all photos: Jeff Martin
Washington D.C. (which we, it goes without saying, LOVE) is many things but “a safe haven for creative careers” is probably not at the top of the list. The army of makers and artists that live in it often hold down 9-to-5 jobs in order to be able to afford it, and the struggle for finding a space to work in (that is not your tiny dining nook in your tiny apartment) is a constant one. And, as much as more traditional small businesses turn to coworking spaces, so do the artists and artisans. Two weeks a go we launched Rooms Of Their Own, where we visit and explore collaborative work environments inhabited by women.
We kicked things off with a visit to Brewmaster Studios, and our second stop takes us to The Lemon Bowl, a bright Georgia Ave studio, where a terrarium maker, a fiber artist and a surface designer create, collaborate, teach AND offer a space for others interested to make and learn (and learn now to make, click here for a full list of upcoming classes). Come on in and meet Holley, Linny and Kathryn, and get ready for some major workspace and life decisions envy.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you make?
Holley Simmons / SILL LIFE: As the founder of Sill Life, I make custom terrariums and teach terrarium classes out of The Lemon Bowl. I also sell a few standard products available for delivery in D.C., all named after the most important women in my life.
Linny Giffin / LINNY FRIEND: I am a fiber artist and teacher. I launched my website linnyfriend.com in October selling wall hangings and jewelry and have since been teaching my tricks of the trade at my studio The Lemon Bowl. I am really into textiles and fashion, right now I work a lot with weaving and embroidery but I’ve got a secret project in the works that brings a lot of my interests together.
Kate Zaremba /KATE ZAREMBA COMPANY: My name is Kate Zaremba and I am a surface designer. I make wallpaper, stationery, gift wrap….basically all things paper and textiles.
Before The Lemon Bowl studios, where did you work / what can you tell us about the experience?
Holley: I used to work out of my apartment in Mount Pleasant. There would be dirt everywhere at any given point. Luckily I had a very patient roommate and an even stronger vacuum!
Linny: I had just left behind teaching in pursuit of art/making full time and starting a business. I was working out of my Bloomingdale rowhouse, with my two best friends who also work from home. I think I’ll look back at that time with a lot of nostalgia but I was also completely terrified, feeling suffocated making things in my room and missing something I didn’t know I needed: community.
Kate: I worked from home (and still do a bit!).
How did you stumble upon / settle into the Lemon bowl?
Holley: A friend of mine purchased the building with the intent of eventually turning it into a cafe/sandwich shop. He reached out to me to ask if I knew of anyone who would want to use the space temporarily until he figured out what to do with it, and I asked if I could throw my hat in the ring. A few months later we had a lease!
Linny: The lemon bowl really fell into our lap when Holley got a call from our now good friend Max. He had a space and a vision of filling it with artists. Holley called me and I actually said no. I wasn’t in a place to take on more expenses. But after I hung up the phone I started to think of ways we could make it work. I left for a trip to Peru and had no internet for 2 weeks. I had no idea if I was going to come home to this new project with incredible friends I’d only dreamt of working with, or if it would be back to yarn and brass covering my bedroom floor. It was a long process but here we are.
Kate: Holley Simmons called me up and said “Hey! I think I may have a space we could all use to work and teach in” and voila! Linny and I were really into the idea. There was some serious fixing up to do to make it all come together but we made it happen and now have a really special place to come work in everyday.
Describe (each of you) what your typical work day looks like?
Holley: No day is complete without a run to the floral wholesaler for moss or my favorite garden store, Ginkgo Gardens, for baby ferns. I usually make a stop in the morning before going to my actual job — the dining editor at The Washington Post Express. In the afternoon I’m usually ordering bulk succulents from California, and in the evening chances are high that I’m leading a class. They’ve been very popular and have been selling out every month.
