Upon first entering the heavy wooden doors that mark the entrance to The Workshop Residence, I only had a second to admire the array of colors and shapes inside, when my attention was forced downwards, where a small, brown, furry, ball bounded into my legs. That energetic ball was Kasha, the most adorable French bulldog I’d ever seen. After I finished rubbing her belly, Kasha introduced me to one of her caretakers, Workshop Residence employee Katie McCracken, and together they proceeded to give me a tour of the space.
The Workshop Residence opened just over a year ago in Dogpatch, a historically industrial neighborhood and the perfect place to open an art space dedicated to creating unusual, but functional objects. It hosts a different artist every couple of months in its studio, which is divided into a work zone in the back and a display store in the front. The artists then work – and often live – inside, creating unique projects. Afterwards the products they've made are reproduced and sold in the store.
As a result of the cycle of artists who’ve worked there, the studio is filled with amazing and very different pieces of art, from a wall of hand woven Thank You bags to long denim coats and various books on design which passersby are encouraged to come in and peruse.
Graphically-driven installation artist Jim Isermann (who splits his time living in Palm Springs and Guerneville, CA) had just finished his residency when I had stopped by. His masterpieces – stone blocks in the shape of an “I” that can be assembled into a decorative wall – were stacked around the shop, and his hand-sewn tapestries were hanging on the walls.
What instantly caught my eye though were the one-of-a-kind shoes displayed in the corner. These wedges – dubbed the Sugi – were magnificent. Made from worn cable car brakes and wood from the black acacia tree (a Bay Area native plant), the heels are filled with brass for support where the wood had cracked naturally. Katie told me that the designer, San Francisco artist Martha Davis, might be coming out with a flip-flop in the spring.
I also noticed several pieces of furniture that looked as though they had sprung up from the ground. In fact, these chairs and stools were completely biodegradable. Artist Phil Ross grew each fixture from mushrooms. Yes, mushrooms. And even though the furniture has since been sealed so that the shrooms stop growing, you can still see tiny patches of the hooded fungi on different sections of the stools and chairs. (Read more about Phil’s fungi creations in Angela Chen’s blog post.)
My favorite work, which haunted me through the entire tour, was a very tall white plaster relief of a vintage wedding dress. Created by Aurore Thibout in the winter of 2011, the piece is exquisite – you can even see imprints of the lace detail and the small buttons on the dress.
At the end of the visit, and after one last belly rub for Kasha, I walked away from The Workshop Residence with my senses overloaded. There really isn’t any of other space with such a diverse array of one-of-a-kind art pieces.
Make sure you stop by The Workshop Residence tonight, January 17, at Third Base, our Dogpatch Microhood event. It’ll be the perfect opportunity to experience the studio yourself and the many works it has to offer. If you don't make it tonight, check out the collection of our favorite products from The Workshop Residence in our own shop.
All photos by Isla Murray
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