| say hi to_ | Please Introduce yourself_
| Terri | We are artists and designers working primarily in sculpture. I have a small art & design studio called CHIAOZZA (pronounced CHOW-zah) with my partner Adam Frezza.
We work across many different mediums but sculpture seems to be the most all-encompassing at the moment. Sometimes the sculpture incorporates painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, etc.
| say hi to_ | What is a typical day at work for you?
| Terri | We don't have that many "typical" days, because every day is pretty different depending on what needs to happen that week. Often the days will begin with waking up when we feel rested enough, making breakfast. Then we'll make a day ticket and go through what needs to be done that day. Then we try to do as much of it as we can. Sometimes the day is split between office time at home and production time at the studio, or running errands collecting materials, having meetings, etc. We like to end the day with dinner at home or with friends.
| Adam | It is nice to have the freedom and flexibility to flow through a day and react to our energy levels and moods in relation to what needs to be done. Making lists and staying organized is a big part of everyday. It is fun to do it together and keep ourselves on track
| say hi to_ | I like the way you don't seem to be stressed at all by your work but enjoy it and let it flow.
| say hi to_ | What did your parents do? Did it influence in one way or another what you do now?
| Adam | My father worked in produce when I was a child. He was in charge of ordering and organizing all of the fruits and vegetables at a local grocery store. Visiting him always had a great effect on me. Seeing all the different colors and the different displays was really impressive. I also loved when he would bring home a case of starfruit or navel oranges!
My mother was a nursery school teacher. I think her nurturing nature echoes in my daily life. Now they run a juice and smoothie bar together! Their vibrancy as partners is a big influence to me.
| Terri | My mother was a financial systems analyst, and my father works in scrap metal recycling. Their jobs were fairly abstract to me when I was younger, though now I have a better understanding of my dad's job and it's actually pretty interesting.
They immigrated from Taiwan to the US in the 70s and had a very pragmatic approach to work in some ways, working very hard to try to build a better life in the States. This sometimes made me feel like creative professions had to be practical in order to be sustainable, so I put my creative energy toward architecture at first. It's taken a while for me to break out of that mindset. They've always been very supportive, and I'm thankful for that. We also had the opportunity to travel a lot, as my dad's business took him all over the world.
| say hi to_ | I read that the imagination of a child to see the world around it is important to your work. Do you have particular memories from your childhood that you still recall and think are important for your artistic work?
| Terri | Yes, absolutely. This is a big question, there are so many memories that have affected me over the years. I have a very strong spatial memory of my grandparents' houses in Tennessee and in Taiwan, the atmospheres, smell, objects, and the particular routines and habits of everyday life when they were more or less retired; the way that things were arranged in a particular way and questioning the origins, meaning, and value of those objects and arrangements.
I still feel most inspired by visiting other people's homes and seeing how people set up and interact with their everyday surroundings. Similarly, spending time in parks, forests, mountains, seas, has always been inspiring, as the spatial and textural experience is so expansive and seemingly endless, and it is a very spiritual place.
| Adam | I have always been fascinated by the discovery of objects. I feel I hold on to the 'not knowing' aspects of a child's wonderment about things and their functions. Peeling bark from a tree to learn it has a skin, unstitching a baseball to learn it is filled with string, watching a helium balloon lessen its floating powers until it resembles my own height are all examples of my curiosity about the way things work. What else can a thing be?
I love walking into a hardware shop and not knowing what any of the stuff is actually supposed to be used for and instead searching for the things that may inspire a new object or project. Playfulness is at the core of our practice and it is great fun to keep playing and discovering as an adult.
| say hi to_ | When did you know you wanted to become a designer or you wanted to create art design objects? Has there been something in particular encouraging you to take this decision?
| Adam | I don't think of myself as a designer specifically. It seems some objects we make suit the genre of design, however, that is not often our goal or pursuit. Our creative pursuits often begin from a need; we need a plant stool, we need storage or shelving, we need a closet, or we need to use our hands more, to slow down, to breathe. The results of that need to make or do something vary greatly from endeavor to endeavor.
Creating CHIAOZZA as a design off-shoot to our art practice has somehow given us permission to keep experimenting and challenging ourselves through our work. Ultimately, my encouragement to create things comes from my need to.
| say hi to_ | Your approach to create is defined by playfulness as a practice. When did you Terri get past the idea that creation by professionals must be practical ? When and how did you break out of that mindset ?
| Terri | My path towards being a designer and artist has been a very windy one, beginning with studying art and architectural history in college, then working at an architecture non-profit that organized lectures for architects in New York. Here, I met and got to know the work of many architects and designers in the city, and I found that I identified with their approach to living, making, thinking. That led me to apply to architecture graduate school, and from there slowly found a particular voice for myself that had a conceptual, interdisciplinary approach to art, architecture and design.
