Today our interviewee, Keith Johnson, legendary buyer-at-large of Anthropologie is living my dream. Actually, THE dream. Actually, the dream of millions of guys and dolls around the world! Keith’s wanderlust certainly is satiated as he shops the globe, unearthing, discovering, and sniffing out treasures. From Thailand to Sweden, Keith explores new terrains and hand-selects the gems from antique shops, flea markets, and various art/craft/design stores. In addition to shopping the local stores, Keith visits with the communities’ local artists and artisans. He meets with Tunisian glass-blowers, South African blacksmiths, and Turkish kilim rug artists. Through his fieldwork he finds objects to sell in Anthropologie stores, and brings back inspirational material for their spectacular visuals/product development/design teams.
If you have ever stepped inside an Anthropologie store and wondered , “Where do all these delicious antiques and curiosities come from?” or “Who is the man behind the fabulous merchandising?” Wonder no more! Allow me to present to you, Mr. Keith Johnson! -Ginny
*P.S … Mr. Johnson, if you ever need a traveling aid, a pack mule (really, a pack rat) to carry all your findings, or a gal to hold your bags while you shop and mingle, I think I can swing it. I checked my summer calendar, and it is pretty free. You know, if you need someone to keep you company, other than the whole crew of Man Shops Globe... call me.
1. Design*Sponge: What is in your toolbox? What are the tools you can’t live without?
Keith Johnson: My toolbox is my passport, my suitcase, and my camera.
2. Design*Sponge: Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel inspired to travel“.
CLICK HERE for the rest of Keith’s interview (including the best advice he’s ever received, and his advice for young creatives) after the jump!
3. Design*Sponge: What are on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now”?
Keith Johnson: I am addicted to art and design books right now. I left for Milan with books on Gio Ponti and Carlo Molino, two great Mid-Century Italian designers.
4. Design*Sponge: How do you keep yourself organized? What are your tricks for time-management?
Keith Johnson: I keep a photographic record of everything. I am a very visual person. I review the photos constantly to make sure I remember everything!
5. Design*Sponge: What is the most inspiring place you have visited?
Keith Johnson: I don’t wait for inspiration. I have to go out and find it. Nothing gets me as inspired as travel. I try to engage with the most interesting people I can find who have a unique style and point-of-view. I spent today with Rossana Orlandi in Milan. I went with several members of the Anthropologie team. Nothing could have been more exciting than meeting with this woman who is so generous and supportive of the design community. Her shop would thrill even the most jaded shopper! I love to visit artists’ homes and studios. Tomorrow I’m heading to the studio of the great industrial designer, Castiglioni. It has been perfectly preserved and I’m hoping will give us clues into his extraordinary design process!
6. Design*Sponge: What do you love to collect?
Keith Johnson: I’m not a disciplined collector. I respond to so many different things. I just bought a stack of 1930s Chinese paper lanterns at the flea market and today I bought a chair from a young Spanish designer who works in paper mâché.
7. Design*Sponge: In addition to being an antiques buyer, gallery director, and TV host/travel guide to name a few, what would you like to conquer next?
Keith Johnson: I am currently working on putting together a book of my travels. It’s just great to look back at where I’ve been since traveling for Anthropologie!
8. Design*Sponge: If you were stranded on an island, what 5 things would you want to have with you?
Keith Johnson: If I were stuck on a desert island, I would want my partner Glen and my dogs. I love all my stuff, but they are all that matters.
9. Design*Sponge: What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would give to young, aspiring creatives?
Keith Johnson: The best advice I would give for someone aspiring to have a creative life is to travel and learn to see the world through more lenses than your own. The best advice I’ve ever been given wasn’t really advice, it was that I received love and respect for what I had to offer. My advice is to surround yourself with people who see your talents, even when you don’t see them yourself.
10. Design*Sponge: If you could make a master mix-tape of music that is inspiring you at the moment, what would it be?
Keith Johnson: I love new design, but I’m in a bit of a time warp with music. I find myself listening to my favorites from a million years ago like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Chet Baker.
Keith Johnson-inspired tools:
vintage suitcase, $34.
Apple I-Pad, $499.