday, a husband-and-wife graphic design team, Tokyo is "filled with kind people and good, friendly service (even at the DMV)" (I think I can speak for all New Yorkers when I say ??!!??!!) The studio/shop I'd most like to visit is Zakka, where handmade ceramics, cards, and textiles are artfully arranged and the owners offer homemade coffee and cookies all day. I also noticed something interesting about the Tokyo studios: many of the designers mentioned that they were lucky to have found a quiet spot or street in a noisy city. Which brings me to other factors…

WHAT MAKES A GOOD STUDIO?

Different people certainly have different answers, and Jansdotter's subjects range from the obsessively organized to the creatively messy. Some have their own private studio space, others find ways to delineate their living space and their work area, and still others share a studio with other designers. Tokyo artist Kentaro Baba paints in a former garage, which is perfect for spreading out his large canvases. Maria Raymondsdotter shares her space with nine other illustrators who split costs like DSL, phone service, and kitchen supplies, and even exhibit their work together and send out joint marketing materials. Sounds like a great way to beat the isolation of the freelance life.

IKEA IS TRULY A UNIVERSAL IDIOM 

I can't count the number of studios that feature storage by IKEA. Is Jansdotter particularly attuned to this because she grew up next to the very first IKEA store?

BUT STUFF FROM IKEA LOOKS A LOT BETTER ALONGSIDE CREATIVE, IDIOSYNCRATIC FURNISHINGS

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The Stockholm design collective De Fyra made an end table of old skis. I am so amazed by this that I'm not even having a "why didn't I think of that?" moment. But, hey, I also repurpose old coffee cans like Radka Osickova of Radka Designs, though they somehow don't look quite so cool as they do in her studio.

CRAFTS ARE STILL A WOMAN'S WORLD 

I'm not sure what conclusions to draw from this, but it's noticeable that the men in this book can almost be counted on one hand, and only one or two work in the craft and design area: Hiroki Katade of the Tokyo shop Zakka makes a unique rock garden calendar, and Ian Hundley of Williamsburg is a quiltmaker — how cool is that?

WHAT ABOUT LOTTA'S OWN STUDIO? 

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Maybe it would have been too weird to interview herself, but I would have liked to see Lotta's own studio. Apparently she works in Gowanus, so, Lotta, beware: you just may find me knocking on your door someday.

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