EASTSIDE CULTURE CRAWL: With Chrystale Thompson & Jeremy Van Nieuwkerk Of Melk

Melk is a collaboration of curious craft-making between local Vancouver designers Chrystale Thompson of Ecstatic Design & Communication and Jeremy Van Nieuwkerk of Shrapnel Design. We’re aiming to build an Eastside Culture Crawl game plan this weekend that involves a quick bite of sushi at Fujiya and a look see at Chrystale and Jeremy’s studio (just around the corner on Clark). We caught up with the duo the other day to ask them a few questions about our creative city and the Crawl…

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Three things about your East Van that made you want to set up shop there: We love the people and community. It’s gritty elements and constant transformation make it quite inspiring. It’s also where we live. Our home is 4 blocks from our studio, which makes for an easy commute.

What will Vancouverites find at Melk? Warm cedar, white walls and black vinyl installations around the studio. Our art pieces are hung in the main showroom aside a selection of shirts, book bags, stainless steel cuffs and belt buckles. We also started a line of vinyl wall art and screen printed goods that are a lot of fun – moustaches, bears, birds, bikes and such.

How many years have you participated in the Eastside Culture Crawl? This will be our 5th year.

Three words you would use to describe the ECC to someone who had never attended: Overwhelming, inspiring, community.

What inspires you at Melk? Nature, human behavior and relationships. Current events and politics also seep in there quite a bit. We try to practice a “use every part of the buffalo” philosophy using leftover materials and transforming them into new objects of desire.

Favourite Melk design in the works: Working on a piece inspired by Occupy. There’s something about all those tents and people camping in the heart of downtown and across the globe that feels quite powerful and relevant for us. The struggle for survival as a little person is becoming a reality for more and more of us, including us creative types.

One Melk piece that really sums up your style? That’s a tough one, but we’d have to say the Eastside Landscape art plaque and cuff. It’s one of the first pieces we did together that really resonated with the locals and set the tone for our work.

What sort of music does Melk like to play? Broken Bells, DearTick, Florence + the Machine, Say Hi, Sigur Ros, Beruit, Starfucker, TV on the Radio. Also the classics: Chopin, Yo Yo Ma, Led Zeppelin and Neil Young light up the studio quite a bit.

Why is Vancouver a good city for independent design? We’re such a new, growing and forward-thinking city. It easily creates initiatives for designers and artists of all types to flourish. Doesn’t hurt to be in such a magical landscape as well. Local support for handcrafted, Vancouver made is impressive. Thanks everyone!

Is there a local designer or artist that you admire above all others? There’s quite a few designers we admire. Big fans of Taka Sudo’s paintings and use of colour and collage; Claire Madill’s ceramic porcelain vintage jars – very beautiful and fragile; David Robinson sculptures, so raw and powerful. We tend to gravitate towards process and technique. Each of these artists coax their memorable style and process well.

Best Vancouver place to be inspired by emerging artistic talent: Ayden Gallery has a terrific roster of emerging artists moving through their gallery.

Best Vancouver location for people watching: Havana on the Drive. It’s very colourful. The newly renovated Grandview park across the street is great too.

Three websites you visit every day: Cool Hunting, Fancy and CBC.

Three places you like to take out of town guests: Any of the Heather Group’s establishments, Seawall bike path and Dolce Amore (best Gelato in the city!)

Where do you enjoy shopping in Vancouver? Tell us about some of your favourite local haunts:  There’s way too many great restaurants in Vancouver that we adore to narrow it down! For clothes we like dutil for denim and nouvelle nouvelle. One of a Few carries simple jewelry featuring some lovely designers. Big fans of society6 for art prints, but we’ve purchased the bulk of our art collection through Ken at Ayden Gallery.

If you were going to recommend a Vancouver artist/designer/musician/personality for Scout to interview, who would it be? We’re both big fans of artist Dave Barnes, we have his work at home and at the studio. He’s such a talented fellow — lot’s of layers, humor and detail in his work.

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