Now with the recent release of the Apple Watch, nearly everything under the sun that once was analog has evolved to digital. But there is something timeless about a clock; its simplistic nature paired with the romantic sound of the ticking hands keeps the product alive. Clocks without a doubt stand the test of time, and no one knows this best than artists Justin and Joe over at Brooklyn’s Westkill.
FRANK151 was able to play catch up with the duo, who have since evolved their Acer wood clock brand off their Brooklyn Treasury line, to its very own entity. See what the boys have been up to and how NY Design week plays a part.
Since we last spoke, a lot has changed with you guys, including participating in NY Design Week. Tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to?
We’ve been on a tear since December 2014 prepping Westkill for NY Design Week. We began with a successful soft launch selling numerous clocks to close friends and family. As a result, we decided it would be advantageous to participate at a couple shows to introduce Westkill to the design world. The main point here is that we are making products for the home/office/interiors that have the feel of a piece of original art.
When we first spoke, your wood pieces were a part of the larger Brooklyn Treasury—50% apparel line, 50% design company. Now we’re looking at a whole new company, Westkill, which is solely based around your wooden designs. Tell us a bit about the transition from creating wood works to starting Westkill as it’s own entity.
Well the paintings on wood were just a side project as we continued to grow Brooklyn Treasury. But once we made one we felt the need to make ten. It was addictive. The wood also allowed us to branch out and explore new methods of print design, since we are screen printers at heart. As they began to sell we realized they needed a name. We found it confusing to sell home goods under the Brooklyn Treasury label so we came up with Westkill. Westkill allowed us to design and print on a whole new platform, wood. The transition itself from wood paintings to screen printed clocks took nearly a year of research and prototyping before landing on a product both Joe and I were proud to call our own.
Is Westkill still all one-of-a-kind originals? Or are you learning how to mass produce?
So our screen-printed clocks are all original designs that we print in editions of 20, but we have learned how to produce editions in greater quantities right here in Brooklyn. These specific pieces with edition numbers on the back are meant to be perceived in the same way a fine art etching/print would be. We take the same amount of time and energy an “artist” takes to design and print each piece. We scrutinize our color choices, print quality, and composition.
We do sell one of-a-kind pieces as well: Our “Lusso” collection, for example, features several deluxe wall clocks and table centerpieces. Our one-of-a-kind pieces have a raw and rare appeal. These items are crafted on a cross-cut section of the tree. They feature intricate circular grain and the original bark in tact around the edge. These crosscut pieces take the juxtaposition of nature and graphics up another notch.
What is the process to creating these works? Any rituals?
We actually built a contraption here in the studio to make it a bit easier to print multiple runs of the same design. Manual screen-printing is a difficult technique to master, but screen-printing on wood is a whole new beast. Its like shaving; you’re bound to get a few nicks, a few imperfections and variations, but we view this as a positive thing as it makes each piece special to the consumer. We do occasional say “In Bocca al Lupo” before printing, which is an Italian phrase literally meaning “In the Mouth of the Wolf”. It’s basically good luck.
Which do you prefer: Painting or screen-printing?
Painting hands down. Screen-printing is torturous, although the end result truly hits the spot and can feel more satisfying than a finished painting.
Any memorable custom-made orders?
Since December, we’ve only had a hand full of custom orders—nothing too crazy. Maybe after BKLYN Designs and ICFF we’ll have better stories..
Westkill’s name comes from your childhood association with the Catskills; was there any particular memories attached to the Westkill mountain that inspired you to name your shop after it?
In terms of a story: Joe and I are first cousins from a family of Brooklynites. For many Brooklynites, going to the Catskills for brief vacations is a given. As Urbanites, it’s important for us to get a shot of the outdoors every once in a while or we start to feel empty inside. The pace here is just too powerful to not escape from. So our escape has always been the Catskills.
Seven years back my uncle/Joe’s dad chose a plot of land on a mountainside in West Kill, NY in the Catskills and built a home. For years now we have frequented it for relaxing vacation, maple syrup production, skiing, and family time. My uncle had been taking chainsaw classes and gave me a few to take home to paint; it was his idea. The first pieces served as center pieces and wall hangings. The project slowly grew into a series sold in a handful of boutiques. After a considerable amount of time experimenting with them simply as wall art, Joe suggested we add function to them and make clocks. And thus, combining form and functionality, the paintings on wood morphed into clocks and Westkill was born.
What goes behind naming your pieces?
Both Joe and I basically stare at them on the wall for a while until the names pop out. Even if it’s a good name though, it still has to invoke a feeling. If the feeling that the name evokes doesn’t match the design we move on.
Finally, what’s on the horizon for Westkill and Brooklyn Treasury? Any new designs, themes, or collaborations?
We’ll be featuring a myriad of fresh Westkill clock designs during NY Design week. Once the dust settles after the trade shows, we’re interested in pursuing new business opportunities by means of collaborations with well known artists or art licensors. Ideally, we’d like to work with established artists to create limited edition prints on our clocks, wholesaling them to museum shops or other exclusive retail partners.
For Brooklyn Treasury we’ll be adding men’s designer polo shirts to the line. Essentially, after two years of research, we finally sourced a factory that can bring our designs to life. The salesman samples should arrive in two weeks—can’t fucking wait.