DaW: Observatory & Visual Shift Art Studio
Observatory is a product and furniture design consultancy based in Providence, RI. Basically this means that other companies and organizations give Observatory a problem, and Observatory solves it through design! Either by developing tangible products or creating strategic and conceptual design exercises that help clients define their future success.
They have developed everything from tabletop goods and furniture to personal care products, consumer electronics, office products, appliances, and structural packaging, graphic design, and interface development. Observatory has developed products and experiences for companies including International furniture company Keilhauer, leading modern office furniture company Herman Miller, and ODL, a leader in the glass building products industry.
Principals Ayako Takase and Cutter Hutton established Observatory in 2001 and moved to their current space - which has both their office and workshop spaces - in 2005. *See the Design Is Rhode Island Instagram (Click the “At Work #3” button on the home page) now to see videos from our visit to Observatory.*
Why RHODE ISLAND? “The place I studied [Providence] grounds me and gives me confidence. It gives me the confidence and comfort to not only design, but also teach and have a family. It’s also small enough so I feel like I’m part of the community; we’re pulled in many ways to participate here.” -Ayako Takase
“I’ve worked in Boston and NY previously, and I didn’t like the pace and work-life balance, so it made sense to come back to Providence to start a business. Here, we have a balance between design and the so many other things to do. It’s a more humane place to live and work - we can work on our terms. You can choose to pursue your passion, but it doesn’t have to be all-encompassing. There’s a scrappiness and independence here amongst the strong creative community of designers, artisans, and craftspeople - people here have passion to follow their interests, do unique things, and produce their own stuff.” -Cutter Hutton
Currently, Observatory is working on developing modular, buildable pieces of furniture for an interactive museum exhibit. See photos below - they’ve done research, developed models, and moved forward to full-scale creation. And check out Observatory on social media to follow their progress!
VISUAL SHIFT ART STUDIO
Visual Shift is the art and design studio of artist/designer/plant lover Alyssa Adriance. At Visual Shift, Alyssa focuses on nurturing nature by working on plants within sculptural forms. Her plant-filled studio functions not only as her personal workspace, but also a retail space, workshop, and classroom. She offers plant nights and terrarium workshops (visit her website to see what you can make), and as a former art teacher (for 10+ years), Alyssa still loves working with students - she provides private studio art classes for high school students hoping to go to art or design school.
Visiting the plant-filled studio at Hope Artiste Village was such a pleasure! I got to talk to Alyssa about her background and recent projects at Visual Shift Art Studio:
Tell us about your background and the studio! “I’ve been working with plants for as long as I can remember. And as an artist I focus on sculptural forms, and I started that in high school working with water sculptures - fountains. I made sculptural fountains that were up to 4-5ft in diameter and 300-400lbs - really big pieces. I continued making concrete sculptures in college and beyond, eventually minimizing the size of the forms and starting to use plants instead of water.”
What have you recently been working on? “I recently collaborated with WICK-ed Candle Co - I made concrete sculptural containers for their candles. This collaboration really showed me how accessible and collaborative the RI design community is! I have also been doing pop-up shops around Rhode Island - at the mall, JCrew, Madewell, and West Elm.”
(Follow @visualshiftartstudio on Instagram to stay up to date with Alyssa’s pop-ups, new work, and collaborations!)
Why RHODE ISLAND? “The design community here has a lot of niches - everyone has a specialty and is really good at that thing. Not only that, but the community is encouraging and helps promote one another. There is especially a lot of support and education for new designers - I love learning and listening to those with experience, and everyone encourages me to keep going. I’ve found that this community is very beneficial for new designers to immerse themselves and learn.”
((See more of Visual Shift’s work on Instagram!))
You can visit Visual Shift Art Studio for yourself during Hope Artiste Village’s new Open Studios! The Hope Artiste Village Community is hosting a monthly Open Studios and Market to support the local businesses within the village. The next open house is Wednesday NOVEMBER 7, 5-8pm! Visit Visual Shift in Suite 1205.
Thank you to Observatory and Visual Shift Art Studio for having us at your studios! Check out videos from Observatory NOW on Instagram (@designisrhodeisland - click “At Work #3” on the home page) and stay tuned for videos from Visual Shift Art Studio coming this Thursday (10/11).
Also… did you know that you watch ALL our previous Designers At Work features at any time? We now have 3 story archives (At Work #1, At Work #2, At Work #3) highlighted on the main Design Is Rhode Island Instagram page, which you can click at any time to watch videos from 19 amazing RI design studios. Enjoy :)
Want to join in? Post yourself working on something cool using the hashtags #DesignIsRhodeIsland and #DesignersAtWork on Instagram, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you know a Rhode Island designer who should be featured in this series!