– Hi, Simon.
– Hi. – How’s it going?
– Great, how are you?
– Good, can everyone hear us?
– [Audience Members] Yes.
– We’re sorry your brother Niki couldn’t join us,
but he’s had some health issues, but he’s okay.
So we wish him well.
– It’s just me.
– I always like to start out with a little art history,
so I picked some things that I don’t think influenced you,
but which I see as ancestors, perhaps,
to some of your works.
Fantastic creatures is one category in which
that you all address, and there’s this amazing sculpture
in the Metropolitan Museum that’s usually up
by this French artist, end of the 19th century,
that’s a chimera.
And, of course, chimeras and dragons and unicorns
and all kinds of weird monsters have had a long history
in the history of art, but I think what’s interesting is
that artists who, at least in this case,
this artist also has this really strong sensitivity
to materials, and so I think the combination of that
in your work is really interesting.
And another one, this is a really weird one
that’s actually in, not by a well-known artist at all.
We used to call it Yoda when I worked at LACMA,
after they acquired this, and it’s by,
but it’s this really interesting,
strange-looking hybrid creature, sort of gnome-like,
that relates to this air of fantasy, also in ceramic.
But, of course, I think the real thing that I thought of
with your work is Gaudi’s amazing Park Guell in Barcelona,
which, of course, is made with broken tiles,
and it’s sort of a fantastic lizard,
and I think there’s many parallels to your work.
Do you know the work of Gaudi well?
– I’m obsessed with Gaudi.
– No, that’s good, I picked the right slide then.
– Yeah, particularly because my brother and I work
in a very, I’m more scientific, mathematical,
surface-oriented, and he’s very much about the forms
and the animalistic side, and I think Gaudi actually was
the two of us combined, and we have to come together
in order to do stuff like that.
But when I see Gaudi, particularly
at the La Sagrada Familia,
the way he hung his model upside down with sandbags is
more kind of how I think, and then the lizard, for example,
is much more my brother.
– Right, how did you,
why don’t you tell us how you and your brother
came to work together as artists, designers?
We won’t even worry about the categories ’cause they’re,
who cares about categories?
– I was a struggling painter, and I had studied architecture
also, so I had a background in some of it,
and my brother was a house manager.
And he was commissioned just to make a few very basic
furniture pieces, and he asked me to do CAD drawings
for him, and then we decided to work together,
and I did it kind of begrudgingly, actually,
because I wanted to keep on painting and cooking also.
But it worked out, so I’m glad that I agreed to do it.
But it really started out sort of as cabinetry manufacturer,
and very quickly, I think, both of us couldn’t just do that.
It’s not in our nature to just make
a square working cabinet.
– Uh huh.
When did you first sort of realize that you can have a go
of this together as brothers working collaboratively?
– We talked about it in 2009.
I mean, really, we’ve been working together
since we were kids, and we would build tree houses together.
We used to carve stone together
’cause my dad was a stonemason.
– And an artist too.
He would get, yeah, yeah.
– And an artist, yeah, exactly.
And so the two of us were always doing projects together.
We parted ways when I went to school,
and then when we wound up in L.A.,
it just kind of happened naturally.
– And that was about 10 years ago?
– Yeah, it was in, 2010’s when we–
– That’s pretty recent. – Officially formed.
I know, kind of recent. – Yeah, that’s pretty recent.
That’s interesting. – It still feels new.
– Can you talk, so your dad’s an artist.
You guys are both into music really seriously, I know.
– [Simon] Yeah.
– And you grew up, from what I know of,
in this fairly interesting milieu in Austin
around artists, filmmakers.
I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that.
– Yeah, well, my mom was an opera singer and a screenwriter,
and she was living in L.A.
right up until we were very young, as a screenwriter.
So she knew all kinds of really interesting people,
and my older brother is an actor, and he also did,
so we kind of grew up in a house where,
I don’t know if anyone knows Phillip Mahl,
but he’s a concert pianist.
He was playing piano in our house,
and then I called Terrence Malick Uncle Terry, for example,
which is really crazy–
– [Carter] Dude, that’s amazing, yeah.
– ‘Cause later on I became a fan of his films.
I had no idea.
And so we–
– [Carter] So he was around a lot
when you were growing up?
– Yeah, we were surrounded by really crazy people,
and so I think we just grew up with that
as our guide, basically, and our mom was singing opera.
My dad painted.
Nobody knew how to do anything financial,
anything responsible at all, (audience laughing)
and I’m sill kind of figuring that out, but it’s like, eh.
Yeah, we were pretty fluent in how to be expressive.
– But your brother wanted to be a hockey player,
if I have that correct. – Yeah.
– And he did play hockey, but you wanted to be a painter.
– Well, it’s funny.
He was the rebel by trying to do sports
and hold down a job, basically.
So he was being rebellious by being a hockey player,
and he was really good at it, and he played drums.
And I was a cook and then tried to paint,
and that’s my, that was very, very conservative
for my family, a very accepted thing to be doing–
– Interesting. – Which is funny.
– I think it’s, I have noticed in my career
in dealing with artists that many artists are great cooks.
