Kristi Kohut Studio Tour
Walking down Milwaukee Ave, the charming main street of Libertyville, you might miss a narrow storefront tucked under an old-fashioned awning. The former horse stable is nestled in between a game store and salons in this small community north of bustling Chicago. But once you pass through the dark wood door set within an oversized arched window, you are instantly transported to the colorful, chic world of Kristi Kohut’s studio gallery.
Clean white walls, restored dark wood ceiling beams, and a crystal chandelier tie together rustic and urbane, old and new. True to its name as a studio gallery, Kristi’s space is neatly divided into a warm and welcoming gallery at the front and a productive studio at the back. As you enter, framed artworks glimmer from the walls with Swarovski crystals, glass glitter, and of course Kristi’s signature floral collages all housed in custom-made iridescent lucite frames. Kristi’s creativity is even showcased in the rugs and pillows that feature her painted designs (did you know about the studio’s partnerships with interior designers?).
Cleverly divided by cabinets and work tables, a pathway opens up into where the magic happens. An astonishing array of art supplies fills the space, reflecting Kristi’s unique and curiosity-driven approach to art-making. Jars of supplies line the shelves, books and magazines are stacked in preparation for collage research, printers and scanners sit ready for processing Kristi’s original and found images, and in-progress pieces lean on easels and against walls.
And in the midst of it all is the artist herself, smiling brightly, Kristi’s passion for creating and sharing her art radiating into the space. We sat down with Kristi to learn more about how she built this hive of creativity.
Tell us more about how you found and built out this space!
I spent about 8 months looking for the perfect space, but none felt quite right until I found this one. When I walked in I just knew! It needed a little love, but being a historic building, some beautiful details that just can’t be replicated today showed through the warped floors and graffiti covered walls. I saw the beautiful high ceilings and wood beams and the antique windows and arches and I was sold.
We painted everything white, sans the gorgeous wood beams and trim on the doors and windows. I love the contrast between the bright white and dark wood. Then we leveled the floor and put in weathered gray ‘wood’ flooring that is actually ceramic tile! You can’t tell by looking, but it gives me the durability I need in the studio. I added a bright chandelier in the middle and filled in the space with substantial desks and tables for my work space, which comprises the back half of the studio.
The front of the space houses the gallery, visible from the big windows leading out to the street.
There’s a lucite shelving unit that was a gift from my framing studio right in the window that I fill with colorful pillows from my home line and top with my latest acrylic sculptures. In the middle of the space there’s a white tulip table with a couple Eames wire-base acrylic chairs for displaying sculptures or hosting meetings with designers. The centerpiece underneath is a large wool rug from my home collection, to add some color and vibrancy to the space. Just beyond this is a tall chest filled with textile and wallpaper samples, sectioning off the “gallery” space from my working studio.
Where did you create work before you were here? How does your studio gallery fit into your path as an artist?
My previous two studios were both home-based studios, which were completely essential for me working while my son was little. As he grew and as my practice grew each one got a little bigger, until it was time to find an even bigger space that I could invite collectors and designers into to view the work and dream up new projects. (And my family is grateful to have a little less glitter scattered around our house now!)
Rue Magazine actually featured my home-studio...if you are curious to see, you can check it out here.
What is a favorite aspect of your multi-faceted creative practice that really keeps you inspired in the studio?
I like to work through a handful of different styles and series in my fine art practice and I also love the art of translating this into textiles and patterns for my home line. Everything in turn influences the other. This is one really great gift with the studio: I’m able to surround myself with all of the different facets of my work, which keeps the inspiration flowing and helps me keep a line of connectivity throughout.
What do you hope people will take away from visiting the studio gallery?
There is such a level of interactivity to my work that is so hard to capture in a still. The different layers and dimension, and the way the piece activates as light hits the glass glitter and crystals. My hope with my work is that it lifts you up out of the everyday and leaves you with a feeling, a joy of being part of something bigger. I also really love connecting directly with my collectors and the many designers that I work with. There’s nothing that can replace meeting face to face and this space enables that. ;)