After school, I worked at several design studios that embraced this way of working, including Atelier Bow-Wow, OMA, and 2x4. After several years of very interesting and creative work, I still felt a lack — I had much more creative energy than I was able to put into my work at the offices, and I just had to quit and start exploring some of the ideas I felt bubbling up. Around the time that Adam and I met, I had been freelancing in design, starting an AirBnB in my apartment, and beginning to really think of myself as an artist more than a designer. To me, there was a lot more freedom in being an artist even though I still approach many things from a design methodology.
"To me, there was a lot more freedom in being an artist even though I still approach many things from a design methodology."
| say hi to_ | Can you describe your production process? What are your different roles and strengths in the company?
| Terri | To speak about the production process, it's very different for different projects. Some projects are commissioned by clients who want to see sketches or a maquette, and some projects we start on our own after having dialogue about it together, and we just go for it and start making the thing.
I would say that my approach for the Paper Plants or the CHIAOZZA work is often starting with sketching, then moving to building and painting, whereas Adam tends to prefer skipping the sketching and just jumping in to the building. There is a good deal of room for shifts to happen from drawing to 3D form, and this translation process is very exciting to us.
Often we switch it up and Adam will paint a sculpture that I built the form for, and vice versa, and other times we will each complete an entire sculpture on our own under the umbrella of a greater series. Some projects are more like a game of back-and-forth object- or image-building — Adam makes a move, I make a move, and so on. We have a few series of work that are created like this, including Puzzle Paintings, Exquisite Plant Collages, and Sea Sculptures.
| say hi to_ | A lot of creatives are worried they won’t be able to support themselves. When did you start really making money and how long did it take?
"For years, I was unable to support myself with my art. One of the biggest lessons that I carry with me is patience."
| Adam | I've been pursuing an art career for about 10 years. It has been a combination of simple jobs and a continued commitment to making and thinking about the art I want to produce. For years, I was unable to support myself with my art. One of the biggest lessons that I carry with me is patience.
If we are working on something we care about and believe in, it will eventually be cared for and believed in by others. I'm incurably optimistic. That said, it did take some struggle to get through some years where things just didn't seem to be happening.
The first opportunity to quit all other jobs and devote all of our time to our art came through the commission of a public art project in Florida. This project is still in production so we won't go into too much detail. The point is, it seems like the larger commissions are currently what help keep us sustainable. We have lengthy dialogues about other ways to have a steady income and we continue to refine our strategies for supporting our practice. For now we feel lucky to be doing what we are doing and we really try to utilize all of our time and efforts in service of this pursuit.
Working with a Partner
| say hi to_ | I read you met in a karaoke bar? Tell us the story! When did you recognize the creative potency of this encounter?
| Terri | Yes, we met at a karaoke bar called Winnie's in Chinatown. We were there with two different groups, Adam for a birthday party, and me for a friend's summer get-together, and our groups were rivaling for the mic. I noticed Adam right away, because I thought he was very handsome, but also because he kept picking songs that would slow things down and make you sway side-to-side with a dreamy look.
Later in the evening I guess he noticed me and came up to tell me that he thought I was beautiful, then walked out for a cigarette. I don't smoke and I've never smoked in my life, but I went out and stood next to him and his friends until he noticed me and started talking to me. After that I don't think we went back into the bar at all and went on a date then and there, at 3 am in Chinatown.
| say hi to_ | And then from a only handsome guy - beautiful woman encounter in a bar to an actual exchange about what you do in life and about art/design/architecture etc. That must have been pretty mind-blowing at 3am in Chinatown.
| Adam | Terri was already singing the song with another boy, yet I felt invited to help them out. It was after that I took a rest and realized who I was just singing with, leading to my compulsion to let her know how beautiful I thought she was. I feel pretty lucky that the story continues from there.
The more time we spent together, the more we realized we enjoyed collaborating on a variety of projects: breakfast, dinner, art experiments, domestic building, etc. That is when we started the conversation about taking our every day and making it our practice.
| say hi to_ | How did you decide it would be a good Idea to work together? Did it just happen or did you actually plan it? Were you scared at some point to mix relationship and profession?
| Terri | It didn't feel scary to work together, it felt fun and natural.
| say hi to_ | What were the upsides and downsides of working with a stranger or friend compared to a partner?