It’s interesting, and I think it’s because they know
how to make stuff with their hands, and it’s also,
a lot of art is about transformation,
and that’s sorta what cooking is.
– I think it’s just a sensitivity to, I mean,
art is a combination of observation
and being able to just translate something
through your fingers, I think.
And, I mean, one of my, if I have a skill
that I would talk about, it’s the ability to feel stuff
with my fingertips and manipulate things,
so, and also to observe.
So I think anything that has to do with that,
I can kind of at least get kind of good at.
– And so that manifests itself early in your life
as cooking, most of the fingertip thing.
– Yeah, exactly.
– Which I can, I think I understand
what you mean really well.
– Yeah, like knife work.
I mean, if you watch a sushi chef,
they’re incredible with their knife, and that’s,
I think a lot of it is learned, but they probably have
kind of a predisposition to be able to do that also.
– Yeah, I would imagine.
– And definitely for me, it’s I love to feel stuff,
and, like, I love bead work.
– Yeah, we’ll get to that.
– It’s one of my favorite things, yeah.
– I wanted to just, to show one more slide of art history,
it’s not really, it’s pop culture history,
but surely Dr. Seuss, and you knew all about this
when I put this up, so maybe you can talk about these.
We all know Dr. Seuss, right?
– This book was really important to me.
I think that “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” was important
and “The Lorax,” and “The Lorax” was my first understanding
of deforestation and how sad that is,
and I just loved him.
I love that he’s a spirit of the woods, and…
I think Niki and I are kind of into animism,
just that everything has kind of a spirit anyway,
so he’s like a really good,
he was my first understanding of that.
Plus, the Truffula treetops just are–
– Is that, what are they called?
– Truffula trees.
– Oh, okay.
– I think so.
Does anybody want to correct me on that?
I think that’s what they’re called.
– Do you feel like that just seeped into your unconscious,
and it all comes out in your work now?
– Yeah, probably.
– Yeah, maybe I’m just, they’re a very striking visual,
not that it’s, you’re not copying him, but it’s–
– No, but it is really similar,
and it’s so weird when I read.
I have a nephew now who’s a year-and-a-half,
and I read Dr. Seuss to him, and I just have no idea
where he came up with his weird rhymes.
I mean, it’s dark, but also just incredible.
He always throws in some darkness, which I think makes it
even more special ’cause it’s real,
but it’s really beautiful.
– And then this high-key color palette
is also very striking.
– It’s pretty wacky.
– Yeah. (Simon laughing)
I think we can say that for sure.
I wanted to, so now we’ll show some of your work.
– I thought we could talk about the “Accretions.”
There was a quest to ask about specifically this technique
that you developed, and so, and then this is also related
to the work you’re doing at the embassy in Niger,
if I have it right, so. – Yeah, exactly.
I think this is a great example of when Niki and I
come together to make something,
because the shapes are entirely his,
and I was the materials researcher for this.
– How does he come up with the shapes?
– Very sexual.
He always says that he has not had very many sexual partners
and I have, so I don’t have to express it through my art.
(Carter laughing) (audience laughing)
And he expresses the, I’ll speak for him and say that.
– [Carter] Okay. (laughing)
– I mean, you can see the sexual forms,
and we also name them after,
we say call them fathers and mothers,
and there are certain, they’re just very sex-organic
and also kind of underwater creature.
He has a real talent for making an inanimate object
feel like it’s–
– Alive? – Got some–
– Got something, yeah. – Yeah, exactly.
Even if it doesn’t reference something.
– Does he draw the form first before it’s translated
– He does, yeah. – into three dimensions?
– Does he just draw with pencil and chalk or charcoal?
– Yeah, now he uses an iPad– – Oh, yeah?
– ‘Cause I’ve kind of forced him to.
– ‘Cause otherwise I have to do the archiving,
and I like it to be digital (laughing).
So, but yeah, he’ll draw with anything,
and his drawings look a lot like Dr. Seuss.
They’re very cartoony.
Sometimes when we present a drawing to a client,
or if we’re doing a show presentation,
it takes a big leap of faith on the part
of the other person to let us do it,
’cause it really looks like a cartoon from the beginning.
– Yeah, right.
So talk about the translation.
So he comes up with the drawing and the form,
and then you, talk about your materials research
for this technique that you all–
– So this material, like I said, I’m just obsessed
with touching stuff, and I also like to read
about everything that I’m interested in.
So, as soon as I started to work with clay,
I actually used to live in our studio,
so I had the luxury of being there all night long
when no one was around.
And I was just sitting there with some slip,
which is very wet clay,
and an old leather-hard clay vessel
that had been thrown by somebody else,
and I sat there, and I was just thinking,
if I brush this forever, it’s gonna do something.
I know that it’ll self-organize.
The clay will pack somehow,
but I didn’t know what it was gonna look like.
And that just came kinda from observing
how quickly dry clay sucks up water, and I was like,
I know that it’s gonna kind of attach to it.
And I was thinking about caves a lot at the time,
and I wanted to make sort of
a handmade cave structure, basically.
So the first pieces didn’t look like this.
They just were a texture on a very basic-looking vessel.
