By PHILO COHEN Photography NATALIE YANG
Peaches and I met a couple of years ago through a mutual friend. We did not become close right away, but I always saw her as one of the most hard working people I knew. Last year, she moved a few subway stops away from me in Brooklyn and we started to bond. Her constant need for creation, and her eagerness for new projects stunned me. She was attentive to details, and rigorous in her choices while staying practical. Her work reflects her straight forward mind. I am so excited to e-introduce you to one of the most driven people I have in my life. Glimpse into a casual conversation between two best friends about following your instinct, and surviving as a component of the Big Apple.
Philo Cohen: I just met your mother a couple of times but all of what I hear and see from her is that she is such a strong woman. She is doing a crazy road trip right now, alone with her dog and her car. I would love to know how her presence influenced you growing up.
Peaches Harrison: She always encouraged me to follow my dreams, no matter what that was. She taught me how to truly evaluate the pressures that I put on myself, and the way in which I saw the world, and what I was making. She is so strong, and such an entity in the world. She is not independent because it is not her goal to be outside of others, She is her own strength and her own compass, while still having the ability to rely on others. That is something I really try to take into life with me. I can be strong, I can be alone in New York, but I can still have the vulnerability to fall back on the ones I trust.
PC: Being alone in New York... The eternal challenge. How was the transition from moving out of home, to here? And, here is the big question: Why New York? What gives you fuel to stay in this city daily?
PH: I wanted to move here because of this whole idea that we have about New York: opportunity. I grew up in a very small town in Utah, and no matter how much I like to think that there is equal opportunity everywhere, it is hard to immerse yourself in places that aren’t immersive. New York is immersive. You are either here, and you’re doing it, or you’re not. Being in New York gives you no other choice but to create, because time here is incredibly valuable. Paying your rent, taking the subway, running to meetings, everything is valuable. There is no time for wasting.
PC: This insane value of time makes you change at a high speed too. I remember when I met you you were on a totally different path. How do you see your evolution as an artist, and as a thinker since you’ve been here?
PH: To me, New York is like a petri dish. Everything, including you, grows very quickly because you curate your environment to a place of positive growth. I entered Parsons as a fashion design major, because you have to apply as a major. It felt very right at the time, I had been an apprentice for a fashion designer for about two years, and my portfolio was pretty much only fashion based. I still love fashion, but I had more to give creatively than what I could manipulate in a soft material like fabric. I think that is what drove me into the industrial design program. The fashion design program is very specific to fashion design, while in the product design one, I could really curate the program depending on what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. I work not only in wood, but also in large scale metal; I do jewelry making… I am designing both for myself but also for niche populations. I made a stool exclusively for the NYC Community Gardens commuters. I am exploring everything that I can think of creatively, without having boundaries of not knowing how to make it
PC: I think it pretty amazing that you started off with a very strong formation in a specific area, and decided to completely switch media halfway through.
PH: With practice and practice and practice comes the confidence to jump into your work without any hesitation. Only this year, I was doing eighty hours a week of only product design, or furniture design. This time spent on the matter really builds a certain confidence. I no longer identify as a fashion designer, I don’t even know if I identify as a product designer but I do identify as a designer because I have skills in all of these different realms that gave me the comfort to make whatever I chose to make.
PC: Within this strong confidence you built, do you ever feel challenged by patriarchal pressure?
PH: Industrial design is a hugely male dominated field, and building sure is too. I struggle everyday with going to Home Depot, for instance, and having a very concise, well educated question, and just based on the way that I dress, and the fact that I am a woman, I get very talked down to. They over-explain concepts to me that I am very knowledgeable about. It is not common to see women working in such laborious environment. It is hard, but it just makes me even more motivated to show them what I can do. I do go into my work with a woman’s eye.
PC: What’s that?
PH: How we have adapted to seeing things not at the surface level. Men were hunting and women were gathering. Women needed to be able to look at the details of a bush and identify if the berries were edible or toxic. When I am looking at things, I am not seeing just the surface level, but the big picture. I want to look for those details, and I want to have that come accross my work in a well rounded beautiful way.
PC: Where do you think you’ll end up?
PH: I am still figuring out my personal aesthetic and growing within that. I have not really defined what I want to do just yet, because I feel like I am at the storefront of exploring the possibilities. I see myself working in furniture design, I see myself working in jewelry design, but I am not quite ready to put myself in a box for the future yet. I am still making these big discoveries about who I am as a designer.
All of the pictures documenting Peaches' work are her courtesy.