Design Diary: The Ethereality of Andrea Smith

Design Diary brings us behind the scenes with our favorite rule breakers, risk takers and art makers. Every week, we present these questions to someone new, whether it be a New York Fashion Week icon, an emerging jewelry designer or a ceramicist shaking up fashion. Get to know the people changing the creative world from the inside out.

Callan Malone

AMS in Dream Studio, 2019. Photo by Danielle Aphrodite Nemet, drawing by Andrea Smith.

Two years ago, I walked by Andrea Smith painting a floor-to-ceiling mural in the window of a Greenpoint shop. This past Spring, I watched models in NYFW walk down a runway set against a backdrop painting by the 26-year-old artist and now I am pleased to call Andrea my friend. 

She’s collaborated with two of my favorite vintage collectors James Veloria (@jamesveloria) and Los Feliz Shop (@losfelizshop) painting backdrops for dreamy silk dresses and Gaultier mesh tops. This past year, Smith has spent her time split between Brooklyn and Barcelona, giving up her studio to jump from one shared space to another. As our third design diary feature, instead of submitting any average portrait, she decided to envision herself in her dream studio. Tiled floors inspired by her soon-to-be apartment in Barcelona and floor to ceiling windows are just the beginning of the short series she designed exclusively for Cultured. In one of our weekly lunches at Dimes, Andrea and I sat down to chat all things painting, Instagram and coffee.

Andrea Smith, Brooklyn Lobby, 2018.

What were you doing before coming to meet me? It’s afternoon now, I just ran a few errands, one of them to my favorite dollar store in the neighborhood. I found a beautiful deadstock bikini for $2! Good karma if you stay loyal to your local convenience. Then I spilled coffee.

What did you eat for breakfast? I make a smoothie with banana, almond butter, cashew milk and ice, cacao and a few other ingredients from my cupboard every morning. I’m laying off coffee right now until at least 1 or 2 pm

Whose art is inspiring you right now? Daniel Anum Jasper, a painter, and Paa Joe, a fantasy-coffin maker — both Ghanian artists. Also, Peter Beard, Nathalie Du Pasquier, and my dear friend & photographer, Cristina Bartley Dominguez.


JPG World for James Veloria, 2019.

Tell us the most important thing to know about your neighborhood. Currently I’m in limbo between spending some time here and in Spain, so my neighborhood is very temporary. I was South Brooklyn the last four years or so and everything felt very oriented around Prospect Park, the weekend markets, etc—though it was a bit further from my community. Now I’m in walking distance from many friends, so in contrast to my situation before I’m more community centric, taking the train less, having more spontaneous plans, and I think that is how its supposed to feel to get the most out of living here. Whenever I return, I would like to set some roots in one neighborhood for a while.

Where is the best place to go dancing? House of Veloria parties, or anywhere Anna Santangelo aka DJ Pashy is playing. Or my room in the morning

Your go to spot for a post show cocktail is I’m not enough of a creature of habit to answer this, it’s so dependent on the neighborhood! 

Last book you read? Love in Ancient Greece by Robert Flaceliere.

Andrea Smith, Hibiscus After Rain, 2019.

If not painting, then Something pertaining to ocean conservation, biological illustration, or architecture. 

What’s today’s worst trend? I don’t like how quickly trends cycle in today’s market. Social media is a pretty gross place for this, it seems like trends move through and into the abyss (or I suppose cycle back through my hometown) in less than a year. This might be wrong coming from me, but I’m over seeing fruit on everything.

If you could only eat one thing for the next three weeks, it would be Mom’s spanakopita.

Where do you go to wind down?If I can, I visit family in the Midwest. Otherwise I go to the beach.

What’s the first painting you remember loving as a child? One of them is the Promenades of Euclid by Rene Magritte, which I never knew the name of. I used to see it over and over again on field trips to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Another was a print of a painting that was in my room when I was really young, those two Raffaello cherubs resting their heads in their hands. 

Andrea Smith, “bedroom scene, including butterfly catching her reflection for the first time,” 2019.

If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?It would not include anything heavier than a sweatshirt, so I’d have to live someplace very warm! It would probably be a swimsuit actually

Who is your design icon/icons? I think a lot of artists who designed all aspects of their lives—Georgia O’Keefe’s hand-made, androgynous wardrobe, and Salvador Dali’s boat shack-turned-home that was perfectly tuned to catch the rising sun from his bedroom. My dream is to have someplace where everything I live with I’ve made or had some hand in designing.

Do you remember the first time you realized your work was no longer only your own? My understanding of this is image based – any work I share online becomes public, less mine, even if it’s still for me. Anyone has access to that photo once online and can experience it in any way they may feel inclined. I used to be more precious about my work, but at this point, I feel pretty detached from this reality. When I made my cherry earrings, (which is I believe how you and I met!) I had limited understanding of this or how it would make me feel if they were to catch on. Now I see old photos of them float around the internet, or other brands making them, and I feel fine — it’s just the reality of making work during this time.

How do you see yourself carving out a space in the art world? Do you want to?I want to make the art I want to see, and as I grow in my own process I think less of where it might fit in. 

If Instagram didn’t exist, you would…Be doing the same thing, I’d hope! Perhaps a bit quietly though—Instagram has enabled many opportunities I may otherwise not have had, and I’ll reluctantly say I’m grateful for that. 

AMS in Dream Studio II, 2019. Photo by Danielle Aphrodite Nemet, drawing by Andrea.

Is there a pressure to brand yourself as something? Andrea Smith is…I think this is the first thing you and I spoke about. As I’ve come into my own, I’ve resented the idea that one has to “brand” themselves or categorize their work in that way. As people we are so much more than the work we do. Being an artist, your work is generally an extension of your life and persona—and this complicates it a bit because you can’t necessarily leave it behind at the end of the day. So to add the pressure of being “on brand,” or provide a reliable aesthetic in any capacity feels inauthentic for me. I like to work through ideas as they come, even if they might be out of my usual medium or character. It is becoming more important to me to create a path that will allow me to not be pigeon-holed in one field—there are so many things I would like to do and I never want to fall into a pattern that would become expected from me based on past work. I am an artist, but my hope is that I could be described in many other ways, too.