STUDIOOSS Applied Arts Collective is a boutique multidisciplinary studio operated by Emmanuela Albert and Jess Blaustein. With commitments to fine craft and sustainability, STUDIOOSS works along three registers: we help make other people’s ideas look amazing, we make our own whimsical objects from pop-up books to other treasures, and we use the off-cuts from the things we make for ongoing art experimentation and play.
So what will Jessica and Emmanuela be experimenting with during their residency in the studio? They have proposed to transform the studio into a factory, and invite children to participate...
The residency: the GLOOB Factory
The GLOOB Factory is a factory for ARTmaking with paper pulp from paper waste, outside the logics of mass reproduction. The paper and pulp industry operates at massive scales in Southeast Asia with devastating environmental consequences. Through its production processes, the GLOOB Factory provides opportunities for exploring how and why things are made from paper, and the impacts of those things on the environment.
GLOOB is a play on glob, globe, and other wonderfuls. (There are also two Os in STUDIOOSS). The GLOOB Factory is a play on modern factory production but with totally different means and opposite ends. The GLOOB Factory is divided into four zones—the warehouse for raw materials, the lab for R&D, the factory floor for pulp making and sculpting (play at the GLOOB table or throw GLOOB at the wall), and the showroom for display. While flexible systems and processes for production are carefully designed for The GLOOB Factory, the things themselves are not pre-planned. Nobody knows what The GLOOB Factory is going to make in advance. The GLOOB Factory shape-shifts. Walls, floors and tables morph and grow with the fantastical things that are made by the people inside it.
Interview: After 2 months of GLOOB Factory, it's time to say goodbye... So we had a conversation with Jessica and Emmanuela
I: When did you first hear of the residency and what were your first thoughts about the possibility of inhabiting the space for a month?
J + E: We knew about the L’Observatoire residency from other artist friends in Singapore. We were excited by the possibilities of inhabiting a studio space separate from our usual working environments, which for both of us are attached to where we live, and therefore offer less possibilities for public interaction and experimentation, and are also more vulnerable to everyday life interruptions.
As a studio we have always understood ourselves to be operating on three registers simultaneously—offering selected design services, making limited edition pop-up books and other treasures, and doing more experimental art-making. We saw the residency as an opportunity to really spend some focused time on our art-making as a primary mode of operation upon which our other activities thrive. We also saw the residency as an opportunity to create and co-create work in a more public-facing studio environment.
I: What was your initial project? What was the one question you were trying to address?
J + E: Our initial project was The GLOOB Factory. We were trying to address a few different questions with the project, but one big one was: How far can we push paper?
I: How did the reality of the studio fit with the idea that you had of spending a month here?
J + E: Thankfully, we had two months (or 1.5 months due to holidays) which felt just right. When we proposed The GLOOB Factory, we wrote, “The GLOOB Factory is experimental, play-based, and open outcome. Nobody knows what The GLOOB Factory is going to make in advance.” We created frameworks for production at The GLOOB Factory, but we did not set an agenda for work we expected it to make. In this way, we managed to pull off the project much as we had hoped we would, as we believe the frameworks we made served as flexible foundations for various experiences and things to take shape.
When it came running a studio with a significant participatory dimension, we encountered immediately the realities of time. Significantly more time was spent on the scheduled class visits and drop-ins than we had expected once we accounted for set-up, clean-up, and the general unpredictability of other moving bodies in the space. The open-ended nature of the space was central to the experience and to the art activities emerging from it, so we knew we needed to adjust our timelines and expectations in order to make it work well.
I: Did you enjoy coming to the studio?
J + E: Yes! It’s a wonderful place to work.
I: What did you think of interacting with the teachers?
J + E: We love the Blue House school and philosophy. It was very interesting for us to see different teachers enter The GLOOB Factory with different approaches and expectations and to notice how those different approaches shaped the overall experience. Some teachers took a more active role, and some more of a backseat. Some were excited to add to the process, bringing their own materials, and others participated alongside the kids, making sculptures with them, and throwing GLOOB at the wall.
I: What did you think of interacting with the children?
J+ E: We could write so much here…. The simple joy of watching kids the first time they realized you could throw stuff at the wall. Returning kids proudly announcing “The GLOOB Factory!” when they walked in and heading straight for places they knew.
