For this month’s Where I Work, we slip into the world of Alissia Melka-Teichroew, founder and creative director of New York-based design studio byAMT. Born and raised in The Netherlands by a French mother and American father, Melka-Teichroew brings a fun, international flavor to her own designs, which include jewelry, housewares, and furniture, which she’s been producing since graduating from Design Academy Eindhoven (undergraduate) and Rhode Island School of Design (graduate). You’ll also spot her designs with companies like AREAWARE, Blik, Kikkerland, MoMa Store, and Y’A Pas Le Feu Au Lac, to name a few. Today, she takes us on a grand tour.
What is your typical work style?
My work week is pretty regimented – I try to get in as early as possible. Every so often I feel like working from home, or just anywhere but the studio. But mostly at the studio. I try to be a morning person, since I do get a lot done then. But it’s really hard to get up. So I get a lot done in the evening as well. But after so many years of working at all hours, I decided to try and work within more normal hours, so I can have time do some other things, or as most people say “have a life”. Regardless my work seems to be my hobby too, so I do not always mind working a lot.
What’s your studio environment like?
Our studio is mostly fairly organised – on the desks we all tend to have whatever we need or are working on. There’s always music playing, depending on the mood the volume goes up or down. Fridays or end of the work day the volume definitely tends to go up or switch to the 80s or electronic playlists. Or Jan Habraken (my husband) from FormNation starts to DJ.
How is your office organized/arranged?
My studio shares the space with FormNation and Kikkerland, and it is an open space, there are a maximum of 2 people per desk length, but I have a long desk for myself. The space has been divided a bit with low walls and Molo Tyvek Walls. We did this for both acoustics and to divide the large space into different sections, like the photo studio, conference and lunch area, workshop area, and the byAMT stock and packing area.
How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?
I have been sharing the space with FormNation for the last 4 years. Before that I was working from home for a few years in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Before that we had a space in the north of Greenpoint in a small industrial building.
If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?
We’re always thinking about how we could change or re-arrange things. So every so often this happens. Next would probably be some comfortable chairs to hang out in. It would be perfect for when you’re starting a new project and want to go through all the books and magazines in search of inspiration.
Is there an office pet?
Our black (plastic) crow! (We wish we could get a studio dog though, but still figuring out the logistics on that one.)
How do you record ideas?
Any random piece of paper or a Leuchtturm notebook.
Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?
At the moment I have some inspiration for the shoots we did in December for the Kikkerland catalogue, as well as inspiration compilations for the shoots for the byAMT Quilt Collection from 2012 on the wall. And some projects that I would like to continue when I have more time. Right now I am working on a trend report for a client, so soon I will start working on a proper inspiration board of products and images for both studios. I love putting together inspiration boards and telling stories through them.
What kind of design objects might you have scattered about the space?
Having interesting and inspiring objects around the studio is a must for me. I also love have our friend’s designs around, as well as personal or nostalgic objects. See photos with random ceramic cups, found over the years, some terribly ugly but with nice handles.
Also Paul Loebach’s watering can for Kontextur, that he generously sent us one day as a wonderful surprise (our plants are extremely happy with it too, this way we don’t forget to water them as much). One of my favorite objects is the Airstream water kettle I received as a gift many years ago.
Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?
We have basic hand tools, basic jewelry making, casting, leather working tools, and some small power tools: hand drill, dremel, small table top saw etc., and a spray booth. Our studio is not really setup to have a real workshop, but we have enough space to do basic modelmaking or even small production runs. But not setup to handle all the noise of big power tools due to it being one open space.
What tool do you most enjoy using in the design process?
Pen or pencil and paper and the computer. I tend to make tiny drawings of ideas and then I go straight to the computer OR possibly modelmaking, depending on the type of product, of course.
Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal.
At the studio I have an iMac and my iPhone. At home I have a MacBook Pro laptop. I have an iPad, but never use it for work really (and it is now in a museum since October 2013 and have not really missed it so far). At the studio, I also have a bunch of different devices that work with my iPhone to swipe credit cards (Square, PayPal and Shopify).
What design software do you use, if any, and for what?
I use Photoshop, Illustrator, Rhino, Keyshot, and sometimes Solid Works.
Do you have a favorite piece or collection that you’ve designed?
I am not sure I have a favourite piece or collection that I have designed. My favourite part is usually the design process, specifically the moment when your concept and idea for the execution, shape, material, etc., all come together.
When did you feel like you “made it”? With what piece or design? At what moment/circumstances?
I am not sure that feeling has ever arrived, nor that I will ever feel like I have “made it”. My work is a work in progress, and I am always learning new things. I think that if I would ever feel like I have “made it” that would probably also be the end of the journey. This constant learning and researching new objects, materials, behaviours, trends, etc. is the most interesting part of designing. But it also means I am constantly moving into new things and fields that I need to learn about.
Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?
Currently I am working on new products for the Strap Collection with Mimot Studio, discussing some designs for potential production through other brands/ companies, the art direction for the Fall 2014 Kikkerland Catalogue, and a trend report specifically focusing on concepts, shapes, materials, and colors. And on the preparations for a show during NY Design Week, called INTRO/NY – which will include brands like, Muuto, Leibal, neo-utility, Tokyo Bike, Earnest Studio, and many more. And a possible 2nd show is in the works!
What’s on your desk right now?
There is usually a fair amount of paper on my desk, these are mostly lists and more lists, as well as orders or projects that are incoming. I also usually have projects on my desk or on the wall that I want to remember and finish when the time is right. And of course some random objects and magazines.
Do you use any of your pieces in your own home/life?
We do have only a few of my pieces at home. We have a Milk Stool produced by French company Y’A Pas Le Feu Au Lac, Soft Tree Trunk Stool (which is still not in production!), we have the TreeHooked produced by Dutch company Van Esch but since we moved we have not put them up, and the InsideOut Glasses produced by German company Charles & Marie.
Photos by Austin McAllister.