I am always super excited to visit my old friend Jason Kachadourian, and equally curious to see what he’s working on and how his co-working studio is evolving. Jason’s developing oeuvre encompasses sculpture, printmaking, furniture making, design, studio management, and curating; and while they may seem like separate vocations, for him they all materialize under the umbrella of his art practice. Evident throughout his praxis is a skilled patient craftsmanship, a comforting color palette, and a symbiotic relationship between hard-edge geometry and contrastingly organic forms.
I first met Jason 10 years ago while we were both studying at SUNY Purchase. Jason hosted a free bike repair night out of his apartment, served tea and homemade cookies and always offered the sharing of skills. This communal practice of sharing craft and collaboration has continued since moving to Brooklyn in 2007. Jason’s studio is housed in The Bakery, an artist-run co-working studio, wood shop, and gallery storefront he co-founded with Asa Pingree. I enter through the gallery space, flooded with natural light, and while currently in between exhibitions is being used as an extended studio, show room, and upcoming site for Spring film screenings and lectures. As a thematic tribute to the space, I based our picnic menu on baked foods: baked vegetable mac + cheese, roasted garlic broccoli and vegan oatmeal cherry walnut cookies for dessert.
Picnic: I found it fitting to bring baked foods as I’m visiting you at The Bakery, and since you’re not that far away we can enjoy a warm picnic! Can you tell me about The Bakery and how it got its name?
Jason: The Bakery was a kosher bakery up until about 3 years ago; some friends of ours have a shop next door, that’s how we found it, but otherwise there isn’t much else in the area, it’s mostly Hasidic activity, so on a Saturday it’s an empty street. The Bakery was disgusting, and still has a few holdouts from the old days: there are some brick floors that used to be a wash out zone and a lot of stove pipes. It seemed like a natural thing to call it, and now it is partially a studio space, partially a coworking space, a woodshop, a gallery storefront space, and pretty much anything that you want it to be.
I was very excited when you first told me your idea for a co-working studio and woodshop, and happy to see it executed in such a good way: the gallery in the front, the open ceilings and sky lights, the communal spaces, and rooftop garden. I saw a lack of artist run community based spaces, where often studio environments are so sterile and run by a landlord rather than someone you’re working next to. Did you feel New York was lacking in spaces like this and that you needed to make something ideal?
More than a need, it was just a way to do it. My partner and I wanted to be working in the space, it was primarily a way for us to get a large space for ourselves and subsidize it. The initial need was to have people share the space with us. The type of space came out of where we would want to work rather than maximizing the space for profit, that only really works if you don’t have to be in the place, like a landlord run studio building. The Bakery came out of the idea – if we were working what would people we want to work with be attracted to. That decided on the type of space we built and the type of people we interviewed through a length of two years. At this point we have a solid group that doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere, most of the people didn’t know each other before and now they’re all friends, it’s great.
How many studios are here? Are they mostly artists and designers?
There are 20 people, maybe 1/4 are artists, everyone else is working as a freelancer in some creative field: motion graphics, graphic design, illustration, film, writing, various programming or art related things. Which is great, no one really wants to work in a space that’s all the same field as their own. Since we have a variety it’s helped to attract the right kind of people, people who care about their space. We wanted a nice place for ourselves and knew that would require making a nice place for other people to work. It started out feeling sterile, after how disgusting the bakery was, our reaction was to make a clean space, but now that it’s lived in over time it’s feeling much more comfortable- it’s actually a thing now, it’s not an idea. We’re exactly at 2 years now.
Do you find it motivating to your own work to be surrounded by so many creators?
Yeah, some of my favorite artists are working here. A few were friends before, but a few we just met randomly. It’s nice to have people I respect here that are not necessarily working in the art world, it’s easier to get a sense of what’s happening with my work not within the spectrum of how it fits into a scene or a certain art structure. It’s also nice to know people are in here working everyday, it’s motivating in itself, it doesn’t feel right to not be doing that. Downside is that it’s also really easy to start drinking earlier if someone wants to start drinking, which is not motivating.
You just can’t use the power tools! Do you cut yourself off?
Yeah, pretty quickly, it’s an easy decision to make, people shouldn’t work intoxicated anyway.
When we first met, you were primarily a printmaker, screen-printing and letterpress, and while you were often using wood as a material to print onto, your work never became too sculptural- when did you feel that push to work with wood more dimensionally?
At some point into that process of printmaking, especially when I was creating the three-dimensional objects and putting prints on them I realized I was illustrating something with the silkscreens, a literal version of an idea. As I started making things 3-D and putting those illustrations onto them, I realized I could just be illustrating the idea through three-dimensional materials rather than being redundant and showing it on an object. It was chaotic vs. structural prints that I was putting on a structure, then it just became about the structure itself, and the chaotic natural part worked back into that by using the natural elements in the wood. That transition just made sense, and at that point I wasn’t super sad to leave silkscreening… because it’s boring.
Weren’t you a printmaking major?
I did everything I could to not choose a major, I did a lot of printmaking, I did a lot of sculpture. I think technically my degree was interdisciplinary between design and sculpture.
So you had that teaching in wood working tools and materials?
The first two years at Purchase I took all ‘Intro. to Whatever’ classes, woodworking, metal working, letterpress, drawing, design and got a taste for all these things. Junior year I wanted to do more talking about ideas and less process, and took more classes that were idea oriented. Senior year I was exhausted with the critique format, the way people talk about work, and the weirdness of school in general, so most of the year I was doing independent projects. A lot of my last year was about curating and interacting with people, that’s what I like most anyway.
When did you start making furniture? Did you teach yourself that?