But I continue to be really obsessed with self-organization
and that literally every–
– [Carter] Like the way nature might organize
itself or something?
– Yeah, that every material has a way of packing.
– [Carter] Right, uh huh, like crystals or whatever.
– Yeah, there’s always some way that stuff packs.
Spheres do it really perfectly, but if it’s not a sphere
it’s gonna do something really strange, yeah.
– Like bubbles together, yeah.
– So this, the way this is done is actually just
over and over a bottom-to-top brush onto a clay surface,
and thousands of layers later,
it has kind of grown these fingers.
– So it’s literally a question of brushing thousands
of times to get to, to build that up, yeah.
– Yeah, exactly.
And the shapes are completely determined by nature.
I know the person,
it’s like human-aided cave growth, basically.
And the inconsistencies in the person’s brush strokes
will cause some things to happen,
but they always kind of self-correct, which is interesting.
And the reason they’re pointing down like that
is that we brush bottom to top.
If you brush top to bottom they point up.
– Oh, oh right.
Have you done ones that do that?
– Yeah, but I like this.
– Oh, you prefer this?
– Yeah (laughing).
– Does it reach, I assume it reaches a breaking point,
or for lack of a better word–
– [Simon] There’s a limit.
– There’s a limit to what you can do.
– Yeah, it’s like an inch-and-a-half is a limit.
– [Carter] Okay.
– These are pretty far out in many ways.
Yeah, there’s definitely a limit.
I’ve done it with wax, and there’s no limit,
but there’s something about ceramic,
that the fact that it’s so fragile and useless
as a vessel is also exciting to me.
– Do you just fire these once then?
– No, these are fired three times.
– [Carter] Three times.
– Well, the ones that have gold are fired three times.
Otherwise, we do two firings.
One’s a bisque firing, and then we do a glaze fire.
– Okay, and how many of these would you say you’ve made,
or do you–
– I don’t know, we make,
it depends year by year.
They all look different too.
This collection is a year-and-a-half old, I think,
or maybe two years old,
and the current ones look not as fantastical.
– So when you first started making these,
were you doing them yourself, and then–
– [Simon] Yeah.
– So talk about getting a studio practice developed
with this, ’cause obviously, to ramp up production,
you have to have help, and then you’d be directing
this technique that you developed yourself from–
So a lot of my processes are really crazy-making,
and, like, Niki, if I teach him to do it,
he stops after two hours.
He can’t do it anymore.
– Right, so you have very different temperaments that way.
– Completely, yeah.
– Yeah, yeah, that’s interesting.
– And I sort of need that methodical thing.
I need to just be brushing clay onto something.
– Is it like zen-like for you, it’s like meditation,
sort of mindfulness?
– Yeah, otherwise, I’m going crazy.
– [Carter] (laughing) It’s good you found this.
– I know (laughing).
Now it’s beads, so that’s good,
and they take even longer than this does.
Yeah, so this process, actually,
I taught it to Roan Florez, who works in our studio,
and she’s now the only person who ever does it
because she has the perfect hand
and the perfect temperament for doing it.
And, I mean, honestly, if I were doing it for this long,
I would also probably be tired of it,
but she’s obsessed, she really loves it.
And it’s interesting.
Not just anybody could get them to grow as long as they do.
If you leave the brush on for too long,
the brush will dry onto the petal or whatever.
I don’t know what they’re called, petals,
and it’ll pull it right off.
And if you press too hard, they also break,
so it’s such a specific thing, and she’s the expert.
– If it breaks, is there a way to fix it, or do you have to?
– [Simon] No.
– Oh, so you have to it right, yeah.
– [Simon] Yeah.
– It is all technique, yeah.
– Yeah, and you can’t really touch it afterwards either.
– So you feel like she can do it better than you can?
– Oh, for sure. – ‘Cause that’s just–
– I actually tried to do it again recently,
and I wasn’t so good at it.
– The painter Marilyn Minter once told me, she was like,
“The people in my studio can paint better than I can.”
She’s like, “I invented something,
“but then they can do it better.”
It’s interesting, so.
– Yeah, well, I’m interested in making a seed of something
that doesn’t require me to even exist anymore.
I want to have a process that is exactly the same
as when I first made it,
where it doesn’t matter who’s making that.
Now, Niki, on the other hand, it has to come directly
from his hand, and that’s another way
we’re really different, ’cause he’s not so process-oriented.
I don’t what it is,
his physicality is what makes our art have its spirit.
– Let’s see, okay.
Let’s look at more images.
These are more “Accretions,” right?
– [Simon] Mm-hmm.
– Are these a different era?
– Those are from the same sort of era as the last set,
and this is when we trying to make them look like
they were kind of popping these gold things out of them.
I mean, that one has almost a bird poop
(audience laughing) kind of a thing out–
How did you, so clearly texture is a real interest of yours,
and you guys experiment
with all these different kinds of textures.
Sometimes you contrast them.
These are, and sometimes you come up
with completely different materials,
like fur and leather and stuff like that.
– [Simon] Yeah.
– Okay, let’s skip the.
So there’s some more “Accretions,” biomorphic art.
