An 11,600-square-foot creative workspace in Sunset Park, Brooklyn (at 33 34th St.), West Elm’s newly-opened Makers Studio houses over a dozen artists, designers and craftsmen who collaborate to design and develop West Elm products.
The seven-plus studios facilitate conceptualizing and designing product and include both flexible and independent workspaces for all disciplines. The spaces range from a colorist dye shop and weaving room to a carpentry workshop and 3D modeling space.
The entrance to the Makers Studio.
“West Elm and our in-house design team have grown significantly over the past five years,” said Jim Brett, president of West Elm. “The Makers Studio promotes design creativity and collaboration and furthers our commitment to the Brooklyn community we are lucky to call home.”
On Saturday, April 18, the studio opened its doors to the public as part of the second annual Industry City Open Studio event. The design team led tours and special programming throughout the day to teach the attendees a little bit about its creative processes. Participating makers included ceramicist Ben Howart, painter and textile pattern designer Sarah Campbell, and metalworker Roger Stevens.
Jonathan Orr in the Craft Studio.
Beyond the tours, highlights from the open studio event included the creation of a crowd-sourced art installation celebrating Brooklyn from printed Instagram photos with #ICOpenStudios, opportunities to relax and recharge in the West Elm lounge equipped with smartphone charging stations and refreshments from Brooklyn’s One Girl Cookies.
Kat Hammill and Amy Adams in the Ceramics Studio.
Editor at Large learned more about the decision to open the Maker Studio from West Elm Vice President of Product Development Jonathan Orr.
EAL: What was the reason behind creating this space?
JO: Our design team has been based in our DUMBO headquarters, and as we continue to grow, we wanted to give our team a space that is both inspiring and functional. There is something for every discipline with all the necessary machinery, supplies and space with seven separate work rooms – or studios – that includes a ceramic studio, weaving studio, craft and painting studio, dye shop, jewelry/ metal work studio and carpentry workshop.
EAL: Who will work out of it and what sort of products will be made?
JO: The space is primarily designed for our 12-plus in-house designers and artists who will continue to focus their ideas and create authentically derived designs. Our goal for the space is to create an environment for design to experiment, incubate, grow and collaborate. Working with our existing collaborators and vendors, we will have artists visit and stay with us to work on projects, develop new and existing ideas, and teach us new techniques. It’s truly a modern day laboratory for design.
EAL: Why open the Makers' Studio to the public?
JO: We opened the studio for one day only as part of the second annual Industry City Open Studios event. Typically, the Makers Studio will remain private work spaces for our in-house product design and development team, and our collaborators.
The Finishing environment. Images courtesy of West Elm.
EAL: How does the studio fit in to West Elm's larger ethos?
JO: It has been a part of our heritage to connect with local, independent designers and our communities since our inception in 2002. People have increasingly wanted to know the story behind a product, and we’ve seen the response to our designs and artisan-made products grow considerably. The Makers Studio continues to focus our effort, promotes our growth and reinforces our commitment to the art and craft of making – whether it’s by our in-house design team or a local and international artisan or collaborator.