Summer Editorial

Designer Interview Part 1: Pheobe & Peter of Cold Picnic


We're proud to present our next designer interview or in this case...talented local US makers/designers. It's been a pleasure getting to know Pheobe Sung and Peter Buer, the lovely couple behind Brooklyn-based accessories label Cold Picnic.  Their designs have been a shop favorite and the watches have been some of our best sellers. I've long admired their ability to create a variety of products (watches to wall hangings!) as well as to incorporate different materials in their designs. And yes, they manage to balance work, love and life with their dog Philip. Is there anything this wonder couple can't do?

Natural Leather Large and Small Face Watches

How would you describe your creative process: from design, inspiration to creation for each collection?
Phoebe: We take a few weeks and really try to pinpoint what we've been thinking about in terms of inspiration, as well as what we loved or missed from the last collection. That part is really important, because we get so excited about every new collection when it's first released. But it takes a few months of living with it to determine what elements we want more (or less) of. Once we've done that, we make a list of everything we want to make and figure out how it ties in together. Designing is usually a very mixed bag - we sketch, watercolor, make computer CADs, pick out colors, make mockups in clay, rope, and fabric.

I love that the Cold Picnic line has ventured into a variety of products from jewelry, watches to home accessories, and now leather goods. What’s next for Cold Picnic in terms of new collections or product lines?
Peter: We make so many different items that we don't really want to expand too much. But one thing we haven't been able to stop thinking about is rugs. Since our wall hangings incorporate Rya, a handwoven scandinavian rug making method, we thought it would be interesting to have our wall hangings made into larger rugs, in current designs as well as some new ones. We would also love to incorporate our macrame into a few furniture pieces.

Home/Studio Photo

How did your accessory line get started?
Peter: We lived in Boston for about five years before moving to Brooklyn. The last summer in Boston we spent driving around to all these little towns for their library booksales. It was a fun way to say goodbye to the city, and to visit towns that we otherwise might not have seen. Afterwards we'd have a picnic or a fried clam shack, and visit a beach or trail nearby. The best part was going through all the books we'd bought - loads of 70s craft books, books on national parks, animals, caves, textiles. I don't think at the time we thought it would turn into a jewelry line but we got so inspired by all the images and the crafts in the books that we started trying things out on our own.

Wall Hangings and Bags from their new collection

How has your designs changed and evolved since you started?
Phoebe: Loads. It started as a way to blow off steam after work, since we worked in corporate fashion - Peter doing print design and me designing apparel. We both had a background in fine arts and in fashion design, but neither of us had any formal jewelry training. Our first pieces we designed were carved into linoleum and block printed onto leather straps. We rolled them into bead-like shapes for big statement necklaces -  we didn't have access to casters and couldn't do ceramics, so that was our way of making beads! 

Once we moved to New York we were exposed to so many more resources and met other designers who helped point us in the right direction. Instead of just drawing and block printing an image, we could actually fabricate the image and have it cast. We also briefly owned a store with another brand Species by the Thousands. It was in Williamsburg and was called A Thousand Picnics. A lot of the expansion within our line happened during that period of time (a little over a year). We kept making more and more things to fill out the shop - plant hangers, wall hanging, bags, soap, even all natural cleaning products! When we decided to leave, we realized many of these pieces had become a really important part of our line and we didn't want to give them up!

Plant Hangers

Running a business requires a lot of time and passion. What do you guys like to do on your down time-hobbies/interests?
Peter: Well, many of our hobbies have been absorbed into the brand. So a lot of the things we would do in our down time are the things we actually do when we're working - sketching, crafts, making things for the house. And because a lot of the work we do is by hand, we're able to listen to NPR or watch TV shows while working. Some of the pieces (especially the wall hangings) take several days, so we end up watching a LOT of TV :) 

We both love to cook, and to eat. If we need a little break away from the studio (which is in our apartment) we may take a little day trip - something that incorporates a nice walk for our dog Phillip, and something nice for us to eat!

Any irks and quirks you'd like to share?

Phoebe (irks)
- Cilantro
- Not being able to bring Phillip into restaurants
- Telephone calls

Peter (quirks)
- lifetime supporter of Arsenal football club
- We keep water guns in every room of the house to spray our constantly-misbehaving cats

I find inspiration at home and places I’ve visited. Your collections feature themes and names of places. How does your surroundings influence your design?
Peter: Very much so. Not necessarily our immediate surroundings but definitely the environment and landscapes throughout the US - we're sort of obsessed with national parks. We're constantly planning trips which we haven't had time in the past year or two to visit, so sometimes we visit vicariously through our collections.

I know it’s so hard to choose. Your watches have been a favorite in our shop. But what are some of your favorite pieces from your collection?

Peter: The new printed pieces and the new collection of wall hangings I think are my favorite pieces. We're also really excited about the new jewelry incorporating enamel.

Your products involve the use of a variety of materials from metals, textiles to leather. What do you like most about the process of exploration of different materials in your design?

Phoebe: When we had the shop we were just making the bags and home products as quickly as we could to fill the place out. So although they adhered to our overall design aesthetic and used the materials and techniques we'd been working with all along, we didn't truly design them as a part of our collection until recently, maybe the past two collections. It's been wonderful to design all these different pieces as part of the same collection and see how we can tie together prints with jewelry with wall hangings and plant hangers.

What is your personal style or aesthetic? What are some of favorite your pieces, items you collect for you or your home?
Phoebe: We both dress pretty simply, and actually from all the time living and working together have come to dress pretty similarly. In the winter I like Acne or Wood Wood jeans - mainly cause they're good for girls without hips/waists! - and a mens sweater. In the summer, tatty old jeans shorts with silk button up shirts. Love Dieppa Restrepo or Louffler Randall shoes. As for the home, we've been mainly trying to build up a really nice collection of cookware. I'd love to get a rack going of beautiful copper pans, but space is always an issue. 

Peter: I hate dressing for summer, but one summer staple is the white Vans LP. Phoebe and I used to go through several a year until we found out they got discontinued! Now we have to be very careful with our last pairs, since there won't be any more. In colder weather I love shirts by Band of Outsiders and Patrik Ervell, Levis jeans, and Opening Ceremony chukkas. 

Hope you enjoyed this interview. It's always a pleasure to share our designers' creative process as well as their personal side. We haven't met in person, but they're a great couple you just want to hang with. Thank you so much Pheobe and Peter for taking the time to answer our questions. We really appreciate it! {Stay tune for Part 2: Travel Tips from Pheobe and Peter} 

Images courtesy of Cold Picnic
Designers and Home/Studio Photos by Agnes Thor


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