In nature, do you just look at natural forms,
or do you just sort of–
– [Simon] Yeah, all the time.
– [Carter] Yeah, in nature, or do you look at–
– Yeah, I love, I mean, California’s great ’cause I can go
to all kinds of different environments all the time.
– [Carter] Right.
– But I really zone out on, like, a leaf,
and I’ll sit there and look at the leaf for a long time.
– (laughing) That’s good.
I mean, you absorb it, I imagine, that way.
– Yeah, and I just wonder how.
I was in a cave, actually, in the Giant Forest in California
about a year ago, and I was like, how does cave bacon form?
I don’t know if you guys know that, but it’s where,
it’s this, it looks like bacon that’s hanging off the–
– Oh, okay. – Off of a cave.
– Cave bacon.
– I never heard that term. (Simon laughing)
Is that a real term?
– Look it up.
It’s so cool.
– That sounds amazing.
– I really want to make cave bacon,
and I haven’t figured it out yet, but.
– (laughing) I’m sure it will come.
I would have guessed the succulents are appealing,
you know, cacti.
– Yeah, I love succulents.
– Do you go to the Huntington Garden?
– It’s so great, yeah.
– That’s so amazing.
– The cactus garden’s great.
– Yeah, it’s incredible.
– Those are great because they’re so ordered.
I mean, they, and they look wacky,
but they’re still so ordered.
I feel like if our artworks were a plant,
it would definitely be a cactus.
– Mm-hmm (laughing).
Okay, here’s something different.
– This is pretty wild.
– [Carter] Yeah, this is pretty wild.
– So I was talking about Niki’s sexual–
– [Carter] What’s this called?
– We call it “Megabeast.”
– [Carter] Okay, okay.
– ‘Cause it’s a big beast (laughing).
– [Carter] Yeah, in many ways (laughing).
– And it’s really big.
I mean, this one’s interesting, actually,
’cause we’re known for our creatures,
and this is the only time we’ve ever done something
like this, and this is sort of, I mean, Niki would say
that we, that the beasts are portraits of either people
or kind of emotional states,
and they’re very much about those gestures.
If you look at this guy, he’s a little cocky, and–
– Pun intended, I would say.
– And he’s imposing,
and this came from a period in our studio
where the two of us were kind of grappling
with the quick success that we had,
and I couldn’t really handle it,
and the two of us started fighting, and we had–
– [Carter] ‘Cause it was just 10 years ago.
It was like, that is fast. – Yeah, it was fast, yeah.
– [Carter] I mean, when you imagine.
I mean, that’s not that long ago.
– And I actually…
walked out of the studio halfway through this one,
which was crazy.
But so we were really fighting, and I think that we were
having an issue with our own egos,
and this sort of has come to represent a manifestation
of our ego, actually, to both of us.
– I mean, interestingly, it has a somewhat classical pose,
I mean, from art history you could see, if it was a human,
you could see a naked model posing for–
– Yeah, definitely.
– Michelangelo or whatever.
– I mean, it’s, yeah, it’s an art pose.
But when I look at it, I have almost pain flashbacks,
so it really is an intense piece,
but very much looks like all of our work.
But I think it’s a good example of how much emotional
and sort of situational stuff goes into every object,
and as we keep going, the shapes morph,
and they’re a really accurate reflection
of what our shared emotional state is.
– So the materials here, the contrast between the softness
of the fur and the hardness of the metallic, shiny brass,
or I’m not sure what it is, is interesting to me,
and that gives these pieces in particular their character.
– [Simon] Yeah.
– It also sharpens the genitalia, it sharpens the hands,
it focuses the eye on these certain body parts, and–
Yeah, I mean, there’s no ignoring it.
This thing is so confrontational.
Even when I look at it in front of people,
sometimes I’m like, “Oh, no, I shouldn’t be showing this.”
– Right, right.
Well, ’cause it uses a language that we’re, you know,
the soft, furry, stuffed animal language
is a child language, and then you have
this very upfront, out there, sexual part too.
– [Simon] Exactly.
– Has anyone ever criticized you for that?
– Yeah, I mean, people are like,
“Does it have to have a penis on it?”
or like, “Why are you doing that?”
But again, that’s actually, I think it’s just part
of being human, and I was talking about Dr. Seuss’s
throwing twisted stuff in there.
If we just ignored all of that,
then we wouldn’t be being honest about our work,
and I think that something interesting happens.
I think it’s why making furniture that isn’t furniture
is interesting too, is when you jam two things
into each other, or if I take this glass,
and I say, “It’s not a glass now,” your mind starts going,
“Well, what is it then?”
And I like that space.
I like the sort of gray zone or just a pairing of two things
that shouldn’t really be going together.
– How did you come up with this particular combination
of materials, and are those parts cast?
– They’re cast, yeah. – Like lost-wax casts?
– They are, they’re lost-wax.
The horns are ebony.
Those are hand-carved.
They’re materials that, you know,
Niki loves using bronze and ebony,
and for him, wax is the best sculpting medium.
So we’ll actually make a wax and then directly cast it.
– [Carter] So he sculpts in wax,
like that’s what he’s working on.
– Yeah, so bronze is a great medium for that.
