01 May 2015

                                                                                                                                                                                           mary chan photographed by arne svenson; from his new series "the neighbors"

An interview with Mary Chan of Studio Bartleby
an interior, furniture, and textile design studio.

+ biography 
Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; raised in Hong Kong and Singapore; studied English Literature in Scotland and Upstate NY, and interior design in NYC.  I started Studio Bartleby in 2006.
Half of my work is an interior design practice, which exercises the adult side of my brain.  It’s a creative profession but it’s also largely budgets, communication, and project management.  The Objects side is more intuitive.  I like to make things that feel, to me, as if they made themselves.  In both parts of the practice, I’m always thinking about desire, economy, or power.  I think most things we do, as a society, hinges on one of these three things; it’s where most of our pride and shame resides. Personal nostalgia is also interesting to me and is usually represented in some formal way, like a shape or colour. 

+ what inspires you?
Trisha Brown and Batsheva Dance Company always makes me want to do something good. I’m fond of Folkert de Jong’s scupltures – technically strong and visually just a touch ugly.  Elevator Repair Service is a theatre group with no fear, which I admire.  There is the always the influence of the usual suspects, who are like mother’s milk to artists and designers of my generation, but I try not to look those guys in the face too much.  It’s fleet-footed and highly unreliable, this inspiration business, so I find it useful to focus on work that makes me feel that it is still possible to do something good and new.  

+ could you describe a typical day?
                Most consistently, I walk to the studio with Mark [my partner and studio mate].  Coffee, toast, emails.  Studio lunch and nap.  Walk home between 8pm-10pm.  In between those benchmarks, it depends on what the day’s priority is.  I’ll do drawings, budget-wrangling, or scheduling for interiors projects.  Or I can be turning wood on the lathe, leather-working, knitting, packing boxes.  I’m currently a studio of one, so I switch gears often. 

+ favorite spots in new york
My world can feel rather provincial, not much larger than the few blocks between home and the studio.  But favourite spots have always included Paula Rubenstein and BDDWDual Specialty Foods is wonderful for its array of grains, spices, oils and tons of other good stuff that smells like home.  The Morgan Library is a lovely little nugget.  To eat, I love Hanco’s bahn mi so much, it’s a little embarrassing; Saraghina in Bed-Stuy; and the Pho place in Chinatown with the green menus. Anywhere with a good noodle, really.

+ favorite magazines, books, and music
I get the New Yorker.  Other magazines tend to fester in an unread pile so I’ve stopped buying them. I’ll read anything by David Mitchell, Carol Maso, Jeanette Winterson, or Stefan Zweig.  I’m not very current, on the music front.  I get into repetitive modes, so I’ll often listen to the same song all day.  Yesterday it was Dolly Parton’s cover of Stairway to Heaven; I have no explanation for this.  For the past last 10 years I’ve found Sunset Rubdown and St. Vincent to be always good.  On repeat for the last 25 years, have been Rachel’s and Queen.  Again, there is no explanation for this.

+ what are your essentials for summer?
Rose water and tea tree oil.  Cotton dresses.  Sandals.  Straw hat.  Sparkling water.  Orange juice.  Pesto.

+ what's on your wish list?
      To go back to Scotland to live for a while.  Another week or two in Lisbon.  A great live/work space.  A nice dog.

thank you, mary! 
view our latest arrivals from bartleby here.

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