November 2018

Stella Yoon from Hudson River Exchange Studio Visit with KHEM Studios

Creativity loves company.

Ahoy, friends!
It's not often I get to do studio visits but I jumped at the chance to get a peak of Khem Studios. After reading and talking to Kari and Erik about their processes, I still had a hard time imagining what their studio might look like. They have both spent a lot of time in the world of art fabrication so they've gotten to know how to work in all sorts of materials and working on an industrial scale but the collection they are creating for Khem Studios is their foray into fabrication for function. So what does a home studio with an industrial quilting machine and CNC machines look like?

Kari's textile studio is in the basement of the house with a cutting room and a collection of machines from an antique Singer to an industrial embroidery machine. Erik's wood working studio a garage down the hill and houses a CNC machine alongside a wood stove. This is what 21st century cottage industry looks like - designing on the computer and building with the help of machinery. But the more I chat with Kari and Erik, it's clear that these are just different tools in the process of making that expand the definition of what handmade can be.

There's an immense amount of visual and logistical problem solving that happens when making something no matter what the tools look like. And it's gotten me thinking about how the tools available to us are different but no matter what they are and how much "more" they might be able to do, what drives creativity is human ability and ingenuity.

They are both so knowledgeable about tools and thinking of production in the context of scale. If you're curious to chat with them, they will be shopkeeping Nov 11th and 17th and happy to nerd out with you.
Enjoy the read,

Meet the Maker: Kari + Erik of Khem Studios

 HRE   : Tell us a little about Khem Studios.

 K + E  : We design and produce in-house furniture, tabletop items and textiles such as quilts. Our focus is on creating great design and experiences through an approach of high quality craftsmanship and sourcing high quality materials. 

A husband and wife team, both artists with an extensive background in fabrication processes, we fold our knowledge of form and materials into designs that reflect contemporary living and a desire to provide well-made heirloom products.

 HRE   : What’s your creative process? What’s your favorite part? How do you maintain your creative stamina? What do you do when you’re stuck?

 K + E  : We are lucky to have the freedom to bounce between multiple processes ranging from traditional workflows to digital workflows that allow us to design a full range of products from furniture to textiles and home accessories. Our partnership is bridged by many shared interests, experiences and a background in sculpture and digital fabrication that has always served as a foundation for our work.  

The final designs are an amalgamation of weaving together traditional processes and digital processes to create a final product. Our traditional processes include drawing, building a color pallet with Color-aid and material research. We then fold all that information into a refining process by entering the digital. We use digital as a filter for refining and creating a dependable accuracy needed for us to make our product within the constraints of today’s challenging marketplace.

To maintain a stream of ideas, we are naturally always looking at design, art and life for inspiration. Just getting in the studio and working even when not inspired forces something to start instead of being in a period of waiting for inspiration.

 HRE   : What materials do you work with? How did you start working with these materials and why do you enjoy working with these materials?

 E + K  : We work with maple, walnut, linoleum, aluminum, brass, linen, cotton, velvet and leather. Materials shift as our designs change. There is no hierarchy between design, material or processes within our workflows. Certain forms demand certain materials and machine processes and even software workflows that in turn drive the final designs.  

Erik began 20 years ago working 3 dimensionally with metal, welding and wood carving using traditional techniques to create sculpture. Over the years, self-taught his work has extended into digital fabrication. Kari began with an interest in sewing, weaving, dying and other fiber processes as well as traditional sculpture processes that progressed into digital embroidery and long arm automated sewing.  Her love of textiles and textile related processes inform all our textile products.

 HRE   : We believe creativity loves company because there’s so much we can share and learn from each other.  What’s the best advice you’ve gotten about creative practice, business, or in life?

 K + E  : We have studied a lot of business models and are always willing to experiment and tweak what we do or how we can gain more visibility for our products. We began with mainly online sales and now placing our products in venues that allow our clientele to directly touch, feel and interact with what we make has been invaluable.  A picture is worth a thousand words but our products are designed for the most intimate of spaces, a home and as such all the feedback talking with people helps inform our work as designers and producers. There are many misconceptions about creative processes that business concepts help balance out. You cannot create in a closet and expect people to find you. Diversify until you find your market.

 HRE   : Can you share a challenge and a benefit about being a creative in the Hudson Valley?

 K + E  : We were driven to this area because in our experience it is very unique in terms of the amount of creative professionals here and overall appreciation for modern architecture, art, theater and contemporary design. We are inspired by the richness of history in creativity, heritage of industry and overall natural beauty of the land and water. We lived in Brooklyn for most of our adult lives and decided to leave the city and have up to now really spent a good deal of time just trying to find a place like what is here. It is unique and we have always loved in New York so it feels like not only finding home but also coming home. We are really grateful that this is such a fertile place.

In terms of challenges, I think we are more conscious of trying to eek out a balance between producing in the studio with meeting people and getting out in the community.  There is just so much here that inspires us and when you do what you love, it is so important to look up and see what’s happening and who is out there.

 HRE   :  What is a goal that you set for your business this year?

 K + E  : In the age of online sales and marketplaces, we are looking for more person-to-person exchanges with our products and people.