And then our dad carves the horns, which is kind of cool
because he– – With what?
– Our father carves the horns–
– Oh yeah, yeah? – Out of ebony.
– [Carter] Oh really, okay.
– And I think that’s an interesting touch also
because he taught us how to carve,
and I don’t know, for me it means a lot
that every horn was made by my dad.
– That’s nice, yeah, good.
And how about the fur?
– The fur?
We just love that fur.
I mean, it kinda looks like human fur.
– I mean, did you come up with that material,
like as a solution to this?
– No, it’s an Icelandic sheep fur.
– [Carter] Okay.
– So it’s all natural.
None of this has a materials twist from me at all.
But we talk about, like in that case, the conception of it
is sort of a conversation.
This is a good example of when Niki
physically makes the thing.
– [Carter] Mm-hmm, let’s look at.
Here’s some more.
– These are cuter, for sure.
– These are very appealing, I have to say,
I mean, very like Star Wars, you know?
– So, it’s cool.
It’s funny to have talked about that other one first
because what led us into making these objects
in the first place was we were talking
about the uncanny valley, which is, if you don’t know,
it’s about robots, actually, where,
there’s a robot upstairs who’s a good example of a robot
that you want to interact with,
but if you make a robot get too human-like,
your empathy kind of goes up, up, up, and then,
as soon as it looks like a person, it goes down to,
your empathy is zombie level.
And then if you make it cute, like, give it big eyes,
it goes way up to above human,
which is kind of incredible.
– [Carter] Yeah.
– And I was thinking about–
– [Carter] That’s called the uncanny valley?
– That’s the uncanny valley. – Interesting.
– The valley is the zombie dip, basically, that happens,
and it’s true, and I actually was sort of equating it
to taxidermy, which we grew up around.
– [Carter] Oh, that’s interesting.
– And my mom actually loves taxidermy.
– [Carter] Oh, well, that explains a lot, doesn’t it?
– Yeah, but I find it super creepy.
If I’m in a room with it, I really don’t like it.
– [Carter] Me too, yeah.
– And Niki wanted to use this fur because he found it
in Iceland in a gas station, and he was like,
“I need to use this fur,” and I was like,
“But I think taxidermy’s so creepy,”
and so we had this big conversation about it.
And we thought, what if we don’t include
any facial features at all, and we’re allowed to use horns,
and otherwise, it’s just about the gesture?
– Yeah, and then we have to fill it in as a viewer,
in a way, like where might the eyes, yeah.
– Which is great, ’cause that gives you space
to project onto it.
Then you get to have a relationship with it immediately,
and I think that’s kind of a special thing.
– So when you, obviously, in a museum context,
we’re not supposed to touch art, and please don’t,
but you sell these to private, and they’re so touchable.
I mean, what do you think about that?
Do you make them to be touched and loved,
like, to love your teddy bear, or?
– Yeah, I mean, we started off making furniture,
so it was supposed to be used,
and I think less and less people are actually using it,
but it is meant to be lived with, and if you,
I’ve heard of them getting a tongue bath by dogs,
and they’re still okay.
– Well, they’re probably pretty durable.
– They’re durable, yeah.
You just have to polish them up a little bit.
When you mentioned earlier, when we were talking
about the previous piece, you had a fight
with Niki about that.
Does that happen often?
Is it hard to–
– No, that was really the only fight we ever had.
– Okay, right.
Otherwise, it’s smooth collaborating,
you feel like, overall?
– Yeah, we really respect each other.
We speak, like, we’re twins, so we just have a natural way
of interacting with each other, and I know
when he’s gonna do something better and vice versa,
and we just let each other run with it.
– [Carter] That’s great.
– When we fought, I think that that sort of
from-birth understanding faltered a little bit
because we were both so overwhelmed, and luckily, I mean,
I’m really grateful that we had a fight
’cause we’re back to like even pre-career happiness.
– I can’t think of any other twins who produce art together
that I can think of in the history of art.
I’m sure there are, but. – I don’t know.
– Musicians, maybe.
– [Simon] There’s probably some, right?
– Yeah, there must be some.
(audience members talking)
Oh, the Starn twins, yeah, oh.
– Starn twins, ah.
I mean, if you can do it, I think it’s really lucky.
There’s another one. – Oh, this guy.
– This reminds me of a creature
from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” like, you know,
except it’s got a big hard-on.
Didn’t see that in “Rudolph.”
– This was in the same period as the other big one,
and you can see, putting lips on, et cetera,
was a departure from what I was just talking about.
And again, as soon as you start doing that,
it adds an element of maybe creepy,
and we were just kind of playing
with how far we could push that.
But it was still during this sort of turmoil period.
– Do you see them as gender-fluid?
– Not this one.
But, yeah, in general, unless it’s explicit,
then I think you can assign
whatever gender to it you want to.
– And then so here’s where we get to furniture,
and they’re a true hybrid between sculpture and furniture.
This one, I think we named it “Anna Nicole,”
for some reason.
– [Carter] Oh, wow. (audience laughing)
– And so it has a special place for me.
I’m obsessed with her, and all of our names, actually,
are sort of funny.
