Meet: Ty Best

Artist and designer, Montana
01.24.2011 | by: Meghan

Welcome to designtripper’s new weekly interview series. Every Monday, we’ll hear from a designer, artist, architect or creator about how travel influences their work. I’m thrilled to start the series with Ty Best, one of the most brilliant artist and designers making things in America. If that seems dramatic, take a look.

Previously a Barneys window display guru (working under Malcolm Hill and Simon Doonan), the wildly prolific designer works in near isolation in his rural studio in Montana. And not only is he completely self-taught, but he only started designing furniture less than five years ago.

Ty and his business partner Brad Rowley recently closed their amazing little Chicago gallery, where Ty designed entire floor-to-ceiling installations (including a wooden Christmas shed inspired by unibomber Ted Kaczynski’s cabin and sinister wax-covered dreamscapes with plaster marionettes and carved wooden skulls), to expand their company.  A line of Caste furniture was recently picked up by Holly Hunt, but they’ve got more exciting news/work on the way (including case goods, lighting and interior design services—can you imagine?). Ty is so consumed by his work lately that most of his travel relates to Caste. “I love what I do and when I am not designing or conceptualizing, I am wondering why I am not.”

Last travel experience: Chicago. Was there recently to iron out details of new company and to finalize agreements. But on a more exciting arm, I was there to show many people sketches of new designs I had been working on in the past few months in Montana.

How does travel influence my creativity or work: It recharges my creativity. Montana lets me concentrate and hone in on decisive pieces, while traveling gives me spark to conceptualize and get gutsy with design. Being so isolated here in Montana I love to see what is going on elsewhere and to see who is doing what and why.

What do I look for in a trip: A Barneys! Kidding. Really I look to squeeze as much out of it as I can. In Montana, I have an unlimited well of inspiration from the natural landscape, so when I travel, I like to head to a city for a different kind of inspiration–and to study parallels and contrasts between the layers of landscape in Montana and those of an urban environment.

Most inspiring place I have ever stayed: Easy. A very close friend and mentor, artist Malcolm Hill, lives in an old church in small town Montana. Whenever I was assisting him on various projects–window displays for Barney’s, sculptures for residential installation or his own body of work–I would stay with him. The first floor of the old brick church is living quarters that as such an amazing sensibility, while the second floor (processional) is the studio space we worked in. It just seems so peaceful and ironic for us to be creating in such a space.

Favorite travel purchase: A tan suede pair of Johnny boots from YSL in San Francisco. My very first pair, and since has created a sort of monster out of me.

[IMAGES: First four slideshow images by Michelle Litvin.]

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