Feb 17, 2012
Fab Friday: Kevin O'Brien Studio
In the city of Philadelphia, great fabrics are being made everyday. The location - Kevin O'Brien Studios. For 15 years they have been making velvet scarves, pillows, and bedding that sell at Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Anthropologie. How does Kevin do it? And why? Here is his story. When young, Kevin studied hard, played sports, and went to a good college. Upon completing a few degrees he promptly abandoned career plans to be an architect, and enthusiastically dedicated his time to painting, the other pursuit that he has had since childhood. But painters need money, even if only a little bit. Novice artists have a hard time selling paintings, not because they are bad painters, but because they tend to be bad business people. Kevin was one of these kinds of painters. So a friend told him to get some silk, use it as his canvas, and she would sell it as a scarf. He went down to Fabric Row in Philadelphia and bought 20 yards of the finest polyester (the salesman figured he wouldn’t know the difference). He painted on it anyway, and so they took it to Barney’s NY and secured their first order. Barney’s suggested that since they had an actual order maybe they could splurge for some real silk. Robin Baron: What design elements have you personalized at home? Kevin O'Brien: A few years ago my wife and I embarked on a major re-decorating. We moved two buildings to different locations on our property. It was just a little more involved than rearranging the furniture. One building, a small one room barn, was blocking the view of the pond, so one muddy spring day a friend with a pick up came over and we cut the building from the foundation and dragged it on logs to the new foundation I had built. It was a little cattywompus when it arrived but it is all fine now. The other was an old chicken coop and we put it next to the little barn and now my wife and I have studios that are next door to each other.
Kevin's son Valentine, wife Myo, and daughter Tallulah. The Fingerpaint Pillows from his collection were made directly from Valentine's artwork from this day, left; Kevin and Valentine having fun on a bouncy slide, right.RB: What do you love most about your work? KO: I do have a fabulous work life. I wouldn't even call it work. At my studio in Philadedlphia there are a dozen talented and very positive people working all day to dream up and make our fabulous products. I get to go there a few day a week and watch, help, dream, with these collaborators of mine. It all has my name on it but often times I will arrive and see some new one of a kind pillow or stuffed animal that I did not even know was in our line and be delighted and proud of this crew. BTW, on the other days I am in my studio in upstate NY, also dreaming up new products.