And our idea there is if you don’t like the piece,
maybe you’ll at least laugh at how stupid the name is.
But yeah, this was a chaise, and it has big camel feet,
and it was pretty early.
I can’t say what year this was in,
but I want to say 2013, maybe.
And this was us pushing from furniture into sculpture.
So since we started as a cabinet company,
we had, that was really our basis for everything,
or it was our foundation, and then–
– [Carter] So it started functionally.
– Completely. – You really were making
functional things to sell to people to live with.
– Very plain, very boring,
and then we just sort of let ourselves explore with it,
and slowly it evolved into this,
and I was always just really excited when you,
if you put an extra leg on a chair,
it does something in my head.
I go, “Why is that there?”
And that’s all I want to do, really, is create
almost a visual analogy,
or we like visual jokes,
visual metaphors, and visual analogies,
and just pushing something
into where you have to start questioning something.
– I think this is unique ’cause it almost looks like
it could be a real animal, like a llama or a yak,
or I don’t know what, but something–
– I want to meet her.
– Yeah (laughing).
It does feel alive.
– It’s really comfortable.
– [Carter] Yeah, I bet,
and are the horns ebony, those horns?
– [Simon] Sorry?
– [Carter] Are the horns ebony?
Did your dad– – They’re ebony, yeah.
– Your dad carved those? – So my dad carved those also.
– [Carter] Oh, nice.
I love this one ’cause this is like a herd,
(audience members exclaiming)
and this is like tour de force to me.
– [Simon] This was awesome.
– Yeah, ’cause then this also uses everything.
It’s got metal, it’s got,
does this have the hexagonal tiles?
– Yeah, so the table is made
from individual hexagonal tiles.
They’re all three-quarters of an inch.
They’re not very big, and they look like sort of a generic
hex-tile bathroom floor, except they are made
out of solid brass, and we hammer each one of them
into a shape to sort of fit onto a surface
and then grind them and miter them.
It takes– – That’s just insane.
– Oh, it’s nuts. – This is insane.
– It takes 20, 30 minutes to do one tile.
And what’s great is that you don’t see that they’re tiles
unless you get up close to it.
– Right, ’cause they’re flush.
There’s no grout, yeah.
– So it’s like, “Why don’t you just cast it in bronze?”
And no, I actually really love the confusion there,
and I like that,
that process in particular is about Niki doing something
very quick and then spending forever on cladding it.
– So the shape he comes up with quickly,
the table shape, yeah.
– Yeah, he just sculpts it very quickly,
and then we apply my process to it, and it’s like,
I don’t know why I like that so much,
but I just really, really like it.
And with this set we wanted to have a dining table
that looks, that’s being used
whether someone’s at it or not.
So the animals are all eating at it.
– [Carter] Yeah, so great. (audience laughing)
– It’s very inviting.
– [Carter] I want to have a dinner party
at this table, actually.
– I know, it would be fun, and–
– [Carter] Oh my goodness.
– Also, just considering the human element of having dinner.
It is, I hope that it’s fun or that jokes are made
and that there’s good icebreakers, and really,
if I sit down, I hope that it’s a crazy table like this
so that I immediately have something to talk about,
or I can talk to the chair across from me.
– How did you come up, again, with how you make the tiles
form to the curved surface?
That seems like a technical tour de force to me, yeah.
– [Simon] It’s super hard.
So, and actually–
– And I’ve actually felt one of these in your studio,
a stool, and I was kind of amazed by the whole–
– They’re pretty crazy. – ‘Cause they’re so smooth.
But you could see the shape.
– And we really don’t make very many of these
’cause they take so long.
– [Carter] I can imagine.
– And I used to make them all by myself.
Like, this was, I don’t know why I was doing this.
I would actually wake up in my bed
and have patina-ed sheets,
like I had been sweating out brass, which is terrible,
because I was grinding them all the time.
– [Carter] Wow.
– But I studied some blacksmithing at school,
so I was kind of good at forming metal,
and I was obsessed with hexagons
because they don’t like to bend.
They’re the most efficient.
I think you get the most surface area
with the least outer area, does that make sense?
– Okay, sort of. – Of any regular shape.
– [Carter] I’m not good at math, but yeah.
– And it’s also the most rigid of any regular-shaped grid.
And bees use them.
I think this is why bees use hexagons,
because there’s less wax and more space inside.
– [Carter] They’re very efficient in that sense.
– Yeah, they’re efficient shapes, so I’m all about them.
– Did you just discover that by reading
about geometry and stuff?
– Yeah, I was Googling hexagons and read that they don’t,
that the grids can’t bend, and I was like,
“I’m gonna bend some hexagons!”
(laughing) And so, it turns out to be really hard.
And– – But you did it.
– Yeah, and so I, basically, I,
we have a system where you take a piece of paper
and kind of draw where you think it’s gonna go,
and then you hammer it until it fits.
And you’ll never find–
– [Carter] So a lot of it’s done
while you’re making the piece–
– All of it is done.
– [Carter] Just literally the hammering of the thing
– It’s all done that way.
– [Carter] to make it fit together, yeah.
– You start with one, and you have to move
in concentric circles out from that one.