I was introduced to all the tools at school. I had always been inclined towards wood, but never had that much training in the actual processes. It’s one of those things where working with my hands in the past has allowed me to figure a lot out. The things I’m doing are not super complicated in terms of the woodworking skills. I feel at this point the furniture that I’ve made is probably an experience enough to move onto to combining the art and the furniture into one practice.
Yeah, your art and furniture practice seem to go hand in hand. Although they are stand alone pieces, and very much carry their own weight, I can imagine that table in a house, with that piece of art next to it, the way it’s installed here.
That’s the idea, but with the art, there has always been that question in the back of my mind of ‘why does art exist?’ It’s easier for some people to answer than others, but it gets especially sticky when you start being successful and your work starts being expensive and it’s no longer affordable to anyone except those using it as an investment, it becomes weird territory. A majority of the time you’re making this thing, and I’m looking at it in this environment, but when it leaves here it goes to a white-walled gallery, and it doesn’t make sense anymore. That’s another thing with The Collective, what if you don’t have to look at peoples’ art in a white-walled situation, specifically not a white-walled situation.
A lot of the time you’re using scraps of wood with rough edges- what I’m assuming are found pieces… do you let that raw form inform the outcome of the finished artwork or furniture?
Yeah, it becomes an organic element, which is something I never have been able to recreate that well. Everything I make ends up having right angles and hard edges, even when I was silkscreening- the chaotic patterns I was drawing were little clusters of hard edge right angle things – they were just organized chaotically. I explore that wooden edge as an element of existing organic form that is already chaotic, I don’t have to make it or figure out how to represent it. It is what it is. With the structural part that I am actually making I can work as geometrically as I want and it looks good contrasted against that organic part.
Yeah I love that element of rough organic natural chance in opposition with the clean geometric shapes and hard lines. From knowing you personally – your admiration for city architecture and modular living, there is this other side of you that’s preoccupied with nature and being outdoors. Your work seems to really illustrate that push-pull, but maybe it’s not that intentional or literal?
It’s intentional, but maybe not something I’ve thought about that much in terms of my new work, it’s occurring to me that maybe I’m leaving that out. I was thinking that the idea of it wasn’t that important, that was the idea behind all of the work up until this point- the organic vs. hard edge and nature vs. city, I wonder if I’m losing that with the new stuff.
Seeing your personal space, I would love to see you working with live plants as your opposing organic form, as an alternative or extension of that raw wooden edge. But not making planters, because a lot of people do that, and they do it well, we don’t need more of that.
That’s the idea potentially for this show coming up in May. I have these new things that are mostly gray and black and some bright colors and then a lot of plants. Since almost everything is going to be free standing, nothing really on the wall, I was thinking about collaborating with my dad or just printing out textures in black and white and mounting on masonite creating this gritty field of texture as a background for everything else, as a mood.
Have you collaborated with your dad before?
We did a show together with my mom at Lump Gallery in North Carolina, which was kind of a collaboration, but not really. We all chose our own work to go with work from other people, we developed a system to get around the fact that none of us wanted to compromise at all. I don’t know if we do the best family collaborating. We’re all stubborn.
You mentioned an upcoming show in May and earlier in our conversation briefly introduced the idea of The Collective, are these related? Can you elaborate?
The Collective doesn’t fully exist yet, it’s still a working idea in progress, but it will be a way for a group of about 12 people to curate shows in The Bakery gallery that will not be any kind of normal exhibition or a store.
Something like that, I’ll be working for the next few weeks on how to talk about it. Mostly The Collective is about curating work in a way that the work feels comfortable to you as the curator, ruling out any considerations, just trying to create an environment that is not about the individual works, or displaying an individual work, as it is about creating an installation that feels comfortable. Whatever that means.
Each curator is going to have a different idea of “comfort.” Even certain amounts of chaos can feel comfortable.
What is comfortable to you, may not feel comfortable to me. What you get out of the shows will be something that feels really comfortable to the person curating. It’s going to be very much reliant on the curator executing it in a way that is actually their vision.
The Comfortable Collective.
I like that.
Do you have a name for it? “The Bakers Dozen,” it’s 12 curators, you have to make it 13! How often will you have shows?
The shows will be four times a year, and will only run for a couple weeks, but then exist online. So another challenge will be to photograph the work in its environment and try to convey that through a site.
What is the first show planned for it? Or rather… the first step since it is still an idea in progress?
The first step will be a presentation / installation / discussion that I’ll be doing at The Bakery on April 16th as part of the Group Under talks. I’ll be talking about it hoping to get feedback.
This neighborhood is not necessarily known as an arts district, but it is centrally located to a lot of neighborhoods. Do you find any hinderances or advantages to being here?
The advantages – this particular street is mostly ignored by the police. It’s nice to not have to worry about being double parked or unloading / loading and doing stuff outside on the sidewalk. I feel the beauty of this space is that we have assembled people who are interested in being part of this community, whereas you can work in a Morgan type studio building and barely talk to your neighbors. The one thing we lose out on is that we’re not part of a community of openings, it would be nice to have other things happening in the area. Nobody walks by here, but it’s super easy to get here. We lose out on the stumbling in, but we gain on the fact that everyone shows up when we invite them because it’s so accessible. I don’t feel isolated, I feel like we have a pretty good desert island of enough people.
You already have a built in audience of 20.
The people next door are active too, not so much in the arts, but they’re working on projects, a guy Tom Callahan, who builds bikes and makes camping knives. Then behind him in the same space are architects.
Well now that I know everything that’s happening with the space, on a personal note.. what’s next for you, any trips planned?
I have some sewing to do, I have to sew some tarps together. We’re going drive down to the Smokies on Friday, meet a friend, and backpack for the weekend, maybe longer if the weather is nice. Then drive down to New Orleans and spend 5 or 6 days in the city, and 3 or 4 days in the swamp and on the beach.