Frankie Toan is an artist working mostly with craft and DIY materials and techniques to create large, plush sculptures, interactive works and installations.
What is the story behind your latest designs/collection?
As an artist I make pieces and installations for galleries and other shows, but I also have translated some of those ideas and larger pieces into more of a production line. Many people think they can’t be art collectors, or can’t afford to buy work from an artist or gallery. My production line aims to bring art into the home in accessible ways. So while much of my gallery work is larger, and therefore more expensive, my production line pairs down ideas into affordable and sometimes functional pieces for the home i.e. candleholders, pillows, tea towels. The idea is that art should be lived with, and appreciated on an everyday basis. I like to make affordable work that people want to see, touch, or interact with everyday.
Much of my current work is also conceptually about touch and interaction, so I like to make things that are very tactile.
When designing who is the person you have in mind?
Someone who loves bright color, pattern and texture– and who loves to touch everything. I want my work to become part of your space and life, to be loved and held. I make work for folks who want to live with art.
What has been the most challenging thing when starting your own brand?
For me, it was–and to some extent, still is– getting used to the pace of things. I often don’t have as much time as I would like to just sit with a piece or experiment with material. Also, being my own marketing and admin person has been challenging. My strength lies in my design and making skills, not necessarily my email or promotional skills. Trying to learn to love all parts of the process has been eye opening.
What is the most important thing you have learned about design and yourself since then?
That having a schedule is the most important. Balancing all of the things I do is hard, but necessary. At any given time I am working on installations, making work for exhibitions, and working on the production line. I also work with an art collective called Secret Love, and all kinds of other things. I love the variety that being an artist offers me, so balancing my schedule has become the most important part. It is just me doing the scheduling, marketing, writing, design, and making (though I do sometimes have assistance with some aspects of the design and making process). Time is always the limiting factor, so trying to find the correct balance is super important.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
I love bright, outrageous and interactive art. I am inspired by artists and places that break down the barriers between the viewer and the art– such as the City Museum in St. Louis, where I grew up. I love the work of Ernesto Neto, and his huge immersive installations. Peggy Noland’s designs and shop concept are super inspiring to me. I also get a lot of my inspiration for materials and design from my friends and Instagram. I love thinking about Instagram as a virtual landscape and community, so I pick colors and materials from those images all the time.
What would be your one piece of advice to anyone embarking into the design business?
Catch up on your sleep, and have as much of a plan in place as you can before you begin, because once you start–if you’re lucky– it never seems to slow down.
I am so grateful for the many and varied opportunities that being an artist has allowed me. I have a wonderfully supportive family and community, and they push me to do more all the time.