In the 13 years since Iris A. Brown Design was founded, Iris has collaborated with a non-stop cavalcade of creatives inside the vibrant New York City design community and its pulsing cultural machine. Her upbeat style and inexhaustible attention to detail has produced work for iconic NY institutions like Lincoln Center and the 92nd Street Y, as well as theaters, non-profits, wine importers, and textile manufacturers. When she’s not in her Aeron Chair working (“It was the most important piece of studio equipment I bought when I set up shop,” she says.), Iris is probably cooking, gardening in the Catskills, or exploring the eclectic musical mix that yielded this week’s Playlist. Take a listen.
What do you listen to while you work?
Just about any genre except “commercial pop” – world music, electronica, jazz through bluegrass and soul. It’s important for me to have a very eclectic mix of music, it somehow makes me feel at home in NYC maybe because it reflects the diversity of the city. It also keeps me from getting bored.
How do you listen?
I have a Bose speaker system hooked up to my desktop computer where all my music is stored. I have the studio to myself a lot so I can play the music loud without bothering anyone else which is useful…sometimes music just needs to be blasted, it helps get me motivated.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers?
When I’m not sure what I feel like listening to I pretty much always go to Radio Paradise, they have a fantastic eclectic mix. For jazz I listen to WBGO out of Newark NJ and WFUV out of Fordham University for alternative and local artists. And John Schaffer’s Soundcheck always exposes me to something unusual. I do Pandora on occasion and am just starting to use Spotify. I buy music from Amazon and iTunes.
Does music influence your work?
When I am working on a project to showcase a musical artist, I’ll listen to that artist a lot to help me get the right feel. For the 92nd Street Y’s tribute to Burt Bacharach I must have listened to Steve Tyrell’s Back To Bacharach 50 times that week.
For other projects, like creating pieces to showcase the children of the 52nd Street Project, the music I listen to can take me in all sorts of unique directions. I created some surreal plant illustrations (above) while listening to a lot of K.D. Lang and Dusty Springfield. Go figure!
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste?
Designers I collaborate with have turned me on to a lot. My summer intern has incredible taste and she exposed me to many artists that are becoming new favorites. My 13-year-old son has very sophisticated taste and he’s always on the prowl for new tunes, so he’s introduced me to some gems. My husband provided me with an amazing base of jazz standards, classical, R&B, and punk.
We also have friends who are musicians and artists and they’re always excited to share what they are into. And a huge influence is my client Celebrate Brooklyn!, a summer-long, very eclectic music festival that literally reflects the diversity of that borough. There’s always artists I don’t know in their line-up and I’m always prepared to be blown away.
What song or artist best represents the work you create?
Impossible! It would have to be upbeat because my work exudes a certain positivity, and quirky because I couldn’t tolerate just one style of music to define my work. It needs to be colorful, joyful, engaging… maybe Blackbird by The Beatles? Love You Madly by Cake? Roman Blue from “Rome” by Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi? David Bowie’s Oh! You Pretty Things? How can I choose just one?
Ideal place to sit and listen to your playlist:
The Eames Molded Plastic Armchair with Rocker Base in Aqua Sky, if possible in a room with a fabulous view.
1. Theme of ”Rome,” Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi
2. Anonanimal, Andrew Bird
3. Frank Sinatra, Cake
4. Bullet and a Target, Citizen Cope
5. Vaporize, Broken Bells
6. Paradise, Coldplay
7. Indra, Thievery Corporation
8. Believe, Ozomatli
9. Dum Maro Dum (Take Another Toke), Kronos Quartet
10. Batonga, Angélique Kidjo
11. 100 Days, 100 Nights, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
12. Cool Jerk, The Capitols
Photos: Iris Brown