Tell us a bit about yourself.
We are Judith Rand and Eben Papele and we are designers and thinkers. We are a Libra and a Sag, so we have a firm belief in our ability to create our ideal world together, and not merely in the material sense. This belief has been the subject of an ongoing conversation that has spanned 20 years. As artists and makers, we try to bring our perspective on creativity and material processes to the art of living and “nesting.” We need our environment to foster creativity and nurture our curiosities.
We are not particularly attached to things in general, but enjoy the process of editing and creating our environment from whatever we have at hand. It helps that we have access to the deep recesses of the Hudson Valley and Northeast U.S., with its rich history of art, folk art, architecture and industry as a resource. Equally important to the quality or aesthetic value of a piece of furniture or decorative or utilitarian object, is how you use the object in relation to its environment. So we like to be experimental, and in the end what we create has to make us feel free or we undo it.
Apart from collecting and curating, what do you do?
We are jewelry designers/metalsmiths, and run our own jewelry business. We are honored to be able to sell to many talented visionary and pioneering independent boutique owners in the U.S. and Canada. We have recently launched our Etsy shop, MemoryTheatre, where you can find our work. Memory Theatre is another term for a cabinet of curiosities — a room full of scientific and artistic wonders, many yet to be classified. So these curated rooms housed collections of things that no one quite knew what to do with, or how they fit in to the prevailing world view. We like that sense of things being as yet undefined and unformed and not belonging to any existing framework.
What would be the title of your memoir?
Go Seek reflects our relationship to the world. Our favorite philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, has a saying that we try to embody: “In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself.”
Do you have any personal collections? How did they start?
We do have things — mostly art and things with animals on them, but not a collection, per se.
What decade or style inspires you?
As you can see by our inventory, we are inspired by objects with soul and function and this is not bound by any constraint or definition or time period. That being said, we mostly acquire objects from the late 1800s to the 1940s or so. We aspire to constellate things around us that inspire us to create and facilitate our understanding of our relationship to life and each other. We feel the recognition of beauty is a profound unifying experience and a fundamental part of our humanity. Personally we are often most moved by antique folk art — the unique vision of a single person who was moved to create for the sake of creating.
What are the challenges of finding great vintage?
Although our tastes are broad, we have a very specific aesthetic and strive to maintain a certain balance in periods and materials to achieve our own unique visual signature. We focus on antique as opposed to vintage — the older the object the deeper the story. It could be a a special finish, or the mark of the makers hand, but there has to be a unique appeal to each piece to mark it as not being mass produced. Creative lives are supported by creative objects. It has to fit with that philosophy or we don’t buy it. Since the inventory changes every day it is an ongoing and intuitive process. You have to trust the universe.
What’s the most interesting backstory of an object you’ve acquired?
We found an old Hudson Valley, NY document box. When we got it home we discovered that it was lined with newspapers dated 1801 that are full of references to life in our part of the Hudson Valley. There are ship illustrations and advertisements for boat services to NYC on Sloops with captains Thomas Bull and Ichabod Lockwood (the early commute!). There is an off-color poem and snarky reporting: “It appears that inhabitants on the east side of the Hudson River have at length awakened from their lethargy, after dreaming a long time on the subject of forming a Turnpike Road from Albany to Kingsbridge.” It paints such a vivid picture of life in the Hudson Valley circa 1801. And it has its original hand-painted red polka-dot finish! We had no idea people were painting red polka dots on handmade boxes 200 years ago.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Eva Zeisel stands out for her ability to transcend the political atmosphere, social gender roles and artistic boundaries of her time. She is a pioneering design figure whose designs are not only aesthetically pleasing but full of human content. She was able to design in any medium with equally powerful results.
Was there an object that was particularly hard for you to give up? If so, why?
We sold a wonderful painting by the Dutch artist, Jan Witjens, of a hand holding a bouquet of flowers. It was an original combination of styles, combining the intrigue of antique botanicals and the whimsy of a child’s book. It stands out as such a unique vision that we still talk about it years later.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Retreat! We go back to nature. We are fortunate to live in the valley of the Shawangunk Mountains and frequently sojourn in the woods of the Mohonk Preserve.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
We would like to be surprised by our life journey! We have designs for furniture, lighting and home stuff in the works. We hope to be following our creativity, wherever it may take us.