toddstjohn_opener

Designer, Artist, and Animator Todd St. John

PHOTOS BY EMILY JOHNSTON

Todd St. John’s Gowanus studio is one of many faces — literally. There’s a wooden man with a rounded nose peering over the edge of a shelf in one corner, and another with an aqua blue combover, also crafted of wood, next to a pair of candlesticks on tabletop display. There are woodblock animals — an alligator, a bluebird, and a marigold-yellow lion with a sharp-toothed underbite — in a glass case; a face with parts held together with yarn sits in the studio’s adjoining workshop. “I do a lot of animation, illustration, and narrative work,” says St. John, whose background is in graphic design, and whose clients have included The New York Times, Prius, Nickelodeon, Pilgrim Surf Supply, and MTV. “So I’m often experimenting with and developing new characters. There are tests around here everywhere.”

The designer, whose 15-year-old studio, HunterGatherer, specializes in animation, illustration, film, and video, has made multidisciplinary experimentation a way of life since childhood. “I was one of those kids that was interested in too many things,” he says. “I liked music, drawing, animation, video. I’ve always had a polymath way of working. Often one thing feeds into another; I’ll work on a project and it’ll give me an idea for something else. That process works really well for me.” St. John’s most recent endeavor, and the one that caught our eye, is a five-piece furniture collection of classic household staples, reimagined in brass and walnut. With it, he was able to combine a lifelong penchant for building (a hobby his father encouraged over the course of his childhood in Hawaii), with a well-honed eye for sophisticated design. It’s an undertaking that started much like his others: “Sometimes when I start a project, I’ll have no idea how to go about it,” he says, “but I’ll teach myself. I identify a point that I don’t know how to get to, and then it becomes about figuring out how to get there — and what happens after that.”

As always, he’s got his mind on what’s next. “I think designing a whole library would be interesting,” he says. “A library has everything: a learning aspect, an environmental aspect, a graphic aspect. That sort of 360-degree project appeals to me. I’m drawn to exhibit design for the same reason: It combines a lot of skills that I’m interested in that are normally split up among lots of different people.” No matter where his work takes him, St. John’s trademark virtue — the one that’s driven his creativity since childhood — is sure to remain constant. “I’m curious,” he says. “I like trying to figure out how to do things myself. There’s an excitement to that that never goes away. That’s just who I am.”