(Malin and Lewis perform a squeeze-test on their new limited-edition pillow. All photos courtesy of Gray Malin)There is something a little bit design world Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski about photographer Gray Malin and interiors and home goods designer Amber Lewis. Okay, maybe not so much on the glam rock sartorial end of things (“I am kind of preppy,” Malin confides when we clock a monogrammed tray he co-designed with Boston-based ceramicist Jill Rosenwald on his coffee table), but like the aforementioned dynamic duo, these two tend to lapse into moments of mutual adoration, swoon for the right pattern, and sometimes finish each other’s sentences. We met with the pair at Malin’s West Hollywood bungalow to chat about their debut collaboration, a limited-edition hand-dyed silk and linen pillow (available today), that draws inspiration from Malin’s llama photographs, a series for which the photographer adorned the regal animals in oversized balloons and snapped them amidst the expansive majesty of the largest salt flat in the world, Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni. And you thought a triple lutz was impressive.
How did this collaboration come about?
AL: “Gray emailed me and was like, ‘I’m totally obsessed with your stuff.’ And I was like, no f-ing way Gray Malin is emailing me, because I had been purchasing his stuff and I’m a big fan. And then we made a meeting, and that was it.”
GM: “I’ve always dreamed of doing pillows. I looked at different pillows for a year and I thought, I just want something that’s amazing and high-end. Not just some pillow. And this is not just some pillow. It came together when a friend of mine, decorator Bailey McCarthy, who is also friends with Amber, suggested I reach out to her about a collaboration.”
(Malin's dog Stella cozies up with her owner's latest project)Wait a sec. You’re a photographer who travels all over the world—most recently Antarctica and Australia—and you’ve always dreamed of doing pillows?
GM: Okay, it’s not a childhood dream, but my work has naturally evolved into this lifestyle brand: it is about a journey. It’s no longer just the photograph. It’s about the photograph calling to a jet-set adventure—and introducing products inspired by those images that offer other ways to celebrate photography. The opportunity is limitless as long as you’re true to your brand and creating products that have a story. It all comes down to a story.
AL: And this pillow actually has a story. There’s like five different sources for the materials, including the cotton yarn tassels, which are from Morocco, and the silk Ikat fabric, which is from Uzbekistan. I tracked this dude down in Uzbekistan through word-of-mouth from some other vendors I’ve had, and I stumbled across this person in Morocco—I found him literally in the corner of Google.
(Llamas Black and White Balloons by Gray Malin)What made you choose the llama series to interpret as opposed to any other photograph from your body of work?
AL: "Amber loved my Ikat pillows—they drew us together—and this black-and-white version of the fabric mimics [the series]. It’s a no-brainer: the spots are the balloons, there’s white, there’s black, and then the adorable pink tassles …
GM: “The llamas are tagged with these earrings by their owners, so the tassles were this incredible representation of the pattern and the photograph. We’re offering a never-before-seen print from the series as a package with the pillows, so you can buy a limited-edition print that’s signed and numbered with one or two pillows. It’s a one-stop shop: a great piece of art for above your sofa and two pillows that were magically created to be paired with that piece of art. Bam!
(The pillow's Moroccan-imported yarn tassels)Purchase Malin and Lewis’s pillow and print packages, starting from $165, online at the newly relaunched GrayMalin.com and Amber Interiors.