Siri: Hi Isabel. What do you do for a living?
Isabel: I make trippy textiles for apparel and interior designers.
S: How long have you been working with textiles?
I: For about 7 years now, I majored in textile design in school. My designs originate from paintings I create, I’ll photograph the paintings and then manipulate them on the computer. I also use a lot of recycled materials in my pieces, for example I’ve used recycled fishing rope from Maine to create bulls-eye rugs that we have around the house.
S: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I: Our turtles are a major inspiration for me. One is named Crazy Legs and the other is named Timmy. Crazy Legs has really long nails, and we paint them sometimes with nail polish. They’ve been courting each other recently. They face each other and start shaking their little hands like they’re performing magic. It’s so cool and strange. That’s been really inspiring to see. We just recently got them a huge new tank with pink rocks, and a fantastic desert scene in the background. I’m making them a complex and colorful tunnel system in my ceramics class, which I take just down the street.
S: Tell me about your bat in a jar.
I: The bat is Arthur’s, I think he stole it from the nature lab at school. All of us collect a lot of little things here and there, animals, animal skins. Our apartment is sort of like a cabinet of curiosities, and I think that’s a big part of what makes this place special.
S: How do you decide what goes up on the walls?
I: It’s funny, we’re all artists, but we don’t really have a lot of art on the walls. Maybe because you can’t really put a nail through all this brick.
S: I see you guys have a lot of plants.
I: Our collection has really grown considerably over the last year. We have a fig tree, lots of succulents, citronellas, a bunch of jade plants...
Malu: A pineapple plant, it had a little baby pineapple, but it died and Will mounted it on his wall. It looks like a shrunken head. I like to pretend I’m out of the city as much as possible, and the plants definitely help.
S: How long have you all lived here?
I: Three years. When I first moved in, I thought it would be a good idea to get Will to move in because he’s kind of a carpenter. We built up the place to what you see now.
Will: There was only one bedroom when we moved in, and we built three more. We found some doors at a Build it Green in Queens, and a few of the windows at a dump in Cape Cod. I think that a lot of the charm of these buildings is that everything is a sort of hodge podge of walls and spaces.
I: We’ve all changed rooms a lot since we first moved in here. Will has the best room right now.
W: But that’s just because I worked on it a lot. Because we live on the top floor, we can hear everything that happens on the roof. We can trace the footsteps of a cat that hangs out up there. Sometimes it sounds like there’s crazy acrobats jumping around.
I: That’s just the Brenda the ghost. Some day this whole place is just going to collapse in on itself, it’s so old.
S: What brought you guys to this neighborhood?
W: I think I ended up in Williamsburg sort of as a default, when so many of people I know moved here after school. I figured I might as well put in my New York time close to my friends.
I: I think most of us probably wouldn’t have moved to this neighborhood if we hadn’t found this place. It brought us all here. But by now I’ve lived here long enough to know the neighbors, and my studio is just down the street.
S: Malu, tell me about the book collection here.
M: We have all sorts of books, a lot of art books, theory, poetry history. We have a lot of occult books, and books on modern Paganism. We also have a great book on cuttlefish, which is my favorite animal.
S: Really? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone whose favorite animal is the cuttlefish.
M: I didn’t know anything about them until I saw a Nova documentary on them. They’re incredible. They can completely camouflage themselves, both in texture and color, or create spikes out of their backs and polka dots all over. They put on these crazy light shows to hypnotize their prey. They also inspire a lot of the jewelry making I do, in terms of the carved crystal work I create. It echoes the way that they can glow from the inside.
S: What’s the one thing you would save in here if there was a fire?
M: I’d save a turtle.
I: Definitely a turtle.
W: I think if there was a fire, I would just let it all burn. If that’s the way it’s going to be, I’d say just let it all go.