For the woman who’s philosophy involves “Drawing on Everything”, it’s no coincidence that Shantell Martin has the word art in her name. On first glance the unknowing eye could naively assess her work as simple when evaluating her “trademark – black ink and white surfaces”. On closer evaluation of her illustrative gift to “transform everything from walls, found objects, ceramics, luxury goods, sneakers, and even faces into a visual narrative”, it becomes experientally clear that the absence of traditional color use is what invites you to explore her whimsy and sense of adventure in a way that becomes individually meaningful.
Color can serve as an easy guide for the eye, informing you that an apple is red or faces are some shade of flesh. When the object is composed of black & white, your eye no longer pin points where to start or hang out. You immediately begin a journey of exploration that is self guiding, allowing you to find hidden things. Or as she likes to put it, “people find the messages they need” within each piece. This inventive form of visual language she is creating with her work teaches us a new way to see and communicate.
We are always on the lookout for unique happenings in the art, fashion, and retail scene, and there’s nothing we love more than when these worlds collide. We love the idea of an artist creating interest with works of art as the backdrop for high fashion, objects, or home collections, and we weren’t the only ones falling in love at first sight with this artist on the rise.
Forward thinking interior, furniture, textile, object, and fashion designer Kelly Wearstler also took note, developing a serious design crush on her that eventually turned into a full on collaboration. Kelly reasoned that “Everything has Shantell’s hand on it. What she does can’t be repeated — especially when it’s done so spontaneously. I love Picasso and Keith Haring, and Shantell’s work has that kind of sensibility and familiarity.” Which is why she didn’t hesitate to have Shantell apply her signature to a Limited Edition set of her White Calcutta and Negro Marquina Kiss, Box, Diamond, Fractured Heart, and furniture pieces like the Elliot Chair and Brea Ottoman, as well as fashion totes and scarves. The collection was sold through Kelly Wearstler, 1st Dibs, and Bergdorf Goodman.
Shantell Martin hangs with design powerhouse Kelly Wearstler
A few pieces from the Kelly Wearstler x Shantell Martin Collaboration
Kisses from KWxSM
Now that we were properly infatuated with Shantell, we were ready to cross paths in person in hopes of working together in some creative capacity. Apparently we put that energy out into the universe, because our paths did literally cross on a walk to dinner in Miami during Art Basel in December. Through a googly-eyed admiration filled spiel, we traded business cards and she gave us a few stickers (like the ones below) with her message on them as well as our own “Drawing on Everything” black marker. We wanted to know more about her story, these stickers, and that pen – for it was clear she had something to say.
We finally got the chance to go deeper with Shantell during a visit to her Tribeca studio. She playfully charmed us with her gentle spirit and walked us through all of the curious objects that fill her space. As it turns out, this Central Saint Martin’s honor grad and former Tokyo based VJ has been drawing from her humble beginnings in London to tell her story for years. In fact, many of the objects she loves to work with include toys that were economically impossible to own as a child (such as airplanes or dolls), and she is the first to admit her obsession with being a “big kid”. At the same time, the creativity inspired through some of her childhood experience is what breeds her curiosity with objects many would consider discarding – like plastic bottles or chunks of leftover construction site marble. Who isn’t familiar with the imagination’s ability to expand when you give a kid a cardboard box or a shiny set of pots and pans? Or in this case, A white wall or object and a black marker.
Inside Shantell’s studio you will find a variety of toys and objects – airplanes, slabs of marble, tennis shoes, chairs in black and white. Below you will find her imagination extends to the interior of the plane.
However, it isn’t all black and white when it comes to Shantell, there’s also a philosophical message at play in her work that has origins in her family dynamic as the only mixed race child in a family with five blonde haired blue-eyed siblings. In fact, the visual difference in her appearance helped to propel the exploration of her signature phrases, “WHO ARE YOU”, “ARE YOU YOU”, and “YOU ARE YOU” (which also serve hidden typographical messages about finding the WAY and getting to YAY).
A complete Shantell space with covered walls, message filled benches, and backlit artwork.
She uses these phrases as a kind of personal compass, and they began garnering the attention of an audience around the same time she made the move to New York City in 2008/9. The transition to NYC “marked the beginning of a rapid ascent into the art world. Her brand collaborations with prominent commercial brands, as well as with bespoke luxury partners like 3×1 denim, Suno, and Jaw Bone quickly drew a fine art and commercial audience.” These days, between her work with main stream and private clients, Shantell also serves as an adjunct professor at ITP, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and recently became a visiting scholar at MIT Media Lab where she’s making strides with technology and art in ways that will make your inner geek smile.
A printed circuit board by Shantell Martin from her work in the MIT Media Lab, details here.
Speaking of smiling, we haven’t stopped doing so since working out the details of our upcoming debut of Shantell Martin in our Booth (#2179) during this year’s GlobalShop, March 24th – 26th, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. We are so excited and grateful to be able to share in the journey of this rising star. We know that you will fall in love with her spirit, whimsy, and curiosity as we have. Stay tuned for all of the incredible details to follow, as you will not want to miss out on your opportunity to meet her and see her in action!
Shantell Martin for B+N Industries
Photos and quotes from Shantell Martin, as well as reference to her interviews with Vogue and The New York Times.