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Publication Date: 2015-05-19

Behind the Design

Limelight: Brit Kleinman of AVO

A behind the scenes studio tour and interview with Brit Kleinman of AVO, by CLOTH & KIND contributing editor Lynn Byrne of Decor Arts Now.

My name is... Brit Kleinman.

My company is... AVO. I am the... Founder and Creative Director.
I make/design/create... Handpainted leather goods. My flagship product is the full hide painted rug but I also make pillows and clutches. I like to fully explore one material and see what I can create with it, and right now that material is handprinted leather. I was first inspired by a trip to New Mexico where I experienced the hide painting by Native Plains Indians and their handprinted bags known as parfleche. I then looked at a lot of different cultures that had this technique and I decided to modernize it.

Something you need to know about me is... I like to get my hands dirty. Although I previously worked in the design field in different capacities, I wanted to work with my hands again. I wanted to make things. I think I function best as a designer when I actually touch the materials.

You first knew you were a creative type when... It seems like I always knew it. Certainly, from a very young age. I come from a creative family and as a child I spent endless amounts of time in art classes and doing crafts. Creativity is in my blood.

Here is how the company came to be... It all started with a college trip to Gautemala in 2006. While visiting and working with the textile artists in the Chichicastenango market, I was struck by the fact that design and culture were one and the same. The name "AVO" comes from a vivid memory I have of a man carrying a huge sack of avocados in a string bag in that market. While that might seem mundane, it made me realize that different cultures used products and materials in their own unique way and fostered my anthropological way of thinking about design. I want to know what the back story behind all of my designs even if it isn't apparent to others.

My absolute favorite thing I sell right now is... My full hide rugs and I love the rugs and pillows I am doing in indigo resist patterns.

Here is a sneak peek of something I am working on right now... I am playing with leather tiles for interior spaces. I see them as wall tiles, perhaps as a wainscot.

I am most proud of... Finally taking that first leap to start my own business, after years of thinking about it.

I really detest... Bookkeeping!

I could never have done it without this person... Definitely my Mom, Sherry Kleinman, who herself is a textile artist. She first showed me that a creative passion could have a large role in your life. Also my husband because he is so supportive of my passions and taking the risk to start my own business.

I constantly read these for inspiration... I don't read! I just look at the pictures.

That said, I do like to leaf through Damn Design Magazine and Surface Magazine, and I sometimes go down the rabbit hole of the interwebs. I have two books, Patricia Rieff Anawalt'sThe Worldwide History of Dress, and Jean-Philippe and Dominque Lenclos' Colors of the Worldthat are staples in my library, but I am a visual person. In fact I don't measure when I create my product, I just eyeball it.

I would like to share the limelight with... My longtime art mentor David Limrite, who is a fabulous artist in his own right and always pushes his students to enjoy the process of creating.

Click through to read the full interview and take in the original photography taken in Brit's studio by Lynn.

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