Linny: I go to the gym in the morning, and walk up to the Lemon Bowl if it is a studio day (I divide my time by studio or computer.) It’s usually pretty quiet so I’ll spread out, put on music and work on a commission, experiment with a new idea or prepare for a class. If I’m purely answering emails or updating the website, I love to work at Colony Club. I bartend there a few nights a week and it has a very Cheers vibe. You’ll always run into a friend or see a familiar faces and it’s a happy, energizing environment. Other nights I might be teaching a class at the Lemon Bowl or having a rare evening off catching up on Girls with my roommates.
Kate: I’m on the computer by 8am looking to see what orders have come through in the night. I do a lot of custom work for clients as well so often I have correspondence to do or designs to send through for approval. After that I prep and package orders to go out! Then I’ll pop to Colony Club before heading over to The Lemon Bowl to co-work with my other lemons. This involves playing around with new ideas or photographing new work. We also help each other! Navigating creative entrepreneurship isn’t always easy, so when we’re all here together we are often listening or bouncing ideas off of one another.
Did you know each other before you moved in and how?
Holley: I’d had a very big crush on Linny from afar just from seeing her around town. Eventually our paths crossed and it’s been pure magic ever since. And I’d met Kathryn through a custom project she worked on for me. (She makes the cutest little succulent illustrations!) I knew it’d be a long-shot that they would both be interested in teaming up for this, but I thought it was worth asking.
Linny: Meeting Holley is a story of destiny. We knew of each other for about a year and had so many bizarre missed connections. We finally met at a party one night and there was a lot of screaming and hugging involved. Kathryn and I met through my new roommate at the time, Gus. I remember when he started talking about his friend who made wallpaper, I was like. Wait…what? And she lives….in DC? I knew I loved her before I met her.
Kate: I actually met Holley and Linny last summer. I was working on a stop motion video and was reaching out to makers in DC and Baltimore to help me bring it all to life. We had mutual friends and really hit it off one night when they came over to make a whole bunch of paper flowers for one of the scenes. The rest is history.
Have there been any collaborations?
Holley: Kathryn and Linny have hosted embroidery classes together, and there’s been talk about pom-pom planters and botanical wallpaper.
Linny: We are always talking about collaborations because we really, really love each other. Kathryn and I teach together sometimes and Holley and I have big dreams of a pom pom x air plant marriage because we know they’d be a power couple.
Kate: The Lemon Bowl itself is a true collaboration! When you come to the space it feels so full of life. It sparkles with all of our creative ideas.
Creative space is at a premium in DC and we see sharing of the same more and more – what do you think are some of the benefits and disadvantages of working together?
Holley: I’m constantly inspired by what the girls are working on. I feel like just by being around them I’m absorbing all sorts of new skills, like how to hang wallpaper and how to wire electricity. (Linny is a DIY beast). It’s also nice to share materials as well as our network.
Linny: Working in a group means you have to compromise and really trust the people you’re working with. I wouldn’t do this with just anyone. The benefits far out weigh the cons, we have this community that feels very inclusive and it exists because we put our brains together.
Are there any shared co-creative lessons you learned?
Holley: Don’t over-extend yourself! You don’t have to say “yes” to every inquiry or request you get. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Linny: Work with people you look forward to spending time with and in this case, whose things you’re inspired to have around you. I think we’ve done a good job of appreciating each other and our milestones, It’s been a really fun adventure.
Kate: Co-create as much as you possibly can! Having these incredible women in my life and helping to facilitate workshops for our community has impacted my life in tremendous ways. Sharing knowledge, art, and friendship is really what it’s all about.
What is next for each of you? And what’s next for The Lemon Bowl?
Holley: I’m interested in doing more large-scale interior landscaping projects: restaurants, office buildings, etc. And we’re hoping The Lemon Bowl eventually outgrows its little space and touches as many creatives/makers as possible!
Linny: I have some fun secret projects I’m working on and I’ll definitely be traveling a lot this summer to fill the well. The Lemon Bowl has been a truly organic process and will continue to be, we’ll just have to see which way the wind takes us.