We believe the open process of The GLOOB Factory allowed children of different personalities to enter in at different points, without pressure to make something specific, and perhaps this is the reason why it was able to work on a few different levels.
I: Can you share any specific stories?
J + E: Two stories that come to mind both involve two little boys one who only spoke in whisper and the other was a special needs boy. The first little boy named Edward only communicated in a whisper and was how he spoke when he started his GLOOB experience. Edward was quietly sitting at the GLOOB table sculpting until he threw his first piece of GLOOB at the wall—he soon stopped whispering, much to the surprise of his teachers and classmates. By the end of the session he was screaming with joy!
The second little boy was a special needs child who was reluctant to even enter the factory floor space and held on tightly to his teacher. He slowly and at his own pace made his way to the GLOOB table and started to sculpt by his teachers side. After a time he approached the GLOOB wall and said, “ball” and once he was given a ball he would throw it. He continued to ask for “balls” sometimes expanding to say “blue ball” or “big ball”. His teachers were so excited to hear him speak!
Some kids really loved the process of making the GLOOB, when coming back a second time, they would go straight to the GLOOB making station and knew exactly what the steps were.
Often-times kids liked to bring their parents in and show them the GLOOB making process and how to throw the GLOOB!
I: Did you ever come at the week-end or when school was closed? Did you feel a difference in energy?
J + E: Yes, and yes! There was a huge difference in energy. The space was quiet. Almost zero foot and vehicle traffic, but all the good energy still floating around. We liked being there a lot, and found both energy extremes to be very conducive to work.
I: What would you say you have achieved during residency?
J + E: The two biggest things? We set up a studio as an interactive art space, and we achieved a way of working with constant experimentation as part of our daily rhythm.
I: What do you think about the length of the residency? Was it too short, too long or just right for you?
J + E: Our length of time, 2 months (more like 6 weeks due to holidays), was just right. We basically used one week to set up, ran 4 weeks of active residency, and had one week to dismantle. (That being said, we also created our project for the time we knew we had, and would have contracted and/or expanded for a longer or shorter time.)
I: What do you think your engagement with the community brought to you and you're practice? How would you qualify the relationship?
J + E: On the whole, we really enjoyed the community engagement dimension of The GLOOB Factory and were super excited to have people interact with our work in general. As we think about this forward, there are two aspects to public engagement for our practice:
> actively and continually sharing work that we make, like our pop-up books
> setting up projects that are co-created with the community
We now know that having a space is crucial for our studio to be more public-facing on both accounts. One qualification: because we are small, just the two of us, and because the things we make (both book objects and more experimental art-objects) tend to be very time-consuming, we think that co-created projects should go in periodic waves (bi-monthly, 4 x year).
I: How did you juggle your “experiments” with your design practice? The outcome looks very different! Can you expand on that?
J + E: Although the outcomes may look very different, we see our art experiments on a continuum with our design practice.
In terms of material - we work with paper in so many ways, and it makes sense to us to explore and push different aspects of this material. It’s been really great and interesting to work with the same initial material but in two very different ways with two very different tactile qualities and two very different outcomes. For us, it’s all part of the same system.
In terms of Ideation/process - GLOOB is a nice counter to the precision work that comes with making our pop-up books. However the end result of our leaf making and our books both have a precision aspect to them that is a signature in the work we do.
In terms of systems/information/play - There is layering of information in everything we do, through this experiment there is so much layering that has and can continue to happen which is totally in keeping with our process, and yet this is still a detailed-oriented project, it’s still precise and it is still very much play/experimentation which is always baseline for us.
I: What are you taking away from this residency?
J + E: A gigantic GLOOB wall co-created with multiple little and big people, a whole lot of fantastic little GLOOB sculptures, 59 paper pulp leaves, good good feelings and inspiration, and bad ass new friends.
I: Will you be taking anything from this project to your next project? Do you have a plan for your next project? What will you be doing next? (Anything you’d like to share about future plans)
J + E: Yes, many things! We are in the process of developing and expanding our paper pulp leaves project, we are prototyping our next pop-up book called The Forest of Oldest Trees, and we are plotting a next home for The GLOOB Factory 2.0. :)
I: f you were invited for a follow-up residency, can you think of what you’d propose?
J + E: Following up on The GLOOB Factory, we’d love to propose another kind of materials-based interaction…..