When asked about the defining characteristic of their decade-plus of collaborating, the curator and designer Josee Lepage describes her relationship with Tobias Wong as, "Consistent." From the time Wong first came to show Lepage, then the Creative Director for Cite, his student portfolio, the two began to make plans. Lepage and Wong had an ongoing professional and personal dialogue that translated into the inclusion of work for Lepage's collection of design objects, Zweimineral, and commissaries gallery as well as collaborations for various projects and exhibitions including Cappellini x Pappabubble (2009), Japan C (2008), As Long As it Lasts (2007), Wong's Wrong Store (2007), All I Want is More (2006) and "Waterrr" (2006). Here, Josee Lepage shares memories of Tobias and gives us a sneak peek on their most recent collaboration, "The Times of New York," a special tribute piece for BrokenOff BrokenOff.
Core77: What was it about Tobias' work, or was it him as a person, that first drew you to him?
Josee Lepage: It was about him! He was harassing me! He was coming every week to show me his portfolio but I really liked the work. At the time, I knew he was in school, so I didn't know if those projects were related to school or not. But he was coming every week to show me his book, and he would, like, change the display I just did in the store. I don't know what else to tell you other than, he struck me.
You two collaborated over a large period of time—on multiple projects spanning different geographies. What was special about your collaborative relationship?
It was the consistency, the same way he was consistent when he wanted something. And the fact that we knew each other for so long and we never really lost contact. It made it easier for both of us to collaborate together and to support each other. Even if we weren't collaborating, he was advising me on things and I would advise him. It was this very easy, natural way of working together from, I guess, day one. So, when I moved back to New York, a couple of years ago, it was really even more collaboration. We really got into bigger projects together. He also collaborated with other people as well, but it seems like the last maybe four years we did a lot together.
What were some of the favorite projects you worked on together and why?
I think, As Long As It Lasts [A pop-up tattoo parlor with commissioned flashart by eight designers and artists] was one of the projects we were very proud of as well as All I Want is More. We really loved that project. We just loved the idea of inviting artists to design a tattoo and having people getting a tattoo, live! It's also the guts of going to ask someone like Lawrence Weiner, "Okay, do you want to design a tattoo?" And then they say yes. And then you sell the tattoo. Putting together this whole thing was very rewarding. Tobias was so proud when Lawrence Weiner said, "Yes, I want to do a tattoo for you," because [Weiner] was kind of his idol, you know? It's funny, we [Aric Chen, the third collaborator and Lepage] did a second edition in Berlin.
In your piece, "The Times of New York" for the upcoming BrokenOff BrokenOff exhibition, it seems like this is a natural extension of your ongoing collaborations with Tobias. Can you give us a little bit of background for how it came about?
It's one of those project we were procrastinating on for the last 3 years. It was just one of those things that if we did it, it was going to be on our own money and we never had the money to front to produce a candle. And then we thought of asking The New York Times and they said no, it's not their thing, they don't collaborate with designers. We contacted [candle makers] but it all fell through. But I remember telling him, "You know what, Tobi, we will do it. I promise we'll end up doing that project," because he loved it so much. I felt like when he passed away, I felt like this is one of my duties. I have to do this. I have to finalize this project. So here it is...
BrokenOff BrokenOff will be open to the public May 14 - 17, 2011 at Gallery R'Pure, 3 East 19th Street, NYC.
More from the designers participating in BrokenOff BrokenOff, A Tribute to Tobias Wong:
» Marc Thorpe, "Call Me or Copy Me"
» Brad Ascalon, "Reflection"
» David Weeks, "There is Something About Giving Into Your Desires"
» Frederick McSwain, "Die"
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