(Photo by Stephanie Bassos)
What do you see when you imagine a holiday window display? Tiny elves? A dated Santa's workshop, trudged out year after year to entice the same weary shoppers into the same stores? Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover don't. The co-creators of Chicago design firm INDO are rethinking retail with their innovative, recycled window designs -- think a colossal maze of reused Styrofoam cups, or a beautiful cascade of paper cylinders. Their work is a visual treat that lasts long beyond the holiday season.
Sustainability and eco-friendly materials are part of your ethos. How did that take shape?
It was just how we make decisions in our personal lives. When we started out, though, we used to use props. And we would borrow them from [Chicago antique store] Salvage One. It grew organically into using discarded materials.
By now you must have a network of people giving you these things, but how did you get started asking people for their leftover materials?
I think it just started with friends, and friends of friends. We looked at all the obvious routes like Craigslist and Facebook, Twitter. We would take cardboard, and we’d find stuff in alleyways, thrift stores.
Do you have a term for your art?
We started by calling it window display, because we use windows as our venue, but we’re merging into other venues; we’re doing interiors, too, like private offices. The evolution we’ve had recently is “environmental design.”
Have you ever done anything or thought about doing anything tied to the holidays?
We’ve done displays that have been up during the holidays, but we don’t stay within that traditional holiday theme. Usually we try to invoke a wintery feeling. We’ve done “glacier” windows before. And the windows we have currently [at our studio] have a snowy feel to them.
When you imagine hurried holiday shoppers running around, popping into this place or that place, what would you want them to know about the work you’ve put into, or that anyone has put into, a display this intricate?
I feel like a lot of what we try to do is get people to just slow down and actually think about it. Even when you’re just shopping for clothing, or whatever you’re shopping for at the holidays, sometimes you’re just buying to buy something for somebody, and maybe if you stop and think about it for a second, you might make different decisions. So thinking about where things come from, or the work that went into it—it’s the same with window display as it is with anything else. It could be inspiring somebody to create, or inspiring them to change the way they think about things.
When you think about how consumers will tie your art into their holiday season, what do you want them to take away from it after they’ve left the store, after all the presents are unwrapped?
We pay a lot of attention to where our materials go, not just where we get them. We make sure they’re recycled or repurposed. We try really hard not to throw anything away. That’s an important part of Christmas, too. Not throwing away all that paper, reusing paper and repackaging it. Can you imagine every household in the United States? All that waste? It’s crazy. As a community, I feel like that can all be rethought.
This story originally appeared in Huffington, in the iTunes App store.