At Voila Creative Studio, there’s an art to avoiding the boring
A modest, monochromatic storefront on La Brea Avenue camouflages a vast warehouse, where an artisan meticulously shaves foam into a sculpture of a cowboy, a jungle-themed lair features vintage German educational prints, and a grand chandelier made entirely of hands hangs above.
This is the Voila Creative Studio, a “visual laboratory” founded by Belgian artist Katrien Van Der Schueren.
The studio conceptualizes, designs and fabricates bespoke furniture, lighting, event and stage sets, accessories and fine art for clients such as famed fashion designer Carolina Herrera, the Cayton Children’s Museum in Santa Monica and the historic Hotel Jerome in Aspen. It also doubles as an event space and frame shop.
“I hate boring art that doesn’t say anything,” Van Der Schueren said. “Art needs to create a reaction, have contrast, humor, surprise and a sense of irony that makes you smile, but at the same time is aesthetically appealing and light.”
One of Voila’s current projects — a private residence at Maravilla in Cabo San Lucas, designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard — showcases that breadth of wit and creativity, with a collection of roughly 30 Mexican-inspired pieces of custom art.
“Because it has a [big] budget, there are a lot of big pieces including photography and collages which we make, print and frame here,” she said. “There’s rope art, sand art and sculptures. There are two big wall reliefs, concrete sculptures for outside and an indoor foam sculpture.”
A collage of a luchador is layered with images from Mexican culture — including the national flag, cacti and sugar skulls — while subtle geometric sand art takes its inspiration from the nearby beach.
“Martyn contrasts everything; that’s why I love working with him,” Van Der Schueren said. “You show him something new, and he immediately goes for it and trusts that we can do it, even if we never had before. He evolves with us, so that’s cool.”
What got you into custom fabrication?
I had a whole container full of these glove molds and had to do something with them, so we sold part at the Paris flea market and shipped a container to the U.S. Then you’re there with all these hands, so we turned some into a chandelier of hanging hands. That was interesting to me because I was working with and exploring different materials. Then people started ordering custom furniture and art.
How did framing start?
Framing actually started from the beginning in 2008 framing vintage posters from Europe and because I needed to frame my own art, and I couldn’t find a solution. It was either somebody who didn’t know what they were doing or I didn’t like the style, and then people just asked me to frame for them. It’s always been an integral part of my business. Now, for projects like Martyn’s, we make or print the art or collage and then frame. It’s all combined.
How hands-on are you with the art?
Very hands-on. I try to split it up because it’s two brains and once you’re hands-on I can’t stop, so I’ll either respond right away to an email or you won’t hear from me for days. Normally I will explore the materials and figure how we are going to proceed, so I’ll do a lot of different tests and part of the sculpting. Then I try to make it into something that can be done by others and I’ll help that process along the way, depending on where I need to be.
This space is sometimes used for events at night.
We rented out the space for U2 and Camila Cabello’s album releases. What interests me with that is that they ask us to do art fabrication for the mood and decor for the party. It’s fantastic that we get to create it and have it here. They pay to rent the space and for the art fabrication and bring a lot of people here, so we get new clients out of that. That’s the best type of marketing there is.
What are some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on?
The Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara. All the pieces were super fun and different, so it was very creative. It was also a collaboration with Martyn with a nice budget. It was a lot of collages and some paintings that were all Santa Barbara-inspired. There was an enormous quantity of different pieces — abstract, photography, vintage and some with humor. It was an opportunity to create a huge portfolio because we keep the copyright afterward.