InteriorsStudio Tour

Studio Tour: Oliver Jeffers

by Gigi Gray

It’s not uncommon to meet multitalented people, but when you meet someone who is a jack-of-all-trades and truly a master of it all, you take notice. Oliver Jeffers is just that: talented artist, author, painter, illustrator, storyteller, bookmaker and filmmaker, and he is brilliant with every medium he touches.

The Belfast, Northern Ireland native has been making waves (literally, you have to check out Oliver’s series on water and depth, Fathom Seascapes) in New York for almost a decade now, but will never claim that it has been a one-man show. “My studio is probably where I spend most of my waking hours. I have a team of people who help me: Hannah, Patrick, sometimes Steve, and Hayley is new to the team. The show is run by my wife Suzanne (so that I just get to draw the pictures) and our dog Scampi is Head of Security. I do a lot of very differing, often ambitious projects, and none of it is accomplished alone, it’s a team effort.” An effort that has produced numerous works that are constantly winning awards and praise from around the world, and he isn’t slowing down any time soon.

With a recent exhibition at Bryce Wolkowitz studio in Chelsea, the release of the first-ever illustrated version of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas for its 10-year anniversary and the recently released A Child of Books (which the NYT called “a fresh and fascinating collaboration between two gifted masters”), Oliver is on the move and the accolades are all well-deserved.

Prior to his current space, Oliver spent years in a shared studio that served as an old hot dog cart facility. There was a lot of charm, but the building was falling apart around Oliver and his studio-mates (and fellow artists Mac Premo and Aaron Ruff of Digby & Iona), making it more and more difficult to work. “One day the landlord decided to end our (nonexistent) lease, so we had to find a new place to work pretty quickly. We found this building because we were dumpster diving when the place was being renovated. I think I still have a photo from that day!”

As the scope of Oliver’s projects grew, so did his studio. Initially starting in a smaller space in the same building with a growing team and expanding workflow, the time came to find a larger studio. “I knew that I needed empty, quiet space so that I didn’t feel constantly mentally cluttered, and there was available space if a particular project demanded it. I knew that I needed space away from the front door so I could hide when on an important call or in the zone of writing or drawing. I knew that I worked quickly and needed to know EXACTLY where something was the instant I thought I might need it, so that required extreme organization of materials. You can often tell at what stage of a project I’m at by the mess in the studio. Very clean means just started, and very messy means close to completion.”

With everything they’ve been through in the past, Oliver is grateful for the things often taken for granted: a roof that’s secure and doesn’t leak, a hammock hidden away for emergencies, and heating and air conditioning; things that were all absent at his old studio. Choosing function over form, there is still a distinct style in which the new studio is set up that is a direct extension of Oliver’s unique and special work. —Gigi

Photography by Patrick Reynolds

Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
1/14
Oliver enjoying tea in his studio while coming up with new ideas and ways to capture and captivate your visual senses.
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
2/14
"My dog, Scampi, models our studio couch here, which is situated between shelves containing my own books and books by other authors and artists that I admire."
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
3/14
"This is the main portion of my studio, where I have a large island that I can use as both a workspace and as movable storage."
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
4/14
"This is the rear section of my studio, where I work on paintings and other messy projects."
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
5/14
"One of my ongoing projects involves maps and globes — sometimes creating new ones, and other times modifying existing ones," Oliver shares.
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
6/14
"These vintage flat files house many of the original drawings and sketches that eventually became my picture books. To the right you can see some cover proofs from two book projects that are being released this fall."
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
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"Some of the vintage books seen here serve as inspiration, while others are future collage material," Oliver notes. "On the shelf below, art supplies intermingle with various decorations and props that I've collected over the years."
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
8/14
"I try my best to keep everything in my studio labeled to keep things from getting too chaotic. Most of my storage is vintage and repurposed, like these card catalogs and flat files."
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
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Oliver says, "This is one of the works in my Dipped Paintings series — the sitter for this portrait was my granny."
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
10/14
"This is a new work on paper that I'm working on in my Fathom Seascapes series. I often create painted sketches like this one in preparation for larger and more involved paintings on canvas."
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
11/14
"This is a painting that I made a few years ago called Before My Time, along with some sculptural works-in-progress and a drawing that was just returned to me from an exhibition that happened earlier this year," Oliver tells us.
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
12/14
"Here we see one of my books, Stuck, in a few different languages."
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
13/14
"These are some of the many supplies I use to create my paintings," Oliver says.
Studio tour with artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for Design*Sponge.
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The thing Oliver loves most about his studio.

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Comments

  • Love everything you put your hand to Oliver and it’s so great to get a glimspe into your workspace, all those little drawers and boxes, if I could, I’d like to open each one, and rummage in them (try and touch a sliver of genius).

    Your books are both mine and my kids favourites come bedtime!! Thank you for these gifts!!

    Ruth
    x
    p.s. Up Norn Iron!

  • We love Oliver Jeffer’s book with a particular affection for The Great Paper Caper! Nothing like a creative space…happy thinking and creating in your new space!

  • We were given “Lost and Found” as a baby shower gift and I have fallen in love with Jeffers work since. Bedtime stories are so lovely thanks to him.

  • I love these studio tours, and Oliver Jeffers is one of my absolute favourites. Such an interesting insight into how and where he works

    – Natalie

  • Thanks for sharing this studio tour. I love Oliver’s work and it’s so interesting to see where it’s created.

  • Just made a fascinating discovery :) Looked you up Oliver and I’m totally enchanted with you…. (Don’t take this badly I’m a Swiss woman, and have no grand-children, and although I’m an ardent reader of English books, I just never came across to you until today).

    Have great card- & painings drawer envy but I guess you deserve them more than I do! Thank you for letting us have a look into your creative space – it’s as inspiring as you are.

  • LOVE Oliver Jeffers’ work. If I could come back as someone in the next life, it would be him. Thanks for showing his studio.

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