Using Leather As a Creative Canvas With AVO
AVO, founded by Brit Kleinman in 2014, combines her passion for materials and painting to bring her creative vision to life using leather as her canvas, a material we have used since the dawn of time. From pillows and furnishings to wall coverings, AVO develops dynamic visuals, playing with materials, patterns and shapes, most notably known for their “Painted Plains” collection.
Brit shares with us her infatuation with the durability and possibilities of leather, putting leather to good use, and her vision behind AVO’s 2017 collection “In Context”.
AVO, founded in 2014, takes an anthropological approach to design – how has your upbringing, education and travels fueled this inspiration?
Travel has been one of the biggest influences in my life and design work. There is an intangible knowledge gained by seeing how life exists in different places. It highlights the similarities and exposes the differences of the simple everyday occurrences. Upon entering college, I wanted to pursue a painting major, but enjoyed building three-dimensional objects. After learning more about Industrial Design, I knew it was the perfect fit. Studying at The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) gave me a working knowledge of materials and how to translate ideas into reality. It’s been within these experiences that I’ve found a passion for how design can be a common language.
We read that you began your career designing bags and pursuing your passion project, “The Way We Carry”, studying the carrying culture and how we (as people) carry things from place to place. What are some of your inspiring takeaways that influence your design?
Humans are nomadic toolmakers. And with tools, comes the need to carry them with us. While a common human experience, this can play out drastically differently across the globe. Exploring the “Way We Carry” was my first fascination that led me down the path I’m still on today, looking at how culture can shape the objects within it. It also led me to work for many years as a bag designer, which in turn exposed me to working with leather as a material.
We have been using this material since the beginning of time for a reason. It lasts.
What’s AVO’s production process, from inspiration to painting tiles and hide?
I very rarely draw out a design before I begin. I am a very material-driven designer and like to dive right in to see how the material will react to my ideas. One concept might work really well on paper and not translate onto leather. It is fun to go so in depth with one material and explore its possibilities.
Leather is a by-product of the meat and dairy industry and instead of having it thrown away; we choose to put it to good use.
How does designing making you feel, especially when you’re using your hands?
It puts me in my happy place. That place where time doesn’t exist and for an instant it all makes sense.
You’ve collaborated with Google, Madewell, and the Ladies & Gentlemen Studio to name a few…what are some upcoming collaborations we should know about?
This year I am doing a different furniture collaboration with the incredibly talented Asher Israelow. Plus, I’m expanding into accessories with a shoe collaboration with Sabah. All of the shoes are going to be handmade in Turkey with our leathers.
Whenever you work with a fellow creative, the most exciting part is getting to see another perspective.
We’re particularly in love with the “Painted Plains Hide” 2016 collection – what’s in store for 2017?
My new collection is called “In Context” and explores the texture and color of my everyday surroundings. Included in the new assortment will be a leather upholstery collection, leather floor tiles, and yes…bags!
Which hides, pillows and tiles are your best-sellers?
Most recently, Sunburst Dash has been our number one. I personally love this pattern because it shows off the hand-made element in the mark making.
How does AVO prepare for a design conference, trade show, or fair?
We are in the middle of this right now, preparing for Architectural Digest Design Show and ICFF. It takes an incredible amount of work, and I really could not do this with out my amazing team. It takes one part of the brain to design and make product, and another to figure out how to display it in a way that voices your message. What I love about the challenge is getting to create environments for the products to live in.
What do you like most about collaborating with interior designers?
Whenever you work with a fellow creative, the most exciting part is getting to see another perspective. Since most of our collection is made to order, it really gives the freedom to customize for the space and give the client exactly what they need.
When an interior designer approaches you about a project – what types of guiding questions do you ask to get a sense of the client’s space and aesthetic?
I always ask for a mood-board to get a feeling for the direction. Obviously, I’m a visual person so images of the space help me contextualize how our designs fits in.
What are 3 tips of “best practices” to offer interior designers for choosing the right leather goods and making the most out of leather when decorating a space?
1. The first thing to remember is that leather does not come on a roll. I am always thinking about how to maximize the space of the hide and decrease left over waste, depending on the end use.
2. Second is to remember that leather is a natural product, and that’s why we love it! Leather is a by-product of the meat and dairy industry and instead of having it thrown away; we choose to put it to good use. We respect the inherent character leather has and embrace it through our designs.
3. And last but not least, leather is durable! We have been using this material since the beginning of time for a reason. It lasts.
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