Jim's Artist Studio at 118 Winston

Workspace Tour

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Name: Jim Olarte, artist in residence at 118 Winston
Location: Downtown Los Angeles, California
Size: 400 square feet
Years in business: 30 years

Jim Olarte is one of my favorite artists. He has worked in the design industry for quite some time, but also creates incredible large scale macrame and shell sculptures. I recently walked into his new studio and enjoyed discovering beautiful artwork in every corner.

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When I was photographing Jim's workspace he expressed how important it was to capture the realness of his studio, as opposed to a highly stylized version of it. Jim has a few basic necessities in his live/work loft, but the main focus is on creating beautiful things and being inspired by his new downtown environment.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I'm an artist/"Detritus" collector/beach bum/location & prop stylist for major surf companies for years — creating the set/house where the client/target audience would have lived. I go for the perfect mixture of vintage/new/ocean elements — not too overdone, just understated enough to be authentic.

Inspiration: Traveling modern beachcomber/artist in residence/space to create large scale projects. Jodi & Stephen Zeigler offered me the opportunity to become an "artist in residence" and after having lived in Laguna Beach since '77, this is my first downtown Los Angeles experience. It is just as intriguing and beautiful as the ocean, of course in a different way. Being open in your point of view is KEY, so I traveled really light with just some vintage Hermes luggage, military bags, a hard case Louis Vuitton suitcase, and of course tools of my trade — shells, ropes, and an eagerness to create.

Favorite Element: My favorite element of Southern California living that inspires my work is water. I was born and raised by the Pacific Ocean, swimming, sailing, jumping off rocks, playing in tide pools, learning about all aspects of the ocean. I do surf, but I'd rather swim in the ocean, being quiet in such a serene environment.

Biggest Challenge: Deciding what to create today and looking at my materials and thinking of what direction I want go today. I work in a lot of different mediums, from beach detritus to rope, copper wire, and sunglasses that have been lost at the beach and broken apart. I collect these pieces and create mobiles/sculptures. On some days I get up and want to create a large scale macrame piece, so I measure out my string and start the project. I like working on a large scale, so my space has high ceilings and a lot of space to lay out my beach detritus.

What Friends Say: That it's RAD and my stuff is rad and also that I am extremely precise and disciplined.

Biggest Embarrassment: Hermes luggage (ha ha) and the way that my collection of shells, fiberglass, and rocks start living in their collective spaces and have a conversation with each other since they are friends or cousins.

Proudest DIY: I get to make art out of my passion for the beach, and people feel that precision/dedication to my craft. Being specific, detritus #1 and two shell sculptures commissioned by Tommy Bahama NYC.

Biggest Indulgence: Living really simply in such a small space with all these pieces of art that I created for myself. I make my sculptures first and foremost for my own pleasure.

Best Advice: "Just DO it!" — Nike ad and my mind

Dream Sources: The ocean and tidelines, estate sales, swap meets, and the side of the road.

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Resources of Note:

FURNITURE

  • Laguna Beach estate sales
  • Irvine Antique swap meet (1st Sunday of every month)
  • Thrift stores
  • Clothing rack from Craigslist
  • Slate table - architect drawing table + found slate top
  • Large office desk - Myrtle Desk Company - early 70s (and for sale)

ACCESSORIES

  • Collection of white objects: vintage surfboard fins beach combed, fiberglass, and bones
  • Fashion and photography booksFashion and photography booksFashion and photography books

FLOORING

  • High grade particle board

RUGS & CARPETS

  • Vintage Afghan "war" rug (to protest the Russian invasion) - they wove rugs with machine guns, bombs, helicopters, etc. as a protest
  • Fish rug from Myknosos

ARTWORK

  • Vintage Calder print
  • Macrame sculpture by Jim Olarte
  • Mobiles of beach tumbled fiberglass from shipwrecked boats

OTHER

  • Vintage Hermes luggage
  • Vintage Louis Vuitton hard suitcase
  • Spools of cording, rope, bags of rocks / shell detritus / sunglasses

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Thanks, Jim!

(Images: Marcia Prentice)

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Marcia is an interior, portrait, and travel photographer and has photographed over 50 homes of creatives. Her photographic style is capturing her subject in the most natural state and creating an emotional response.