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Traditional Leather Meets Unconventional Design
Designers know details matter, especially when it comes to putting together a showroom in a popular metropolis. So when Kimball crafted the concept for its Chicago showroom in preparation for NeoCon 2018, it looked to up-and-coming artisans in the industry to make its two-level showroom stand out amongst the rest during what was a busy conference week.
From handcrafted lighting to hand-dyed leather rugs, the details that brought Kimball’s products to life didn’t go unnoticed. As Kimball puts it – it is a company of makers, so the office furniture’s partnership with smaller, but no-less popular studios and designers just makes sense.
Take AVO, for example. This Brooklyn-based studio creates beautiful leather rugs with both traditional and unconventional methods, some of which can be found on display in Kimball’s Chicago showroom. Like any high-quality leather, AVO’s goods are made to last and get better with age, each piece being made by hand and dyed in-house.
Photography: Jeremy Sachs-Michaels
Artist and designer Brit Kleinman (pictured) founded AVO in 2014 when she launched her first flagship collection of leather hide rugs. Since then, her work has expanded to include tailored leather cushions and captivating wall coverings. In the latest installation to i+s’ ongoing Maker Monday series, Kleinman answers our questions and shares her favorite things, including her love for leather.
interiors+sources: How did you get your start?
Brit Kleinman: If were going way back, I probably got my start with a hot glue gun in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. I was always making things as a kid, creating and taking apart. I loved to see how things worked. My journey developed when I went to RISD to study industrial design and then moved into designing bags for companies like Samsonite, Jack Spade, and Shinola. I started AVO in 2014 based on a real drive to design with my hands again.
i+s: What inspires you?
BK: I take inspiration from craft techniques and the design of everyday objects. A lot of my time is spent in the studio playing with materials and in the field exploring new ideas. I am interested in telling the story of culture through objects, and creating designs that continue the narrative.
i+s: What is your most memorable product or collection you’ve worked on and why?
BK: I recently launched a new woven leather collection, which holds a special place in my heart. I have worked with textile mills my whole career, and to be able to translate that with leather on my own loom feels very honest. It opens up new possibilities of pattern and scale. I am now able to make rugs up to 15-feet wide.
i+s: Describe what a typical workday for you looks like.
BK: I am lucky to live within walking distance of the studio, so I get to enjoy a morning stroll with a coffee in hand to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I get to spend a lot of time thinking about what’s coming next, experimenting with new dyeing techniques, sketching patterns, and working directly with clients.
i+s: Name some must-haves you need or like to have on hand when starting a new project.
BK: For me, I often start immediately by making samples or sketching out ideas with the material I am going to use. Otherwise, I use a lot of trace paper and Sharpies. Recently, I have grown to love drawing on my iPad and creating quick iterations of ideas.
i+s: What challenges you most during your creative process?
BK: Putting on the blinders. I think one of the hardest thing about running a creative business is tuning out the noise around you and creating things that feel honest to yourself.
i+s: What is your favorite thing in your working environment?
BK: The high ceilings, rafters, and light! I love working in the Brooklyn Navy yard, [there’s] so much history to the each building. My building used to be a blacksmith shop where they built navy boats. I love continuing on the tradition of making, but with a kick-ass all-women team surrounded by textiles.
Photography by Jasper Sanidad
i+s: What’s your favorite color?
BK: My gut wants to say blue…. but color is one of my passions and I could talk for hours about subtle shades of white if given the chance.
i+s: What is your favorite design era?
BK: Not sure I have a favorite era per say, as each era has its highlights. But I love researching different eras of history and visiting the Natural History Museum to look at how pattern has been used as an adornment on tools, pottery, bags and other functional objects.
i+s: Who has helped you realize your dreams?
BK: How long can my list be? I’ve really found an open and sharing community while starting this business. Many of my peers have helped me find factories, or give tips on pricing and logistics. But most of all, my family has been my backbone for going on this journey. We are all creative people and have a constant stream of texts sharing ideas and getting feedback.
i+s: What do you think is next for the interior design industry?
BK: I think there is a move back to service and luxury. You see this happening in the hotel and travel world. I am happy there is a continued appreciation for well-crafted materials.
Photography: SDK Photo
i+s: What’s next for you?
BK: I am very excited to be launching a new collection of washed leathers that have a magnificent watercolor-like quality to the colors.
i+s: Where can people find your goods?
BK: You can see the collection online, avoavo.com, and shop directly with us or at one of our partner showrooms across the country. Also, if you’re in the NYC region, make an appointment to visit our workshop and see where the magic happens!
Be on the lookout for more Maker Monday profiles featured every other week on interiors+sources, including more collaborations with Kimball.