Interview with Dan Abary and Maria Candanoza
Last month we launched our first collaboration with Lower East Side art store Objectify_139, creating a limited edition vintage matchbox set and screen printed totes. Objectify_139 is an art object store that sells work from local artists at an affordable price. The owner, Maria Candanoza, was a long time friend of Keap and with the help of Dan Abary, our art director, the Keap x Objectify collaboration was born.
** You can find the totes and matchboxes for sale for a limited time at objectify139.com.
We sat down with Dan Abary and Maria Candanoza to hear more about their inspiration for the Keap x Objectify project. The below interview was edited for clarity.
How did the idea for a collaboration around matchboxes come about?
Dan: At Keap, where we make candles, also a product that is technologically obsolete, we had a chat one day about different art styles we enjoyed on matchboxes, from Japanese to Russian, and we started digging up old vintage artworks. It made me want to make some, and we posted some prototypes on Instagram. That's how it started.
Maria: I saw the hand drawn and painted matches that Keap posted on Instagram. I started talking to Dan about the possibility of doing some matchboxes together. We decided the ideal way to start was to make a small edition in a limited run. I really enjoy doing artist multiples and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to do that.
What were your inspirations when you started talking about the idea?
D: Growing up, I always liked matchboxes and matchbooks, as a collectible format. You see them less nowadays, as they have become almost obsolete, with the advent of automatic lighters and the fall from grace of the tobacco industry.
M: I like doing "sets" at the store. We've done a couple in the past, we did a box of 20 objects for our one year anniversary and I curated a special art box for a show at the spring break art fair earlier this year, so I wanted to do the matchboxes as a set as well. The main inspiration behind these sets were the fluxus art boxes, this is a small scale version of that.
As far as the actual designs, the main inspiration was Japanese matchbox art from the 20s and we wanted to do one for each fragrance from Keap and one inspired by New York, and more specifically Brooklyn. I also wanted to pay tribute to the Japanese origin of the idea so we added a Japanese proverb on the side that relates to fire and matches.
Why did you think matchboxes were a good fit for Objectify?
D: Maria’s store is a great place for artists to sell their work. Many of my friends have collaborated with Maria in the past, so it seemed like the right move to work with her.
M: We do affordable, sometimes practical objects that anyone can buy so matchboxes were a perfect fit. We also like doing collaborations with our friends and emerging artists and designers so doing a collaboration with Dan and Keap was also very fitting.
Tell us more about the process behind the product.
D: It started with iterations on different illustration concepts. When I found the ideas I liked, I drew them on card, scanned them, and used the forms to create print templates that we could silkscreen the color layers on.
Silkscreening can be either very quick or very painstaking depending on the design, number of colors, etc. These were a mixed bag: some of the designs took us hours to print. Overall the process of designing, printing, and then hand assembling the boxes is a test of patience and a true labor of love.
As we zeroed in on silkscreen as the printing process, I decided to make the references to the Keap fragrances more conceptual and reflecting their mood and colors, rather than being an accurate technical description of each fragrance.
M: I worked with Dan to make his designs work with the silkscreening process, meaning, simplifying the color palette, etc. After that, we printed them on vellum, coated the screens and exposed them with the drawings. Each box is 4 colors, so we had to expose four screens, mix the colors, and print.
When you were still in the planning stages of the matchboxes, did you initially know that you wanted to use silkscreening?
D: The first boxes I made were actually all drawn and painted by hand. I had a plan in the early stages to make everything like that, as time moved on and the project expanded into a collaboration, it seemed more reasonable to make templates and to screen print the boxes instead. Maybe in the future I’ll make a run of hand painted matchboxes, who knows? (Dan laughs)
M: When we decided to do them as an edition, silkscreen was my first thought because I've been doing it for years and it's a practical technique for artist multiples. I'm happy with the way they came out!
How did you approach the design aesthetic of the project?
D: When we got together with Objectify, we wanted to hit on a few themes. First, we wanted a collection loosely based on the four fragrances, which are a fountain of inspiration in themselves. Second, we wanted it to gently pay tribute to our home of Brooklyn and New York City. Third, we wanted to make it cohesive with Objectify's style.
M: Our aesthetics, while different, have a lot of things in common. We worked together and did a few versions of the packaging etc. so we were both happy with the end result. We wanted to represent both brands, so that's why we did Keap’s fragrances but then the slipcase is Objectify’s grid design from the prints wall and our website.
What was your reaction when you saw the final product? What was your reaction when you saw it coming to life?
D: I had made art in various forms before, but this was my first time making an artform that also doubles as a functional object. It's really satisfying to look at the end product, and then be able to take a match from inside, strike it, and have that flame come to life. It's very fulfilling seeing that dual purpose.
M: It's always fun to see the end result especially when it's a collaboration. Taking artwork and translating it into a physical object is exciting. I think we were all happy with the end result!