"At an office you're always doing someone else's project sort of, because it's coming from higher up rather than from within, which can also make it harder to be 100% invested in what you're doing."
| Terri | I have worked with many co-workers at the various design offices to make something happen, and it can be fun and rewarding and great if you like the people you work with, and it can be very frustrating and difficult if you don't. And this doesn't necessarily mean their fundamental personalities as people, but your collective working synergy. At an office you're always doing someone else's project sort of, because it's coming from higher up rather than from within, which can also make it harder to be 100% invested in what you're doing.
With friends I've had very positive experiences because there is a fundamental level of respect for each other, and with a partner it's even greater.
Adam and I recognize that our relationship is more important than the small things we could fuss over about a project, and I think that is very important in keeping our practice (and relationship) positive.
| Adam | Most of my jobs have been outside of the field of art or design. I was generally on my own as an artist with some small projects collaborating with friends. There is always a generosity that goes into collaborating with others and I feel like Terri and I are very generous with one another.
| say hi to_ | Tell us about the cabin in a loft project? What was more important to you, the artistic component of creating it or the interactive one, to have different artists living at your place and to generate creative exchanges.
| Terri | 'A Cabin in a Loft' started as a pet project of mine, where I had moved into a largish loft space in Brooklyn, and was excited by the prospect of building it out. It was an opportunity to combine a few different needs, like the need to divide the space into two bedrooms without giving up the openness that floor-to-ceiling walls would take away and the need to build on a tiny budget, and the desire to create something fun and playful that I would be happy to live around every day. It was also a good challenge for me to practice some hands-on building skills, which I felt was very important for my development as a person.
I had a series of roommates before deciding to host international travelers. This happened around the same time that Adam and I met, and we spent the first three years of getting to know each other having a changing cast of creative people from all over the world living with us.
Together we've made many amendments like storage, furniture, plants, and artwork. Now we've made the cabin into our office (we are talking with you from within it right now), and we mostly host friends from out of town every now and then.
| say hi to_ | Do either of you still work independently too? Is this important to you?
| Terri | As part of a collaborative, we believe it is crucial to have the freedom and ability to pursue independent ideas. We often utilize artist residencies as an opportunity to de-collaborate after a big project. In this way we can each explore our own ideas and follow our gut to strengthen our vision. Often times these independent pursuits feed the collaboration and lead to new projects we can pursue together.
| say hi to_ | What do you have in the pipeline now?
| Terri | We have a few commissioned projects we're working on — a public art project and some paper plant commissions, to name a few. We are most excited about some new projects we plan to develop this fall, that were germinated earlier this summer at an artists residency in Italy.
Some of these will include new experiments with paper pulp as a sculpting material, wax-crayon rubbings on paper, a new suite of paintings, and evolution of our wooden wall pieces.
| say hi to_ | Can you recommend one person that you know from any other creative discipline who has an amazing story that's worth sharing?
| Terri & Adam | This summer at the artist residency in Italy, Villa Lena, we had the honor of meeting Kat Pichulik, a jewelry designer from South Africa. Her works are refreshing, playful, and stunning, and she has a very woman-empowering approach to the work: http://www.pichulik.com/#welcome
What is the DNA of New York and how does that reflect in your work?
| Adam | Living here fuels us with an energy that keeps us inspired to work. New York is in constant motion. It is impossible not to feel the energy of its movement all around us, which then, whether consciously or unconsciously, reminds us that we are in constant motion as well. After being here for a bit, there is a glimpse that we are in control of the different speeds of that motion. There is an undeniable vibrancy of life here and people are doing so many different and wonderful things. Amidst the whirl of the motion of this place, we often liken ourselves to snails, slowly moving ahead, leaving a slippery trail behind us.
| Terri | The diversity of the city is comforting — there are so many people living in so many different ways. There is a sense that anything is possible in New York. I think this feeling of possibility is very important to our work, and it's not something you feel everywhere. We're challenged by the city and the limitations it imposes spatially and economically, but these same limitations inform our lives and our work, forcing us to constantly be in touch with what we're really after in life.
Best Coffee in New York?
Cafe Grumpy or Porto Rico
Best co-work space in New York?
The Bakery, Wayfarer's
Best place to get a drink in New York?
The Abbey in Williamsburg and The Narrows in Bushwick
Hotel you would stay in if you weren’t from New York?
With friends or Airbnb
Best unknown shop in New York?
Kiosk (but maybe it's popular?)
Up and coming talent in New York?
Ryan Patrick Martin (aka Slop Wop)
Best place to take clients in New York?
Home-cooked meal at our apartment :)
Resources to help you with your career_
BRIC Media Arts
Brooklyn Arts Council
Thank You Adam and Terri!