The first time I visited IKO IKO was in August of 2009 for an intimate performance with Mark Borthwick and Bow Ribbons. It was cool for a summer afternoon. About 30 people gathered at the shop on Sunset. I had never heard of the space before and left totally impressed. Every inch has been carefully curated. There is a magical-home feeling mixing beautiful hand crafted ceramics, wonderfully presented vintage books, limited run clothing by Rowena Sartin, and custom furniture by WAKA WAKA.
A few months ago, I made my way back. After being inside for a few minutes, I heard 3 or 4 very loud gunshots from across the street. Within seconds, police were on the scene and a crowd had formed. Kristin Dickson, the owner and director of the shop, very kindly went to the front door and locked us both inside. Upon retrospect, this was a happy accident — at least for me. It gave me the chance to get to know Kristin a little better, and to have an excuse to explore the shop for as long as I wanted without feeling like an imposition.
So what does IKO IKO mean?
IKO IKO is from the song recorded by the Dixie Cups from the 60's (originally a Creole folk song). Additionally, IKO IKO (or aeko aeko) is linked to a popular West African chant meaning "job well done," and in Japanese IKO IKO (ikou ikou) means "let's go!" I like the idea that it can assume both those things. I opened the space in April of 2009.
Why did you choose your current location?
The outside gates were a big factor. They're like a Frank Stella painting. We live in the neighborhood, so servicing the community with a different kind of store offering seemed interesting and challenging. Since we're not in a "designated" shopping area, I think it allows a really open interpretation of our store offerings. I never want a location to define us, but rather to be a store that can provide an experience. We are trying to offer an innovative perspective through the things we personally make as well as the artworks and functional pieces by our circle of artists/designers.
What is the history behind Rowena Sartin?
Rowena Sartin is my creative output. I started making things I wanted to wear, wanting it to feel very personal. I appreciate comfort and a straightforwardness but with one or two gestures that add an unexpected detail, a cleverness. Having the store space is a great experiment for the clothing and relating it to everything else in the space is part of the conversation.
And it is done beautifully. That is one of the main reasons I am drawn to your space. How did you come up with such an intriguing name?
Rowena Sartin is the name of my maternal grandmother. We share the same birthday and she was definitely an influential woman to me growing up… someone who defined individualism to me.
Outside of your grandmother, do you have an inspiration for your own work at the shop?
I think geometry and simplicity are what we consider for every project or piece and then how texture can develop, how humor and playfulness add something. For Rowena Sartin, I like to see how two-dimensional shapes like circles, squares, and rectangles can be transformed as the main structural element or how really common, classic garments can be reworked with a shift in proportion, repetition, or function. WAKA WAKA furniture pieces demonstrate a similar preoccupation — a sensibility to the architecture of a piece without over-designing. It's like a consciousness of people using your work, a balance.
Who else do you have at the shop? Any new work you're excited about?
Shin and I make a large portion of the work in the shop in a concept-driven way. We'll take a shape or a function and try it in many forms from interior/lifestyle objects to furniture to clothing. Representing texture, process, and intelligent design is the overall concern. We want to share pieces that are unexpected and inspiring, but with a very considered curation. Every artist/designer we include in the lineup is very special to us and in some way creates the story we want to tell at IKO IKO. We have the utilitarian ceramic ware by Matt Merkel-Hess, hand built porcelain vessels by Julia Haft-Candell, chain/solder jewelry by Hannah Keefe, ceramic vessels by Katy Krantz, wire sculptures by Daniel Hope, novelties and traditional textiles/ceramics/functional-ware from Japan. Shin's furniture line is WAKA WAKA and is a mix of reclaimed pieces as well as cut plywood forms with notched joinery. His pieces are quite unbelievable and create a really unique architecture within the space.
Our latest presentation is Zachary Leener's ceramic sculpture. They're quite interesting as totems, toys, curiosities. Their proportion and graphic quality almost insist that you touch them. The glaze work is this perfect balance of doodles and splatters in black and white mixed with a candied pastel palette. They almost seem edible.
Personally, I adore the Eden Batki ceramic plant holders.
I think IKO IKO starts a really specific conversation that I wish was more present in our LA dialogue. Do you feel yourself going against the grain here?
We try to put our ideas out there without the consideration of what the perfect place is. We focus on what isn't there and what we think is interesting and compelling. Many of the artists we show live and work in LA, and are doing some inspiring and beautiful work. It is fortunate to have a wide pool of creative output in LA.
What else is inspiring to you about the city these days?
Nature is always present and available to us in way that's different from other cities. The palette of Los Angeles is so influenced by light and then there's also this contrast between high and low that makes for an interesting visual conversation. The experience of space is really specific as something physical and emotional and with a very generous freedom to just "be."
IKO IKO is currently located at 1298 West Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. However, the store is moving across town at the beginning of August. Go for a visit!