Rules of decor
Jewelry designer and video artist Lisa Slodki makes up her own decorating guidelines.
“Please don’t call me a cat lady in your article.” That’s one of the first things Lisa Slodki, 37, says as we tour her one-bedroom East Village apartment/workspace. “You have to really watch it when you live alone, to not have too many cat things,” the jewelry designer (lisaslodkijewelry.com) says.
For the record, “cat lady” didn’t even occur to us. Slodki describes her place as “gingerbread-house-meets-non-narrative-fairy-tale,” and we agree. Sure, there are plenty of cat figurines in the space (usually collected on a hanging shelf in the bathroom), but you’ll also find the stuff of fairy tales: hand puppets, plush mice and fuzzy rabbits. Even Slodki’s personal style (from her bright red hair to the gingham dress she’s wearing) would fit comfortably in some sort of Tim Burton update on a classic tale.
One of her self-imposed rules of decorating is to exclude images of humans. While she does make a few minor exceptions (such as a photo of her nephew on the fridge), animals crop up all over the place. Take the elephant and bunny hand puppets propped next to the display of her handmade earrings in Slodki’s small side room where she designs and makes her dainty and understated jewelry. “I might not exist if it weren’t for those puppets,” Slodki says. The simple felt puppets belonged to her mother, who was in a puppet troupe before Slodki was born. During her time with the troupe, Slodki’s mother met the brother of one of the other troupe members; that man became her husband and Lisa Slodki’s father. A few more puppets pop up throughout the apartment (Slodki has a box full of them, and often rotates the puppet displays), as well as other mementos from her childhood, including the 1970s rag doll with red yarn for hair on her bedroom dresser. “I’m breaking my rule with this doll,” she says. “But that’s okay because she kind of looks like me.”
While the doll might mess with Slodki’s “animals only” aesthetic, it does follow her preference for vintage items. Not far from the doll, there’s the mid-1970s Zenith solid state Trans-Oceanic Radio on the dresser that Slodki uses to listen to public radio. Step out through the bedroom door and you’ll find a minty green-walled kitchen packed with vintage goods including a cabinet brimful of mix-matched cups, mugs and plates. The table is one of Slodki’s favorite scores. “I found it in the trash on a cold and rainy day,” she says. “It looked really messed up and it was hard to haul home, but I knew it was a gem.” She also salvaged the old-school diner menu sign hanging above her oven from a Rogers Park alley.
The sign reflects Slodki’s other rule: featuring artwork that isn’t “intentional artwork.” Xeroxed photos of cats from a book called The Treasury of Kittens hang on the wall along with postcards and patterns from craft projects.
Other items that recur throughout the space and could be considered functional art are the various vintage TV sets and monitors. In the living room alone, at least ten monitors and VCRs stack up like Tetris bricks (the video game just happens to be Slodki’s favorite). In addition to making jewelry, Slodki is also a video artist (who goes by the name Noise Crush, noisecrush.com) and creates background videos using VHS tapes for live experimental music performances. Most of the monitors and television sets are used for her video art, but they also add an interesting element to the space. While it seems everyone else is upgrading their pad with flat-screen TVs, Slodki is filling hers with these relics. “I get some channels, so I’ll watch TV sometimes,” she says. “But they’ve kind of become part of the furniture.”
Of course, she has about ten more TVs in her building’s basement. She’s holding on to them because they might come in handy someday. “That’s the thing about being an artist,” she says. “I try to live within limits and be very organized, but everything has the potential to be an art supply or props for a video—or, in my case, display items.”