Kelly Tivnan: Pastperfekt

Pastperfekt is a design project based in Berlin.  Originally from Seattle, Kelly moved to Berlin in 2008 where she has been inspired by many things…


© Heather Schmaedeke

Heather: I love the play on words with pastperfekt: that it’s a “silly play on words combining and describing a grammatical tense with the pieces we use as the foundation for each series.

Although you’ve always had an innate love for arts & crafts, the love of deconstructing and rebuilding began at an early age and came from your grandfather. You mention an aquarium that you built together, what is it that’s so appealing about taking things apart and rebuilding them?

Kelly: I am curious about seeing internal/hidden structures, especially in old devices. I enjoy observing the incredibly complex hidden mechanisms within and get truly baffled by the advancement in technology over the last 50 years, regarding materials and sizes.

For example, much from these vintage objects are now obsolete. I find taking them apart I can understand some elements of the object’s history.

old clock

© Heather Schmaedeke

Heather: You use a wide variety of materials in your creations; everything from metal to glass to fabric – do you have a favorite?

Kelly: No, I don’t think I have one. In many ways I treat them all equally, not fair to harbor favorites in my atelier. I guess I work with what I concentrate on the needs of what the end “product” should be.

Heather: Also, you create so many different things from small personal objects like jewelry to large pieces like furniture, what are the joys and challenges of working on some many different scales?


© Heather Schmaedeke

Kelly: Good question! I am constantly juggling ideas and love the diversity of what my work can offer. I learn a lot from playing around and doodling. One challenge is realizing when something looks better on paper than in 3D and trying to manifest the idea further to become something “real” other times I just leave renderings as 2D dreams.

Heather: I hear you’re heading to New York to work on a recording studio. Do you have an idea of the scale of the project? Will you be bringing any particular tools or materials with you? Or will you look for the materials to work with once you get there? Do you enter into these types of commissions with an idea? Do you see the space and take your inspiration and direction from there? Do you have to submit a proposal first for approval? Do you have free reign?

Is each commission different?

Kelly: This trip to NYC will be a very big job for me. I have never been to the big apple so first I imagine I will need to get my bearings on the city. I received this job because I did a few other recording studios in Berlin and my client was here and liked what I accomplished and asked me to come manifest a space in Brooklyn for him.


© Heather Schmaedeke

I have a few ideas based off of my previous recording studio interiors, but since this will also have a small living quarters integrated, I am thrilled to have the mix of residential also happening within this project. The concept is a lovely one, the musicians recording, have can live where they work for the time they need. It is based off of a residency program.

I think my clients have sought be out because I can be trusted and also because of my style.

Usually each job/commission is different. Even if I have built a number of recording/mixing studios, each sound engineer is different, with different gear and recording needs. Usually I help more with aesthetical elements as acoustical treatments, however, I am learning more about sound and find it’s a wonderful field to be involved with. Especially since I adore music and have many friendships with musicians.

Heather: Writing anymore?

Kelly: YES! I try to make time to write daily. Words are part of my process.

Heather: Graphic design?

Kelly: I am very attached to graphic design. What can I say? I am a big communicator. I have a deep love for fonts and collage, photography, textiles, wallpaper, colors and forms. Graphic design reaches out to people and is a powerful tool. Even though I am not that active in this genre at the moment, I play around with the adobe suite just so I don’t forget how to use them.


© Heather Schmaedeke

Heather: How has/does Berlin inspire/influence your practice?

Kelly: I can’t think of one way this city does not inspire me. Staying open, with eyes and mind, the influences are everywhere to be taken in. I mean you know. You are also active and inspired by this environment.

Heather: When you’re looking for materials, do you have specific ideas before hand of what you’d like to create or do you let the materials speak to you? Or is it a little bit of both?

Kelly: Usually I don’t have any predetermined thoughts, objects simply speak with me. That sounds funny, but I mean, I can immediately see potential in materials, and I tend to notice that special something somewhere and can decide on the spot whether or not it should joining me or not.

Heather: What’s been your most challenging (in terms of deconstructing and reconstructing) object to create and why? Was it also your most rewarding?

Kelly: Hum, maybe the best way to state this would be : there is always at least one challenge with a project and there is always a reward. I think it’s a wonderful feeling to learn from what was unpredicted and leaving unconquered.

Heather: Are there any items or materials that you’d love to work with that you haven’t found yet? If so, what are they?


© Heather Schmaedeke

Kelly: I am sure of it. But am not sure what they would be. Maybe more glass, fabric, ceramic, I mean I have worked with them previously, while studying, but that still doesn’t make me a pro with them. I would like to have more time also in a metals studio again. I miss casting forms and have a couple ideas worth investigating!

Heather: You mention that you offer workshops, can you tell us about that?

Kelly: I do workshops, some private, some through establishments if the enrollment is high enough.

Heather: Where do you sell your things? Markets, websites, studio?

Kelly: I sell through all of the mentioned facets. Plus some local shops too. Always looking for new places to sell and display my work. I think too maybe as props for a photo shoot would be nice. Hoping word of mouth will help out in that department.


© Heather Schmaedeke

Please visit Pastperfekt and contact Kelly if you are curious about where you can find the products, to see or purchase, or if you have an idea for a custom project.


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