When Maryam Keyhani was a little girl, her favourite thing to do was daydream. “When I was six years old, I used to pretend to take a nap but I wouldn’t be sleeping at all,” she says. “I’d close my eyes and spend hours imagining all kinds of fantastic scenarios. In my mind, chairs were friends and clocks were people.” She shrugs. “I was an only child so I was basically bored all the time.”
Nearly thirty years later, the Tehran-born, Toronto-raised artist (who made a name for herself designing artful statement necklaces, which sold at Holt Renfrew, Luisa Via Roma and 10 Corso Como, until she quit the fashion business in 2012) still surrounds herself with a menagerie of imaginary friends. A lifelong collector of unique objets d’art, Keyhani’s Berlin studio is filled with one-of-a-kind keepsakes she’s collected over the years. (Keyhani currently splits her time between Toronto and the German capital.) Amidst her paint-splattered canvases, brushes and art supplies, you might find an antique doll diving head first into a porcelain teapot. Or a pair of worn leather shoes resting at the foot of a settee. “I like to think of them all as different characters I live with on a daily basis,” she says. “They’re like my people.”
Keyhani’s weird and wonderful point of view is equally evident in her art. Her early works featured personified chandeliers and an upcoming exhibition in Toronto will explore the notion of brushes as elegant women. “I’ve always had a very surreal mentality,” she says. “I’ll see a hat or a teacup and they’re just so quirky, they’re like little ladies! Or sometimes it’s so melancholic and I think ‘oh my God, you must have had such a sad life!’ and I have to buy it.”
Inevitably, one runs out of space for all these things. “It’s getting out of hand,” she laughs. “There’s only so much you can keep for yourself. It’s to the point where I feel like I need to do something with them. I have to put them out there.” Hence, she’s creating Maryam Keyhani Home, an online showcase and shop featuring a tightly curated selection of treasured finds, launching in May.
Only 40 items will be available on the site at a time and, much like in her studio space, they’ll be displayed in a way that brings each piece to life. For example, a hat (a particular obsession for Keyhani), a marble bowl and a pair of old shoes might be photographed and collaged together as a creature whose head is the hat, body is the bowl and feet are the shoes.
Keyhani is committed to making the experience of her site feel like a journey. “Everything’s so easy these days. Anything you want is a click away. I miss when buying things was more of a discovery,” she says. “It’s a bit of work to see what you’re buying – you really have to think about it – but I love the history of things and imagining the lives they lived. It would be so nice to bring a little bit of fantasy back to the idea of shopping.”
For more information, visit http://www.maryamkeyhani.com/.
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