Why We Need to Get Out of New York

Greenpoint-based artist Caroline Hurley looks beyond Brooklyn

Caroline Hurley.
Caroline Hurley. (Photo: Melissa Walbridge)

Walk into Caroline Hurley‘s new Greenpoint atelier on any given day of the week and try to decipher what the space is. Part studio, part showroom, gallery and community gathering space—the list goes on and on… but this his how Ms. Hurley works. She is both an artist and a designer, who works through traveling and exploring—going door to door to find her next manufacturing partner, and somehow managing to tie everything together in a package as thoughtful as the products themselves. This is the precarious balancing act, according to Ms. Hurley, of creating your own definition of work—and then never not working.

Ms. Hurley's hand-painted designs.
Ms. Hurley’s hand-painted designs. (Photo: Melissa Walbridge)

How has it been designing a space from scratch and how do you imagine using it now that it’s finished? Thanks! The space for me will be malleable depending on what projects I am working on. It will serve as my showroom and studio firstly. Then, when I want to do interesting shows or events I will change the space up. I had tables made that are collapsible and can be configured in many different ways so it’s easy to change the shape of things in here. It can be my painting studio one week and a shop the next. Pretty exciting!

You were in Bushwick for a while preceding this move—how has it been being in a new neighborhood and do you think changing your surroundings has impacted your work? Yes, for sure. I loved Bushwick. I loved that it felt like no one knew where I was. Everything I made felt like a secret. Now, even though my studio is off the beaten path a bit, I feel very exposed, but I think this is super good for me. When I am painting I will pull down the shades but when I am open as a shop or showroom its really awesome to interact with the people who swing by. Greenpoint is great. It’s a really cozy and sweet community. I like that people get to see my product in a functional living room type vibe. They can see how it would look in a space that’s cozy, which is important to me.

My textiles were born in my painting studio—it was a natural project for me to be working on in conjunction with my paintings at the time.

The artist at work.
The artist at work. (Photo: Melissa Walbridge)

In terms of how you made the jump from painting to textiles and how that has since transitioned into all sorts of other products, was the process totally intentional or has it evolved more organically over time? Totally organic. I still consider all of my textiles to be very fine arts based. You can see the hand in everything that I make, whether it’s the pillows or the rugs. That was important to me when I was searching for production. My textiles were born in my painting studio—it was a natural project for me to be working on in conjunction with my paintings at the time.

You’ve invested a lot of time into finding the right partners internationally to work with on the production of your collections. How do you go about finding these craftspeople, and has that been any more or less difficult than you expected? It’s a process. I ask around, do research, and am generally always keeping my eyes open for artisans no matter where I go—whether it’s Memphis or Mexico. I would say it’s not necessarily hard to find artisans but its hard to find the right match. It takes a couple tries. For example, in Mexico I did a whole line of production and wasn’t satisfied with the quality so I am going to use another group of weavers. I haven’t met them yet! I’m just gonna go directly to the town in Mexico where a lot of weavers are based and literally knock on doors!

My advice for people who can’t seem to leave NYC is to ‘JUST DO IT’! It makes the city so much more amazing.

Ms. Hurley and her textiles.
Ms. Hurley and her textiles. (Photo: Melissa Walbridge)

One thing I’ve always admired is that despite all the projects you seem to be working on—often all at once—you still make time to travel. I know this has a huge influence on your art and what you make. Would it be fair to say that in order for you to work you also have to travel, and for those who make excuses about not being able to leave New York do you have any expert advice? Travel is super important. I don’t think I am ever not working. Everything I do is work in some way. Whether it’s traveling or training my team how to make the new collection. I think of travel like the exploration portion of my process. It’s the part that begins the whole thing. I have honestly never come back from a trip where I don’t feel massively inspired. It helps me to be more productive and manage my time before I leave for a trip and also when I come home I am so energized and motivated to get to it! I guess my advice for people who can’t seem to leave NYC is to ‘JUST DO IT’! It makes the city so much more amazing. And maybe to think of travel as a part of the business—that’s what I do and it has worked so far!

Trained as an Industrial Designer, Isaac Friedman-Heiman is currently a Partner and the Creative Director at the online design startup WorkOf, where this post originally appeared. Prior to his current role Isaac was a founding member of the acclaimed Brooklyn design studio, Souda, winner of the ICFF Editors Award for Best New Design Studio in 2014. He currently lives with his partner, photographer Madeleine Cooke, in Fort Greene.  Why We Need to Get Out of New York