August 10, 2015

TOOOLS is a new company with an old ethos: form & function, created by Caroline Hwang & Joel Speasmaker, two veterans of the contemporary art and design community. Drawing inspiration from the elegant and practical history of handmade objects and their own imagination, each entry in the catalog is intended to be used, seen and enjoyed for daily life. Two minds are better than one; four hands are greater than two.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. We are Caroline and Joel and we run TOOOLS, a product company based in Los Angeles. When we aren’t making things for TOOOLS, Caroline is a food stylist and artist and Joel is running his design studio Forest.

What were you like in high school? Joel: Most of my time was spent playing in punk bands in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I probably learned everything I know in this time period.

Caroline: Extremely awkward around the general public of high school and inwardly awkward around my group of friends, which was probably due to my art-nerdiness.


How long have you lived in Los Angeles and what brought you there? Joel: We’ve been living here a little over a year. After living in New York for several years (and getting married at city hall), we were ready for something different. We spent some time down south in Asheville, North Carolina before we packed up and drove across the country with our two pets. L.A. was an easy move as we already had family and friends here, and the energy of the city is vastly different than when we both had lived here at previous times in our life.


How has living in Los Angeles affected your work? Joel: At least for me, I’m so much more relaxed here. I work hard but spend a lot more time outside of work than I ever did in New York. And being from the East Coast, and the South especially, I’m fascinated by the differences that I find in not only the landscape and geographies, but in the mindset of those that grew up here or have spent most of their lives here. Not better or worse, just different. I appreciate that I can carry influences from living on both coasts into my work.

Caroline: It has been much easier and relaxed here in Los Angeles, which gives me more time to work on TOOOLS and other creative projects. My brain goes a mile a minute and I constantly need a lot of projects going to keep me occupied, which was the good and bad thing about New York. I love the hustle and bustle of New York but at the same time it made me very anxious toward the end of our time there. L.A. is also the place I grew up and coming back to it in my adult life has reminded me of my childhood and (Korean) culture, which has in ways been inspiring.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after experiencing your work? Joel: A curious feeling.

Caroline: To feel anything.


What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Joel: Soccer jerseys, alchemy & mysticism, Yuichi Yokoyama, Citizen: Everybody is Going to Heaven, BPRD.

Caroline: Lucy Rie, utilitarianism, Helen Frankenthaler, Bauhaus textiles, food (especially California produce), and Calder, always.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Caroline: We have a lot of ideas in progress for TOOOLS and are in the slow process of producing them. I’m also finishing up the remaining sets for Series 01 of Banchan, with another series of twenty sets coming shortly afterwards.


If you were a drink what drink would you be? Joel: A perfect manhattan.

Caroline: A negroni, bitter yet sweet and not liked by everyone but loved by those who have acquired the taste. 😀

What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? Joel: In the city, the soccer field on Sundays with Futbol Domingos. In the world, probably somewhere in Japan.

Caroline: In the city, at the beach watching the ocean with my dog. In the world, somewhere in Southeast Asia.


What are you really excited about right now? Caroline: Traveling soon somewhere, hopefully!