Studio Visit : Open Windows Cooperative

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Open Windows Cooperative (OWC) was founded by Ava Sayaka Rosen of four eyes press and Alexandra Jane Williams of Triangle House.  Open Windows’ mission is to be a safe space, community space and creative space.  Located in the Bayview district of San Francisco, they offer letterpress and bookbinding facilities, and hold sacred space for ritual and contemplation.  OWC is committed to open sharing of ideas, skills, and support.

I’ve wanted to collaborate on a project with Alexandra for ages now; ever since I sewed curtains for her enormous studio windows, I’ve been dreaming about this space and the magic that is made within.  It’s remarkable how organically the studio has morphed into a shared space and creative partnership- Ava and Alexandra have the kind of tranquil, inquisitive creative partnership that is simply a joy to observe. We recently spent a Sunday afternoon snacking on Pocky and pamplemousse LaCroix, taking photos in their airy, gorgeous studio and brainstorming a lunar calendar collaboration.  Read on to learn more about OWC, then head over to the shop to snag one of the limited edition calendar prints!

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How long have you been in this space? Tell me about creating a shared studio and how you navigate that relationship/space.

Alexandra moved in July of 2014. When Ava moved into the space in March of this year, we decided to combine our resources, with a letterpress/bookbinding workshop on one side and meeting/ritual/plants/dance/dreaming space on the other. It was pretty seamless because we’ve been friends since we were 17 and shared living spaces in the past. But the space has steadily evolved and gone through transformations based on shifts in our priorities. It really is so much more than a workspace for us–it’s a safe space and a sacred space.

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How did Open Windows develop? What do you each bring to the relationship?

 Open Windows developed when we started looking at our space as less of a personal workspace and more for its community building potential, which we realized was the crux of our mission. We became less interested, and even resistant to, production– making things– and more interested in process and experience-based projects/endeavors. We both feel nourished by how much we learn from working with other artists. Our most recent collaboration, a solo art show with Mia Christopher, felt really successful and supportive. We had started developing the show in October and were pretty far down one path when the election happened; everything changed after that. Because we were all flexible and open, it was easy to pivot the show into a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, then into a silent auction. We plan to build on the success of that event, which I think can be attributed to the mutual support each of us brought to the process.

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How do you approach collaborative projects? Tell me about your process.

The projects are based around creative relationships we want to build with other individuals. We are so inspired by people in our community, and want to give them a platform for sharing work in an alternative setting. So far they have all been women visual artists, but we are also interested in collaborating with artists of other media, and also with healers, activists, and people doing earth-based work. From our initial meeting with that person (full of free association and grand visions) unfolds the project, whether that be a collaboratively-made object, a gallery show, or a workshop. Projects inevitably evolve in planning stages and we strive to honor that process. I’d also return to the concept of mutual support. We laugh about the fact that we sort of read each other’s minds, which makes it easy to step in and help when it’s needed! So far we haven’t really had to delegate tasks or project manage, we just make to-do lists and each commit/contribute to getting things done.

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What do you listen to/watch in the studio?

 Nina Simone, Kate Bush, Heart, George Harrison, Bowie, Broken Water, Dead Moon (Toody forever!), Arthur Russel, mixtapes… love those Mississippi Records comps. So far no watching, but we aspire to having a projector and movie nights!

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When do you work best?

 We’re morning people. And there’s nothing better than morning light in our studio!

 

Favorite part of the process?

The sense of empowerment we give and receive. There is nothing more gratifying than sharing support and excitement with a group of people who made the decision to show up and take action. It’s incredible how a little output of energy from us then gets magnified into a huge wave, and we all get to ride the wave.

 

Least favorite?

Perpetually dealing with material “stuff.” The running joke is that we are professionals at acquiring, moving, and getting rid of stuff.

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Dream project?

Land-based work. We dream of having our own land, of finding a community with a need that we can fill.  There’s a lot to this vision, and it’s ever evolving as we get older and hone in on who we really are, but one nugget that we love to muse about is a sustainable bath house. Much of the vision revolves around regeneration, healing (of the land and ourselves), and sustainable creative practices that fill a void.

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Click here to shop our exclusive lunar calendar, designed and printed by Open Windows Cooperative.

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