This Brooklyn Studio Gives Leather a Painterly, Patterned Twist

Artist Brit Kleinman discusses the ideas and influences behind her home furnishings label, AVO.

AVO’s Brit Kleinman lays a thin layer of graphite dye over a hide.

From milky, marble-like veins to geometric patterns informed by swatches of a city, the inventive designs that cover AVO’s hand-dyed leather hides both decorate and invigorate a space. Each piece is created in Brooklyn by artist Brit Kleinman, who was born and raised in Los Angeles. She draws on all elements of culture—cityscapes, gathering spaces, the natural world—to create bespoke textiles that celebrate the distinct qualities of leather. Her lovingly executed rugs, pillows, wall coverings, and upholstery all naturally change with use over time. Surface spoke with Kleinman about how her appreciation for a singular material evolved into an expanding universe of interiors that exists at the intersection of art and design.

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Panels created for Belcampo restaurant in Santa Monica, California.

Tell us a bit about AVO’s story. How did the studio evolve?
The first version of the company started in 2007, when I was [working with local textile artists] at the Chichicastenango market in Guatemala and was inspired to start an image database of street markets throughout the world. For me, AVO represents the time and place when I started to think about design and culture as one. My artistic background is in painting and industrial design, and I spent several years designing bags for travel and daily life. I became captivated with the versatility of leather—it is durable yet incredibly soft; flexible yet strong. In 2014, I started AVO inside my Brooklyn apartment, dying leather on the living room floor and storing materials in the linen closet. About a year later, I moved into a studio space and began growing the company.

What is the driving force behind AVO’s work? 
AVO explores the relationship between materials and techniques, leveraging both as tools for storytelling. I aim to create surfaces that draw you in and elicit a new appreciation for the space you inhabit. Using both traditional and unconventional methods, the studio creates patterns that reflect the world around us. Each piece is made to last and gets better with age.

What is your definition of good design?
Good design can be a lot of things. It can blend into the background or be there to make a statement. Either way, it is about integrity and thoughtfulness.

What new projects do you currently have in the works?
I’m working on my 2018 collection of rugs and wall coverings, which will launch next month. I’m excited to be pushing the boundaries of the material with different techniques and applications. Conceptually, the last two collections have focused on the layers of city life and the structures we create around us. The new line focuses on the power of nature and the enjoyment of feeling small in comparison—which I experienced as a child among the canyons [in L.A.].

AVO uses traditional textile techniques to create its Framework print hide.
AVO's Strata print in Sky was inspired by a Brooklyn Navy Yard tower that Kleinman passed by daily.
Scallop tiles in a pearl finish are designed to play with scale and evoke the texture of weathered wood shingles.
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