The independent design scene takes care of its own. As in medieval guilds, talents band together to address pressing issues, such as copyright infringement, and share resources. These communities develop out of schools, geographic proximities, shared commercial platforms, and, perhaps most important, common interests. Within these tight-knit networks, individuals trade work and services among themselves, letting practitioners build collections while building communities. Barter culture is still going strong.
“It’s out of necessity and born from a desire to live with the things you want,” Brooklyn-based designer Aiden Bowman said. “Often, when you have to ship a piece for a show or photoshoot, it becomes a lot more convenient to trade it for something else you might want, rather than pay to ship it back. It boils down to neither designer nor photographer having the funds to purchase each other’s work.” The in-kind economy extends across disciplines. Bowman and partner Josh Metersky founded object-based practice Trueing in 2016. Firmly rooted in the New York architecture and design industries, the duo has forged strong relationships with many of the city’s leading creatives. The pair’s Brooklyn apartment includes a number of works that reflect these connections, like a sconce by lighting designer Bec Brittain.
“When we were a small company, we would weigh on friends to provide us with props for our first photoshoots,” said Brooklyn-based designer Nick Cope. “As collectors of art and design, we also enjoy the privilege of bartering with our friends so that we can surround ourselves with beautiful objects that we couldn’t otherwise afford.” For him and his wife, Rachel, founders of the Brooklyn-based wallpaper brand Calico, bartering is a great word-of-mouth way to drum up new business, but the duo sees it as more than just self-promotion; bartering is also a way to appreciate other talents. Bespoke Calico prints feature prominently in lighting designer Lindsey Adelman’s downtown Manhattan studio, while Adelman’s luminaires likewise appear in the Copes’ upstate weekend home, joining ceramics by BDDW and custom furnishing by Huy Bui and Ladies & Gentlemen Studio.