ARTIST INTERVIEW: Michaele & Johannes of Kalon Studios
Kalon Studios was founded in Los Angeles in late 2007 by husband-wife design team, Johannes Pauwen & Michaele Simmering shortly after the birth of their first child. Unable to find a crib that met their needs in terms of design and sustainability, Johann and Michaele decided to make their own. Named after their daughter, the Io Crib became part of Kalon’s first collection. (The Echo Crib, 2010, was designed and named for their second daughter.) Within a year, Kalon was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential green companies in the world.
We spoke to Johann and Michaele about their story and creative inspiration.
What is your background and how have your past experiences fed into your art?
Michaele: Johann and I have been making furniture together for years. When we needed something for our home, we made it for ourselves. Kalon, and all of Kalon’s work, grew out of that. The company started when we were making a series of pieces for ourselves that included a crib for our first daughter. It was the first time it occurred to us that we could sell the work. The pieces Kalon makes are all deeply informed by a desire to make pieces that are both necessary and useful.
I grew up in Providence, RI which was the birthplace of the American industrial revolution. Having lost all its industry decades ago, the city is filled with empty factories and is still living through the economic fallout. My father worked redeveloping factories across the country. This definitely played into my interest in American manufacturing. The city is also home to some of the greatest universities and art and design schools in the country. In the absence of industry, the culture, economy and city planning there is dominated by the schools. I didn’t formally study design but the influence of art and design was inescapable and it influenced every aspect of both my daily life and my education from kindergarten on.
Johann: My background is in industrial design. I went into industrial design because it is a profession that I could use to always have my work be relevant to and be informed by my interests and lifestyle. At the time I was into biking, snowboarding and skateboarding and thought that I’d end up working with those sports, but after graduating my interests changed and so did what I cared to design.
Do you feel that your environment feeds into work and if so, what makes your work distinctively Californian?
Michaele: Absolutely. My work is influenced by all of the daily stimulation in my life and my immediate surroundings are a significant part of that. There’s a casual, pared-back quality to our work, a striving towards seeming effortlessness that I feel is very southern Californian.
Johann: The surrounding culture definitely influences the work. When Kalon first started we had just moved from Berlin where much of the scene was using simple materials with a designer DIY aesthetic. Our first pieces reflect that. Once we were entrenched in California, our work became more casual and leisurely. Our work is definitely a mix of the places we’ve lived.
What are your top 3 studio essentials?
Johann: A relaxed, calm and focused atmosphere.
Michaele: What he said