Creative Couples: Carla & Aaron01 December 2009
Carla & Aaron Osborn are a husband and wife, Brooklyn based, highly creative couple known as Osborn Design Studios. They’re often seen selling their fair-trade products from Guatemala or personal works at the Brooklyn Flea. Having very different styles they manage to collaborate and grow their new business together. As we’ve learned from our past interviews there’s an advantage to having your respective strengths’ and ways of working. Communication’s key, which is something Carla and Aaron strongly believe in.
How did the two of you meet, and how long have you been together?
C: I met Aaron in Philadelphia through some friends… and we were friends for many years before we dated and got married in 2006. So we just had our 3rd anniversary.
A: Our story is long and fun. We met in 2001 in Philadelphia. We’ve been together for four years and some months.
What’s it like working with your better half?
C: It’s both incredibly bad and incredibly good. But you get to a point where you can’t imagine it any other way. It took the entire first year getting used to it and understanding the unique role that each one of us plays. We have very different work styles. I tend to leave things till the last minute, and then in an intuitive multitasking flurry I get it all gone. I think that Aaron functions a lot better with a Gantt chart of sorts, with a plotted out assigned system of checklists and charts.
A: Sometimes its great, sometimes it’s challenging. It’s hard to separate the personal relationship from the business relationship. When an idea comes together it’s incredible. It’s fun. She’s my partner. I like hearing her ideas, good and bad.
Can you describe your creative workspace?
C: We have a classic working artists studio in Greenpoint, with white walls and a wood floor and a killer view of Manhattan. We each have a computer station, but we sometimes overlap on the work tables which can be a bad thing. And he always puts away my paper cutter, which is something that I use multiple times a day, so that gets annoying. He also sands down his canvases so that gets really load. He tends to keep the studio looking like a painters studio, and I tend to keep it more scattered and unfocused, which I am sure can drive him crazy.
A: Our actual studio is divided into three different main areas, each area corresponding to a different activity. We have a computer and printer area, shelves and shelves filled with current inventory of shoes, and an open area occupied by two tables on wheels. Our shelves are filled with natural objects we find around the world, sculptures we’re working on, and materials we are playing with.
What are the benefits of living/working together?
C: I think that learning to trust and support each other in the work arena, as well as challenge each other without it being the end of the world, adds a beneficial aura to the relationship. Also just getting to see them all the time, having lunch together, brings people closer in general, so that is a good thing. People spend a lot of time working so it’s nice to look up and see your mate right there with you.
A: The immediacy of getting things done.
Aaron Osborn – painting in progress
C: It is hard to turn things off. We end up talking about our work all the time, which is entirely entertaining, but sometimes we have a pact to not talk about it. We also argue a lot over things that might not climax to that result if we were in another professional setting. Also the potential to get on each others nerve a bit quicker than we normally would if we didn’t work together.
A: There is no “off” button to our business at times.
Has your work changed as a result of living/working together, if so how?
C: I don’t think that either one of us has changed in a creative way, except that we have has less time for our personal work.
A: Not really, but then again, everything affects everything.
Are you currently collaborating on anything at the moment?
C: We have multiple projects going on at this time, but the one project that consumes a large portion of our time is our fair trade shoe project. We branded them under our studio name: Osborn Design Studios.
I’ve always been interested in how those have evolved. Can you tell me how they’ve come about and the process they’ve gone through?
C: The idea to design and produce shoes came about just as Aaron and I were exploring the idea of starting a fair trade retail company. We met a cobbler who was making interesting shoes in Aaron’s old stomping ground of Guatemala, and decided to collaborate our design with his craft. So we started with one cobbler, and have now expanded to 30 employees in a factory workshop that we started from the ground up. It has taken countless hours of work with a huge learning curve from everything to factory management, importing, rubber quality and finally the super fun part, design.
Any advice for future creative couples?
C: Communication is key. Business is business. And don’t take everything so personally!
A: Communication is key, and patience. Just let that (communication) really fuel ideas and let you do good work.
Thanks Carla and Aaron! Please save me a pair of size 9 oxfords.