If you move two together, you’ll never,
there will never be a good seam.
So, it literally has to grow over the surface,
and there are never any that are below,
except on very early pieces,
I don’t like squares in it.
So there are no squares.
Pentagon is okay,
and, like, seven-, sometimes eight-sided pieces are okay.
– Wow, okay.
Oh, I love this one too, ’cause this one’s like
more table than animal, but it’s still very animal.
– So this is, we made this at Anderson Ranch,
I think, in Aspen.
– What kind of wood is it?
– It’s walnut, and it’s all hand-carved walnut.
– [Carter] Did Niki carve it?
– Yeah, so the same visual language
without that process on it.
And again, just kinda goofy stances.
Actually, the stools are,
I sit on them sometimes and fall over.
They’re not really built for that.
– [Carter] (laughing) Is that right?
– But just the feet of the chairs are feet,
but they look like Smurf feet, and again, just kinda–
– These really do feel animated.
– Cute, and yeah, exactly.
– And just, they absolutely do to me.
– That’s the whole point. – Which is sort of the magic.
– And that’s really my brother’s talent is like,
I could never reach that.
I try, and I never am able to make something feel like–
– But Niki can do it.
– Yes, exactly. – That’s his ability.
I thought this is amazing, yeah.
I want this tub, for sure.
– I love this thing.
– I don’t have the house for it.
– [Simon] This is wild.
So we go to Portugal.
We have to find the exact piece of stone.
We always use this–
– [Carter] Is that a single piece of stone?
– [Simon] Yeah.
– [Carter] I guess it has to be, right?
– I think, it’s marble. – It’s a big block of marble?
– It’s Pele de Tigre, which it comes from,
our friend has a quarry there, actually,
that is super deep and really amazing, and it all has this,
we love this stone ’cause the grain
continues through the form.
And I love to see what character the stone had originally.
If it’s all white, you don’t get to see that anymore.
– It is a bit of a surprise ’cause you don’t know
what veining you’re gonna uncover, right?
– Yeah. – I mean, yeah.
– You can kind of get it from looking from the outside
of the block, but you’re not really sure.
And this is, the formal series is something
we call “Zoidberg,” which is based on Dr. Zoidberg
from the cartoon show “Futurama.”
– [Carter] Okay, don’t know that one.
– ‘Cause he has little.
– [Carter] Oh, okay.
Don’t know that one.
– We watched it as kids and were obsessed with it.
Really, it’s about feeling the stone,
so when you walk up to this thing,
you kind of have to touch it, and those knobs are very,
the scale is very touchable.
And the stone is also, it’s honed.
We never polish it, so it has kind of a skin.
– [Carter] So it’s not super smooth, yeah.
– Yeah, it feels a little like skin,
which is, it’s very sensual.
We just, stone was our first medium,
so we kind of started going back to that
and seeing how we would do it differently.
– It reminds me, now that I’m looking at it,
it reminds me of that famous photograph by Harold Edgerton
of the milk drop that pops up like a jeweled little crown.
– [Simon] Yeah, it’s like a little droplet (laughing).
– But it’s totally– – But weirder.
– And then this is a totally different category.
This is Dr. Seuss to me.
So also, growing up in Texas, roadkill was a big theme.
– [Carter] (laughing) Yeah.
Taxidermy and roadkill.
– Uh huh, and I wanted to make roadkill
of extinct animal pelts.
But again, wacky.
The one that’s not an extinct animal is the rainbow zebra,
which is, it’s based on the fruit-stripe gum zebra.
– Oh, yeah, uh huh. (audience laughing)
– It was like we hunted the fruit-stripe gum zebra.
– And these are actual rugs that you can walk on, right?
– [Simon] Yeah.
– They’re meant to be used.
– You can put it on the wall or on the ground,
and they’re all, it’s hand-knotted.
They’re Nepalese, and we went to Nepal
and worked on them there.
And so it’s a dodo, a thylacine,
some kind of cat whose name I don’t remember, it’s extinct,
and a mammoth, and then the fruit-stripe zebra.
– Why don’t you talk a bit about your collaborations,
’cause you’ve done it with these,
and you did it with the bead work.
Maybe we can, I’m gonna find the bead work,
’cause I want to get to that.
Oh, there’s a good example of a close-up of that technique
where you can see how they hug the surface in the same way.
– Exactly. – That’s really amazing.
Here’s bead work, right?
– Yes, so–
– So that’s your current obsession, you’d said that.
– Yeah, and that’s been going on for a while now.
So we went to Cape Town and were just walking around
a design fair, and we met a collective that does bead work,
and they were really cool.
We walked in–
– Did you go to Cape Town specifically to look for people
to work with, or–
– No, we went to do a talk, actually.
So, and then we just were wandering around.
And when I went in, I was like, “Wow, these pieces are,
“they take probably just as long as our work does,
“and they’re animals, and they’re incredible.”
Actually, one of the pieces that was in there was
this many-horned antelope thing from “Princess Mononoke,”
and I recognized that, and I was like, “Wow, it’s crazy.
“This weird cultural reference has shown up
“in a traditional craft.”
