Where I Work: Zoë Pawlak

Photo by Caroline Mulock

Canadian artist and designer Zoë Pawlak has been working and living Montreal for the last three years as a successful painter, previous to this she lived and grew her practice in Vancouver, BC. Most recently, she’s added collections of rugs, mirrors, and furniture, including her line of credenzas with Jeff Martin, to her repertoire solidifying her place as a designer. Her personality is evident in her vibrant work and in this month’s Where I Work, we get a glimpse into her colorful world and work process. Take a look.

What is your typical work style?

We work Monday to Friday, 9 to 5ish. I come in a few times a month outside of those hours to have time alone or produce more work if we are on a deadline.

Photo by Ali Inay

What’s your studio/work environment like?

We have our full team in about 3 days a week and then 2 days a week, it’s just naakita and I. We have music on about half of the time and otherwise we are in meetings or deep in our headphones. We eat lunch together every day.

Our studio is about 1200 square feet and divided into office, lounge, packaging area and the studio area by the natural light where I paint.

Photo by Pat Young

How is your space organized/arranged?

The ladies work primarily in the office, lounge and shipping. I have my own space to create.

Photo by Ali Inay

How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

We have been in this Montreal space for 2 years. Before that, I was in a semi-shared space with Fiona Ackerman, for almost 5 years. My first studio after University was a tiny converted carport behind our little house that smelled so bad, but it was my own and that was magic.

Photo by Ali Inay

If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?

I love where I work. We have a rad view of Montreal. We add to the walls of the space every couple of months. I plan to install better lighting soon. In the winter, I can’t paint past 4 pm, as it gets too dark.

Photo by Zoë Pawlak Studio

Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?

When music is on, we listen to a total range. We love the rap tunes, especially on a Friday. If I want to listen to emo lady-music, I use my headphones.

Photo by Pat Young

How do you record ideas?

I have a sketchbook that I use daily. I write every day, and keep notes and voice memos in my phone.

Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?

I am inspired by colour schemes and images of women for my figurative work. You will always find inspirational quotes all around my studio. I am big on getting ideas out and up!

What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?

My workflow is pretty similar each project. I ruminate. I am often perceived to be a total extrovert, but I am actually quite pensive. I pray and read a lot and consider ideas through writing. Writing always informs my art and design work. I believe that what I experience and feel, is felt and experienced by others, and part of my job is to distill and execute those ideas, experiences and feelings into an accessible, respectful visual language.

Photo by Zoë Pawlak Studio

What kind of art/design/objects might you have scattered about the space?

Around the studio, we have quite a collection. I have a bookcase that is home to many crystals and trinkets, as well as design books. Some of my favourite books include Kelly Wearstler’s Hue, and Todd Selby’s The Selby Is in Your Place. I sometimes look to these books for inspiration. On the walls of the studio, there is artwork by some local artists from Montreal. I’m very lucky to have this space, decorated with art and objects that are meaningful to me.

What tool(s) do you most enjoy using in the design process?

My sketchbook. I am usually working alongside a technician, where my role is art direction.

Photo by Pat Young

Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.

When I am not in the painting process, and am around the studio for meetings, I have my iPhone with me. I take lots of photos and videos of what’s happening in the studio, of new paintings and works in progress. I post that sort of content on my Instagram stories, I like to share the ‘behind the scenes’ of what we do at the studio.

Is there a favorite project/piece you’ve worked on?

I am very proud of my collaboration with Jeff Martin. We worked together to create these great credenzas, combining Jeff’s design and my painting. I hand-paint the front panels of each credenza, so each one is unique.

Photo by Ali Inay

Do you feel like you’ve “made it”? What has made you feel like you’ve become successful? At what moment/circumstances? Or what will it take to get there?

When I did not install my first rug collection. When I wasn’t there to get them up on the walls and walked into the room for the first time, that was a moment where I was very proud and simultaneously humbled that other people had taken so much time and resources to execute my work. It’s the same feeling I have now when I see my team working so hard on our behalf. There is never one moment. It unfolds.

Photo by Ali Inay

Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?

We are currently making a line of mirrors. I wanted to incorporate my figurative work onto a new surface. The mirror works well because it is reflective and semi-opaque. The materials align with what the work is about. This is imperative to me; that we not deviate from the meaning of the work.

Photo by Zoë Pawlak Studio

Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?

After 12 years with my husband, I finally brought one small figurative painting home at his request. It’s from an exhibition I am very proud of and reminds me to stay true to myself.

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.