Local Made at Space Ninety 8:
Cold Picnic is partners Phoebe Sung and Peter Buer, who craft bags, art, textiles and more in their Brooklyn studio. Carrying on the tradition of storytelling through symbols, Phoebe and Peter make each piece by hand, seeking out objects from the past.
As part of Williamsburg's Space Ninety 8 Market Space, Cold Picnic has created custom wall hangings, macramé plant hangers and leather goods for our Local Made pop-up. Get the scoop on Phoebe and Peter's cool, nostalgic vibe and colorful creative process.
Photographs by Liz Ligon | Look book photograph by Kate Edwards
How did you two come together and begin Cold Picnic?
Peter: We first met in Boston in 2006 where we were both studying fashion design. After graduating we worked a couple design jobs together (we've pretty much worked together nonstop since we met), before deciding to move to Brooklyn. The summer before moving to New York, we visited clam shacks and library book sales in all these little New England towns. We'd always buy books on crafts and national parks, caves, etc., and by then end of summer we were totally immersed in all of it. We started working on side projects, but once we moved we had time in between freelance design jobs to really work on the line.
How do you describe your brand and aesthetic?
Phoebe: The pieces are largely influenced by indigenous crafts and the 1970s craft movement, as well as geology and the American natural landscape. We try to filter everything through our aesthetic, which is a little bit more clean and modern than our influences. So, in a few words – nostalgic but modern.
What is your creative process like? Can you walk us through creating a new piece or product, from concept to completion?
Peter: It varies depending on what we're working on, but it almost always starts with color. We sit down with all our yarns and pantones and sort out the color palettes we're most interested in. That really sets the tone for the whole collection. We talk about what we liked from past seasons, and what we're tired of or felt was missing. From there, it differs depending on the piece. With the wall hangings, we make several mockups – in watercolor, yarn, computer cad, etc., before finalizing each one. Then the plant hangers are sort of sculptural interpretations of them. With the jewelry, we build loads of models in clay – enough to cover an entire work table – and then pick out a few favorites.
How has your work evolved from the beginning? Where do you see it going from here?
Phoebe: When we just started out, Cold Picnic was more of a hobby, and we just did whatever we could learn from books and using materials we had access to. Now that it's full time we have more time to explore different methods and manufacturing sources.
Peter: At the moment, we make every single piece by hand (with the exception of the jewelry, which is cast in Manhattan), which we love, but which slightly limits us in terms of speed and production. We've been working on a few new projects which expand on our current home line but aren't produced entirely in our studio, which gives us the freedom to design without constantly worrying about the scale and time everything takes to make.
"We've always been inspired by 1970s American films. The palettes, locations, wardrobes and art direction of movies[…] are huge inspirations for pretty much everything we do."
Your pieces range from jewelry to home goods, art and other accessories. How do you keep your style and aesthetic consistent through so many different mediums?
Phoebe: We had a shop in Williamsburg for a year, and didn't quite have the budget to fill it with as much product as we would have liked. So we started making plant hangers because the shop had large windows, and wall hangings to fill out the walls, and bags because we thought the shop needed them. It was a wonderful excuse to make all the products we'd always wanted to try, as well as being a helpful test run. At that time we were designing them as individual pieces, not really as part of our collection as a whole. Once we gave up the shop, we had time to really think about all the pieces we were making, and from that point forward we designed them all simultaneously. It's actually much easier that way! We usually start with the wall hangings, and allow their color and texture to form the direction for the other pieces.
Who are some of your favorite artists, designers, or other inspirations?
Peter: We love Cy Twombly and of course Sheila Hicks. Recently Tom Moglu and Wyatt Kahn, and installations by Lisa Kellner.
Phoebe: We've also always been inspired by 1970s American films. The palettes, locations, wardrobes and art direction of movies like Pat Garett and Billy the Kid, Nashville, Three Women, McCabe and Mrs.Miller, Badlands are huge inspirations for pretty much everything we do.
What do you like to do when you're not working?
Peter: Eat mainly. We love meeting with Urban Outfitters in Philly because it means we get to try to cram in all our favorite meals. When we're at home we cook loads (or Phoebe cooks and I bake) and take little day trips to Flushing and Elmhurst, where we stuff ourselves on Asian food and stock up on groceries. Our collections are very inspired by places, and we love to travel. Which is funny, because since we started doing the line full time, it feels like we never leave our studio (which is currently in our house… even worse). So in a way it's wishful thinking. But when we do venture out of the city we tend to plan our trips around national parks or areas that are a bit more wild. I grew up in England so I'm fascinated by all the national parks here. Despite having been able to visit some amazing places, America is so huge I feel like I've barely seen any of it.
Can you tell us more about your work with Space Ninety 8?
Phoebe: We met Marissa last year when she was visiting the studios of Brooklyn designers in preparation for the project. She came to our studio and we loved her immediately – she is amazing to work with! She ended up selecting a variety of pieces, including several bags that were limited editions, so they're not available anywhere else (including a purse which incorporates our California's Ranches in the Sea wall hanging). We didn't realize it at the time, but so many of our friends are also involved in Space 98, and we can't wait to see everyone's pieces in the same space!