One of the pleasures of our AW19 shoot was getting to collaborate with artist and friend Hannah Bigeleisen. We did a studio visit with her in her old space a few months before the shoot and realized the textures and colors of her work would be an incredible visual foil to the fabrics in this collection. From crunchy indigo corduroys and soft brushed flannels from Japan to a luxurious silk-linen from Belgium and cotton canvas in several washed colors, these natural colors are wonderfully set off by her organic forms with their craggy surfaces that catch the light.
We met Hannah and her husband Steven through mutual friends, and have loved watching their work grow. When we heard Hannah was moving to a much larger studio space, we knew it'd be a great opportunity to catch up with her and find out more about the design work this trained artist is developing!
-- Hannah Bigeleisen
-- Artist & Designer
Where are you from?
-- I was born in Pittsburgh, PA, but my family moved around a lot when I was younger. We lived in St. Paul, MN, Atlanta, GA (during the 96 Olympics!), had a brief stint in Anchorage, AK, and then moved to Rochester, NY. I lived in Cleveland, OH during undergrad at the Cleveland Institute of Art and moved to Brooklyn, NY after graduating in 2010. During my MFA at RISD, I lived in Providence, RI and couldn’t wait to move back to Brooklyn. I’ve lived here now for 9 years and I love it; Brooklyn is my home.
What are you listening to these days?
-- Different things at different times of the day; I usually listen to the news in the morning while I’m organizing what I need to do for the day. Once I’m working in the shop, I like to listen to something that will keep me energized and focused. Right now I’ve been listening to some of my long time faves: Fleetwood Mac, Lauryn Hill, Nina Simone, Son House, Fela Kuti, and back episodes of this great podcast called Fool’s Paradise on WFMU.
Tell us about your path--how did you get from painting to design, and how do you balance both in your life?
-- Well, I’ve always had an interdisciplinary practice, but it was more contained to the fine arts. I would co-develop engravings, paintings, and sculptures at the same time. I learn from each form and most pieces influence each other. I might build a sculpture and develop a series of paintings or prints from it, or vice versa. It was a natural shift to design as I started to incorporate light into my work, sculptures began to have dual functions as art object and light sources. Carving out time to continue to experiment is really important. I will literally schedule it in to my day, usually right in the morning when I get to the studio or late at night. Keeping projects alive or starting new ones, in both areas, is vital to maintaining that balance, even when I am busy.
From one husband-and-wife team to another, how do you balance a romantic-work partnership? How did you and Steven decide to start working together, and what have been the surprises of collaborating?
-- Steven and I met while we were at art school at the Cleveland Institute of Art when we were seventeen. The nature of the program was quite intensive, so we have always been working our studios, critiquing each others work and discussing it throughout the day. It has been a fairly seamless meshing of practices when we began collaborating. Our collaboration started as a type of call and respond to each other's studio experiments. Steven would build forms, and I would respond with color and pattern. I think we were both really surprised and excited by our first few call-and-response pieces. From there, we started collaborating in a more true sense of the word, from the beginning of the process, sketching ideas and discussing possibilities, to the finalized forms.
There have been so many surprises that popped up along the way, the first being that we have enjoyed it so much, Steven and I have very different approaches to a studio practice. I am more like that Peanut’s character Pig-Pen; I kind of emerge from clouds of dust and mess with a finished piece. During our first collaborative collection it was really nice to learn from each other and refine our designs together.
Balancing a romantic-work partnership is exciting, and motivating but challenging at times. It is always nice to get hugs from Steve, or hold hands when we get lunch together. We are also pretty good about going on dates and spending time with each other outside of working together during the day. During design season, we often work late together, but even just sneaking off for a quick snack or late night meal keeps the romance alive.
Tell us about your new studio! What was your old studio like (how long were you there, etc.), and what are you looking forward to being able to do in the new space?
-- Ah! My new studio is a dreamy, dreamy space. It’s in an old carriage-house building in Williamsburg. The ceilings are high with exposed beams, and the previous tenant painted the floor with stripes. It’s been interesting to analyze the structural elements of the space. The architecture of the space I work in often influences my sense and expression of structure, be it architecture or conceptual. The painter James Little also has a studio in the building and it is so inspiring to watch his process as he develops his paintings.
My old studio was literally the dimensions of a box car, it was 8’ wide and 22’ long. It was 5 blocks from my apartment, so when I was teaching full time it was really convenient. It had its limitations for sure, but the light was good, the ceilings were high, and my studio mates were absolutely lovely and inspiring artists.
I am looking forward to having a much more multi-faceted studio practice with space to grow! My last studio was challenging to develop and refine work in because of its close confines, now I have the space to play with new forms, and respond to them in a more reflective approach. Mostly, I am looking forward to developing my new line of rugs.
What do you look for in clothing, and how does it factor into your day?
-- I have workwear, which is covered in bits of paint and plaster, and then my regular clothes that I wear when I am not working in the studio. In both cases, I look for clothes that are made from natural fibers, comfortable, durable and versatile to wear. Oh, and pockets. Pockets on everything. The more pockets the better. It's one of the many reasons I love wearing Blluemade! So many great pockets!!
What's your next trip?
-- CDMX! We fell in love with it when we went there for the first time last February (*editors note: read Hannah's travel diary from that trip here). We were totally taken by its rich history and the abundance of art and design to experience. We are going back for Design Week and can’t wait to see all of the incredible shows, and eat all of the delicious food!
How do you pack for travel?
-- I try to keep it to a minimum, I don’t like to check bags when I travel. I usually bring my d’emploi tote-bag, made by our pal, Kyle Mosholder and my regular day-to-day bag. I always wear natural fibers when I travel because I think it wears better and is more comfortable. I usually bring pieces that can be mixed and matched, or layered to create different options, such as a few statement pieces and basics to switch up my looks. I can’t wait to wear my new Blluemade corduroy jumpsuit in CDMX!
What's next for you, work-wise?
-- I have new line of lamps debuting this spring inspired by forms found in modernist sculpture and architecture. I have also begun exploring a line of rugs based some of my older works in painting and printmaking. I am really excited to introduce techniques like bundle dyeing, ice-dyeing, and indigo dyeing to the rugs’s surface. My dad and I have also begun to collaborate on a series of rugs inspired by traditional motifs round in oriental rugs and historic tapestries. It has been really sweet and work with him, as rugs and textiles has always been such a shared passion of ours. Last, but not least, Steven and I are excited about collaborating on new collection for design season this year! Keep a look out for some sneak peeks coming soon!
*All images by Blluemade. Hannah is wearing throughout: the indigo corduroy jumpsuit, blue flannel long-sleeved shirt, baseball pant in khaki wool-linen, khaki wool-linen blazer. Most styles or similar are available this AW19.