Interview · Nicholas Andersen & Julie Ho of CONFETTISYSTEM

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
21st of June 2013
PARTYPARTY paper decorations designed by CONFETTISYSTEM for Urban Outfitters.  Photo - Estelle Hanania.
PARTYPARTY paper decorations designed by CONFETTISYSTEM for Urban Outfitters.  Photo - Estelle Hanania.
Custom props and set design elements created for Harpers Bazaar metallic accessories story, 'Gold Standard', December 2011 issue.
'Complex Garland no. 3' -  installation for a group show at cult New York retail store Maryam Nassir Zadeh.
Julie Ho of CONFETTISYSTEM at the Melbourne Town Hall, installing their art deco inspired chandelier and installation for the premier of the Regent Theatre’s production of King Kong last week.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Finishing touches at CONFETTISYSTEM's Manhattan inspired installation for the premier of the Regent Theatre’s production of King Kong last week.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Julie and Nick of CONFETTISYSTEM at the Melbourne Town Hall, installing their art deco inspired chandelier and installation for the premier of the Regent Theatre’s production of King Kong last week.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
We're taking a little break from tradition today, by interviewing a couple of international design stars for the first time!   We feel it's totally warranted in this case because New York based cult crafters CONFETTISYSTEM are actually in Australia this month, having just created an incredible art deco inspired chandelier and installation for the premier of the Regent Theatre’s production of King Kong in Melbourne, at the invitation of local event designer (and previous TDF interviewee) Christian Wagstaff. CONFETTISYSTEM is the joint project of friends and creative collaborators Nicholas Andersen and Julie Ho, who met in New York in 2001, and found common ground as enthusiastic decorators of their mutual friends' parties and performances. They loved collaborating with one another so much, they continued creating various projects together, and in 2008, they launched CONFETTISYSTEM with a series of custom made piñatas and necklaces using handcut metallic foil and paper. Five years on, these guys are totally killing it.  Through word of mouth and the magic of the internet, CONFETTISYSTEM's unique body of work has reached an incredible worldwide audience, and has catapulted this prolific duo to the dizzying heights of international notoriety.  Their work spans visual merchandising, art direction, set design and prop making, and everything inbetween - all painstakingly created by hand in Julie and Nick's Brooklyn studio.  They have created installations and custom projects for much loved fashion stores Opening Ceremony, Urban Outfitters, Lanvin and J. Crew.  Other clients include Mercedes Benz, PS1 / MOMA, The New York Times and Bergdorf Goodman. They've even created custom confetti for BEYONCE (O.M.G!), and a stage set for B's soulful younger sister, Solange. NOT BAD.  Not bad at all, for a field that basically DID NOT EXIST before Julie and Nick came along!  You gotta hand it to New York City - think of the most completely brilliant, unique and utterly random way to make a living, do it with conviction and a good pinch of perfectionism, and before you know it, your work is hanging in the coolest shop windows on Broadway and glittering up Beyonce's latest music video. We are super thrilled and more than a little starstruck to interview the inspiring and incredibly hardworking pair behind CONFETTISYSTEM, and share their story with you today!  If you cannot go a day longer without owning a little touch of CONFETTISYSTEM bling for yourself, you can purchase one of their fabulous handmade tassel garlands, necklaces or piñatas from their online shop.  A selection of their ready-to-hang decorations can also be found at Third Drawer Down in Melbourne, and The Society Inc in Sydney.
Tell us a little bit about each of your backgrounds – what did you study, and what path led you to partnering with each other to bring CONFETTISYSTEM to life in 2008?
We originally met through mutual friends and realised we shared a very similar aesthetic, our relationship grew out of our mutual obsession with dusty dollar store decorations, faded paper, and our overlapping childhood memories. Julie – I was born in Taiwan, grew up in New York City, and went to the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and studied fine arts, concentrating on sculpture and photography. Nick – I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, and went to college to study ceramics and graphic design at the University of Michigan. We both met in New York in 2001 and began decorating friends' parties and music performances. We really loved how we could transform a space and mood for one night, adding an energy to the space and leaving people with a memory. We loved it so much we decided to continue creating together and exploring the transformation of energy within a space through installation. Our work is an expression of our combined cross cultural memories, drawing inspiration from rich sensorial experiences within temples, clubs, and other places of healing. CONFETTISYSTEM started with our piñatas and necklaces, this was the first series of objects we created in 2008. We both have backgrounds in set design and sculpture so it was natural for us to see our objects in a very specific context, and then to photograph them. Eventually the photos made their way online and we started collaborating on sets and custom pieces with our friends and then for an expanding range of clients. It has been a very organic process.
Installation and table decor created for the American Ballet Theatre fundraising Gala at The Lincoln Centre, New York, October 2010.
CONFETTISYSTEM’s success in recent years has been unrivalled! Did you ever imagine the business would take off the way it has? Was there a particular project that acted as a launch pad / turning point for CONFETTISYSTEM?
Our first installation involving multiple piñatas was for our friends at Opening Ceremony, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at their first store on Howard Street in NYC. It was our first large installation with eight oversized piñatas. It was the first time we really saw the amazing combination of the forms and the material come together in a big way - they really let us take over the window.  It was a great opportunity to push the installation as far as we could, it was fantastic! And yes, The New York Times 'T' project has been one of our favorites!
The New York Times 'T', created for the Spring 2012 Travel Issue of the NY Times Style Magazine.
CONFETTISYSTEM's list of clients is beyond impressive - you have created installations and acted as art directors for fashion labels Lanvin, J Crew and Opening Ceremony - and even for music royalty Beyonce! With this in mind what have been one or two of your favourite projects or installations in recent years?