And I just love craft so much, and I think that bead work
is one that gets overlooked really often.
I think basket weaving is another one.
Any kind of hand-done weaving gets really overlooked,
so I get super excited about getting
to dive into something like that.
So, we asked if they would want to work with us
and spent six months going back and forth with them,
going back and forth to Cape Town,
working closely with them.
They taught me how to bead.
We would all draw together.
– What does it mean to, they teach how to bead?
What’s the actual, what is that?
Does that mean you’re stringing little glass beads
on a string– – Yeah, one by one.
– One by one, oh, okay.
– They use a chain stitch that has two or three beads on it,
and they’re all next to each other.
There’s many ways to do it, but this is, it’s incredible.
Their method is super expressive,
and it was exciting for us.
We hadn’t used much color until this,
and they sort of introduced us to color,
and it’s the two of us and then a group of 25 women.
And we showed this collection at the Cooper Hewitt,
and the idea was to do transgressive design,
and for us it’s obviously not functional,
but we would take these mushrooms and call them umbrellas,
for example, in order to get them into a design fair.
– [Carter] Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, right, that’s great.
– Or if you call that thing a toy, then it has a function.
So that’s something we play with too.
But this was a really life-changing project,
and it’s gotten me completely obsessed with beads.
And we still are doing it, actually.
We’re gonna be showing some new works like this
in September in New York, which I’m excited for.
But also, it just changed our lives
because we’d never gone to somewhere like Cape Town.
It’s a really intense place.
There’s a lot of sad things happening.
We thought the way they were making money was not great,
like the amount of money they made for the pieces
that took as long and were as great as ours,
they were not making nearly as much,
and so we set up a whole profit-sharing system,
and it’s a completely different kind of,
for us it was kind of an experiment
in how to business also, because I think it’s important
that makers, A, get credit, ’cause I’m not the only one
who makes my work, and B, are paid really well for it.
So this was kind of our first step in that direction.
– So the collaboration was, you felt like
you were taking their, they were helping you
move your own work with their tradition
that they infused you with.
– Oh, completely, yeah.
it’s equally us and them,
as far as the aesthetic goes, and you would have no idea
which part came from whom,
and I think that that’s kind of awesome.
And when we showed this at the Cooper Hewitt,
it was just a list of all of our names.
It wasn’t the Haas Brothers.
I mean, now it kind of happens,
though I wish that it was just that list.
And so that was something that we were sort of
experimenting with, and we’ve actually now taken this,
because I became so obsessed with beads,
we’re doing a really similar project in central California,
where I go and teach bead work
to women in farming communities where work is pretty scarce,
for women in particular.
And so I teach them beading,
and then we start working together,
and we have a whole collection of that coming out also.
– That’s great.
So I imagine it brings you to the point of art and craft
and the difference or not difference,
and I imagine you don’t care,
and you probably don’t see a difference.
– I don’t care, except for how people categorize them.
I don’t like that there’s a hierarchy there,
and that’s something that started for me when I was at RISD
and I was studying painting,
that a portrait is somehow above a still life,
that a history painting is really special,
when I found them so boring, actually.
– I think we’re done with that.
Hopefully, we’re done with that, yeah.
– But that’s a natural, that’s something that people do.
– It is art history, to some degree.
– Yeah, and I never was into that.
I don’t think drawings are any less than a painting,
and I don’t really think that something you live with,
like design, is somehow less than a piece of art either.
It’s just how much do you focus on function or not,
and I think craft gets the real, gets kicked to the side
all the time, when in truth, it’s sort of why we’re here.
I mean, without baskets and pottery, we wouldn’t be here,
so I think it’s part of,
and without technology, that’s so design.
– Well, and functional things have always been
the carriers of art.
I think it’s just part of human culture.
As soon as they made something to cook with,
they decorated it with a line or something.
– Yeah, maybe there’s not an emotional impact
when you see it, but for me there is.
When I see design works, there’s an emotional impact.
And I think the two go hand in hand.
They’re super important.
Craft is really, to me, the most important one.
– Well, people, it’s interesting,
because will talk about high art.
You know, you talk about a great painter or something
having a great craft, and they have great technique,
and it’s not a dirty word in that instance.
I think people, they create those boundaries themselves
in their heads–
– [Simon] Definitely.
– Like they do a lot of things.
– Yeah, and sure, it’s easy to fetishize a painter
sitting alone and doing his thing, and I get that,
but that’s not the only way to make art.
– But there are many painter and many famous artists
in our history who had huge studios,
and art’s always been about production and business
in many cultures.
– Not every culture, but.
– And, I mean, I might be wrong about the exact origins
of this, but I think about beads
and how they were an abacus,
that that’s basically a calculator.
Beads were, they were currency at one point.
I think that the Jacquard loom was the earliest computer.
I’m sure I’m wrong about that fact,
but I know that it’s a very early computer.
So weaving was actually like a form of computing.
– It’s a mind-body connection.
It’s what your hands can do with the material–
– [Simon] Yeah, exactly.
– And how your mind manipulates that.
– Yeah. – Yeah, great.
Well, thank you very much.
– Yeah, thank you, guys.
– Thank you all for coming.