Isabel Wilson and Chen Chen have only been friends since May, but creatively you could easily see how they might have been separated at birth. Wilson, a RISD-trained textile designer who has done work for brands like Tucker and West Elm, creates digital prints by photographing objects and patterns — like close-ups of butterfly wings or details of her own paintings — and manipulating them in Photoshop, rescaling and warping each one into something abstract. Chen, a Pratt graduate who cut his teeth working for Moss, has built a brand based around a series of objects that reconstitute studio crap as beautiful objects, like resin-based coasters or cement bookends with stone scraps bulging from their triangular forms. In other words, says Chen, “We both work in layers to create abstract patterns from very common everyday source material.”
It was only a matter of time, then, before they found an outlet for their collaborative efforts. Their new work debuts tonight at a pop-up shop the two are curating in New York’s Chinatown, which will also include work by friends like Katrina Vonnegut, Kai Williams (Chen’s studio partner), FAUX/real, and Arielle de Pinto. Wilson and Chen — working under the label Reed /Chen (Reed being Wilson’s studio name) — have created a series of printed textiles and jewelry that riff on their common interests and their trippy, colorful aesthetic. Chen explains:
“Over the summer, I had developed a fascination with photographing the ground, mostly details of decay and repair on asphalt. The idea developed into what eventually became our grass print, which is available as a scarf or a purse (and eventually as two one size fits all dresses, which will be available by order). The print in which our collaboration is most evident is the one where Isabel manipulated my Cold Cut slices as source material (top). You can also see the combination of our ideas in the jewelry where Isabel’s rope and acrylic pieces are complimented by swirled black and white beads made from the same process as my Moon bracelets and rings.”
The pop-up, called Be Loving — a title that affectionately riffs on its neighboring Chinatown storefronts — will only be on view through Saturday, but the pieces will eventually make their way to Wilson’s online shop. Be Loving is open Thursday September 20–Saturday September 22, 88 East Broadway, East Broadway Mall, New York, New York.
Reed/Chen grass print