Beyonce was amazing! We made custom confetti for a few shots in her '1+1' video, it was a very slow falling gold confetti, so gorgeous. This past winter we created a set for Solange and her performance at MoMA to launch the NY Armory Show. We got to employ our new Black and White PARTYPARTY pieces that we created for the MoMA Design Store, it was an amazing show! On the top of the list is our recent installation at PS1 MoMA this winter. They gave us complete control of a huge two storey space. We were inspired by theatrical rigging and fly systems, and created a large multifunctional space in which we suspended dozens of objects.  Each piece was hung from a pulley that allowed us to raise and lower each element and create hanging compositions with our piñatas, metallic walls, flower branches and oversized fruits. We created different sets for each of the different events we held in the space.
CONFETTISYSTEM limited edition holiday accessories collection, December 2011.
Melbourne event designer Christian Wagstaff recently brought you guys out to Melbourne to create a Manhattan-inspired chandelier and installation for the premier of the Regent Theatre’s production of King Kong at the Melbourne Town Hall. How did this commission come about?
It has been so great working with Christian and his team! We have been on his radar for a while and we had been in touch hoping to collaborate. And then out of the blue about three months ago, he proposed we create a centerpiece to celebrate the the premier of King Kong. We thought it was a genius idea, we loved the idea of creating a piece with an art deco reference and it was a great way to bring a bit of New York to Melbourne - plus it would be our first visit to Australia! Christian outlined the scope of the project and we were sort of blown away, he wanted us to create a chandelier that was 18 meters high and 10 meters in diameter. We were stunned and then got very excited, we spent several months planning and building and then we shipped the entire chandelier to Melbourne in pieces. We arrived in Melbourne two weeks ago (we love Melbourne!) and met with the fabricators and riggers who had been working on the base structure for the chandelier. Then very very early on the day of the event we began unpacking and installing the pieces we had shipped from New York. It took about 10 hours to get everything in place, and then they began lighting it and bringing it to life. It was an amazing experience seeing the project through to completion, it is our largest installation to date!
CONFETTISYSTEM's recent creation in Melbourne - an 18m tall Manhattan-inspired chandelier and installation for the premier of the Regent Theatre’s production of King Kong, at the Melbourne Town Hall.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.
Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of CONFETTISYSTEM? Where are you based, how is your studio structured, do you employ any staff, and what significant tasks do you outsource?
We have recently moved the studio to South Williamsburg in Brooklyn. It gave us a chance to get really organised, and we had our first sample sale which was fun. CONFETTISYSTEM is still primarily the two of us, but we do have extra hands and friends on hand for larger projects and busy weeks. All of our work is still created in the studio by hand, it offers the most flexibility and really lets us tailor how we approach each project. Our new PARTYPARTY line of paper decorations is the first range we have produced outside of the studio. We are working with a New York company to design these custom shaped, hand dyed, honeycomb paper objects, it's a very different process but also a great challenge.
A permanent custom store installation created by CONFETTISYSTEM for Crewcuts store in Tribeca, NYC.
A permanent custom store installation created by CONFETTISYSTEM for Crewcuts store in Tribeca, NYC.
What does a typical day in the life of the CONFETTISYSTEM duo involve?
Now that we've moved we love walking to work! We both live about a 20 minute walk from the studio which is new for us, it's been great this spring and summer. Day to day, we are basically in the studio all week, managing, building, shipping and prepping. Toward the end of the week and weekend we are often doing site visits or installing our pieces for events.
Bird inspired headpieces created for Open Ceremony's flagship NYC store.
Which creatives are you loving at the moment?
After our visit to Melbourne and Sydney we have been loving Third Drawer DownP.A.M.WITU, and The Society Inc by Sibella Court. We also love photographer Marcelo Gomez, and jewellery label Hanna Sandin / SAMMA.
Can you list for us 5 specific resources across any media that you turn to when you're in a need of a bolt of creative inspiration?
Sight Unseen is a favorite, they were the first to do a studio visit. We also frequently visit / read Ying Yangs BlogApartamento MagazineTropica: Color Encyclopedia of Exotic Plants and Trees, or any James Turrell book.
Custom are commission by CONFETTISYSTEM created to celebrate Mercedes Benz' 4 million online fans.
What would be your dream creative project?
Creating a playground or opera set, or maybe a combination of both?
What are you looking forward to?
Summer in NY! We are creating a new set for the PS1 Warm Up series, that is always really fun. We also plan on heading to the beach now that it has warmed up!
Custom set design elements created of New York architectural landmarks for a publication for Japanese fashion brand 'Urban Research'.  Photo - Zoe Ghertner.

New York Questions

Your favourite NYC neighbourhood and why?
Queens (Jackson Heights, Flushing), because of the food! And it's the most culturally diverse borough in the city.
Your favourite fossicking spots in NYC to buy the tools of your trade?
We love the flower district on 28th street in Manhattan near our old studio space. It's inspiring to see all of the fresh flowers, textures and colours. And the florist shops have a great selection of interesting supplies, like coloured wire and silk flowers.
What and where was the last great meal you had in NYC?
Our new studio is really close to a lot of amazing restaurants, we're really lucky. A few classics we always love are Marlow & Sons and Diner right around the corner from us. A few of our favorite places for Japanese is Robataya and Sobaya in the East Village. There's also a really cozy and nice tea house Cha-an in the East Village, they have delicious lunch and sweets too.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Julie – At the park with my dog Rumble. Nick – In my hammock having some tea.
NYC’s best kept secret?
It's not really a secret but we love going to this cute little store called Kiosk, it's  up a flight of stairs and the selection is always changing, every visit to the shop is a new experience.
Custom gold fringed wall created for Creature of the Wind's fall/winter presentation 2010, New York.

Similar Stories

Recent Craft