Fredericks and Mae, Artists

For a studio that crafts objects evocative of summer-camp bliss, Fredericks & Mae have an awfully dark creation story. For the last eight months, Gabriel Fredericks Cohen and Jolie Mae Signorile have been hard at work fletching, painting, and spinning bright polyester thread around their custom-made arrows, which sell for $95 apiece at boutiques like Maryam Nassir Zadeh and Partners & Spade. But when they met senior year at Oberlin, says Signorile, “Gabe was really into the apocalypse and I was obsessed with nostalgia. When we got into it, we realized they were kind of about the same thing: a fear of the future.”

The two collaborated on a senior show called “The End,” the showpiece of which was a life-sized cast of Signorile’s body coated in salt. Its eyes were attached by thread to 100 screws nailed into the wall in the exact location of the stars as viewed from Mexico City on December 21, 2012 — the night the Mayan calendar predicts the world will end. “I had just come back from a semester living in East London,” says Signorile. “The nu-rave thing was happening, and I was like, ‘Whoa. The ‘90s weren’t that long ago. What does it mean that even something like Last Night’s Party is more interesting to us than the future? I think it has to do with our inability to imagine what the world is going to be like even tomorrow.”

When they moved to New York, their work got smaller and their outlook sunnier. “The Fredericks & Mae thing started because Gabe found one object we thought was really beautiful, and it began a whole collection of materials,” says Signorile. “I was walking around in the West Village and I found this lovely store called Hable Construction that has since closed,” says Cohen. “Its buyer had gone to Paris and found these vintage milliner’s wings. I brought one home, and Jolie and I were like, ‘This is gorgeous. We can do better.’”

The two began by making wings, then moved on to arrows and bows, though the bows are only produced now and then, and aren’t usually for sale. To do so, they began amassing feathers. “If you go online and you look for naturally molted feathers, what you find first aren’t from turkeys or chickens,” says Signorile. “You find, like, parrot owners who are selling their parrots’ feathers.” But they soon found steady suppliers, and they’re constantly on the lookout for new sources. “The beauty of the feathers has carried us a really long way,” says Signorile. “It’s amazing. How does such an intensity of color just happen in nature? People try so hard to make things that are this beautiful.” The pair recently took time out to show us around one of their two studios, and to introduce us to their other objects of inspiration.