We had the good fortune of connecting with Isabel Deakin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Isabel, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I started Kin Workshop as a counterpoint to my day job working in Architecture. Architecture projects, particularly ground up construction, typically take many years to complete. They involve an array of stakeholders, many different disciplines, there are a lot of moving parts to consider and a huge amount of work goes into coordinating everything. Kin Workshop is the opposite for me. I can escape into a world of pure geometry. I can finish a project in a couple of weeks. I have creative autonomy. I’ve always been a maker so it’s nice to have an outlet for this side of my personality. The designs are based on a technique of piecing together fabric to form three dimensional objects. I started developing this technique in 2016 when I had a bit of time off between graduating from UCLA and starting a full time job. When I was still playing around with these designs in 2020 I realized, at least from a design perspective, there was space to grow so I designed a logo, bought a domain and Kin Workshop was official!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As I mentioned before Kin Workshop designs are based on a technique I developed piecing together fabric to form three dimensional objects. The technique is inspired by the traditional craft of patchwork. The pieces are handmade and in most cases the exterior is 100 percent hand-sewn. A lot of labour goes into these pieces. Some of my current designs involve hand cutting 180 individual pieces and then stitching them all back together again. When I first started piecing fabric like this I was making pillows, using the technique as a surface pattern. Moving to three dimensional objects was a big design breakthrough and really put my architectural training to good use. Using a soft fabric to create sculptural pieces subverts the material expectations. A lot of people see photos of my work and assume it is ceramic. I like playing in this space; manipulating a soft material so it becomes structural and geometric but also allowing that softness to exist; the lumps and bumps. I recently completed a project where I incorporated offcuts from a wedding dress into a design. I hope to do more custom projects like this in the future. Incorporating custom materials allows the projects to tell a story and the designs are therefore more meaningful to the client. Craft is at the core of Kin Workshop. My hope is that anyone who engages with my designs can acknowledge and hopefully respect this value.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh this is going to make me sad… pre COVID I had a really fun little downtown walking tour that I would take visitors on (architects and non architects alike). 2020 has not been the best year for downtown LA but all the great buildings are still there so it is only a matter of time before this all becomes possible again. I would probably start my tour at Grand Central Market because you can pick up something to eat and/or drink there and the vibe (pre pandemic) was always really fun. If you walk through to the Broadway exit of Grand Central you can visit the Bradbury Building (used in the filming of Blade Runner) the beautiful wrought iron work of the interior is just so unexpected! If you have time I always like walking down Broadway toward the Ace Theatre. There are some beautiful historic buildings and a lot of theaters with their original terrazzo floors, ticket booths and marquees. Poke your head into Clifton’s Cafeteria; it’s got a wild interior, literally, full of plants and taxidermy animals. A particular favorite of mine on Broadway is the stunning Art Deco Eastern Columbia Building with its turquoise blue terracotta tile facade. Broadway is also a really clear example of a street that is being gentrified; the dichotomy between the existing and new businesses hits you in the face and it is worth considering as this battle is being played out all across LA. If you can do your tour on a weekday, I always like to go up to the top of City Hall. You have to sign in, go through a metal detector and navigate multiple disconnected elevators but it is worth it for a very comprehensive view of downtown LA. It’s interesting to see the industrial buildings of the Arts District on one side and the skyscrapers of downtown LA on the other. LA is such a fascinating city with such a unique pattern of urbanization. From City Hall you get a great view of some of the more recent architectural contributions to LA downtown. The postmodern gems include MOCA and the Bonaventure Hotel. I highly recommend going inside the Bonaventure Hotel to see its lobby, the interior race track and to take a trip in the exterior glass elevator, Willy Wonker style. If you need a drink you can take a break at the revolving rooftop bar; it’s fun for the novelty. There are also a lot of great examples of 21st century architecture in LA by acclaimed architects including: Los Angeles Courthouse, The Broad, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Caltrans and Area #9 High School. It’s worthwhile checking the programming at The Broad and Disney Concert Hall so you can take a glimpse of the interiors (Disney also offers free architectural tours). Except when there are concerts on, the gardens at the back of the Disney Concert Hall are usually open and they are very serene. My last stop would probably be Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. From the courtyard you get a good view across the freeway to the wild Area #9 High School building. The cathedral itself has a really beautiful interior space and every element has been designed: the lights, the pews etc. I particularly like the use of warm coloured materials and the quality of light, achieved by filtering the light though the Alabaster windows (yes, that is thin pieces of stone as windows). If you need another reason to go, the church complex sits on base isolators so if there is an earthquake it is probably one of the safest places you can be in downtown LA. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Compliments from friends, family and strangers are a huge motivation. Because Kin Workshop is a solo practice I get very little feedback before a design is put out into the world, so a little bit of encouragement goes a long way. Some clients are nice enough to send me a photo of the designs in their homes and that just makes my day!