Studio Tour

Studio Tour: Maira Kalman

by Maxwell Tielman

In a time when all of lower Manhattan seems to have been overrun by big-box stores and Equinox gyms, the West Village studio of legendary illustrator Maira Kalman seems almost mythic — a romantic, unfussy, and deeply “New York” vestige of what the area used to be; something that one would expect to find in movies, but never in real life. Housed just a few floors down from the apartment she has called home for over 30 years, Maira’s studio is everything you want a studio to be and more. Homasote-covered walls are bedecked with handwritten quotations, inspiring bits of ephemera, news clippings, and photographs of Maira’s children. Tools of the trade — from brushes and watercolor palettes to pigment-covered paint rags — cover workspaces, just as beautiful and interesting as the pictures they create. A Frank Gehry cardboard chair sits in the corner, surrounded by books. With a feeling that reads more “club house” than “office,” the whole space pulsates with a nearly palpable creative energy.

Like Kalman’s own work, which toes the line between the naive and utterly genius, her studio’s charm comes from its imperfections and personalized touches. It’s a functional space, but one that bears the markings of time, labor, and love. Although each item within Maira’s studio seems to hold a special significance to her, like reminders of specific events or people, an outsider might look at it as something of a treasure trove. Despite its small size, this is a space you could get lost in. —Max

Click here to purchase Maira’s latest book, My Favorite Thingsand check out our tour of her beautiful apartment here!


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  • Just setting up my own studio space and having one of my favourite illustrators as inspiration is so timely. Thanks for sharing, Maira!

  • Ah, the lovely Maira Kalman. Absolutely one of my favorite artists. I love that pile of rags. Her space definitely oozes creative energy with all the inspiration, supplies and artwork. Thank you for this!

  • Ms. Kalman,
    I would make those beautiful paint rags into some pillows. Or stretch them as a canvas on their own.
    I’m loving the simplicity of all of this-the studio, the apartment, all. Good to keep in my as I am unpacking-my keep and toss piles need to change percentages!

  • I know there are so many lovely and creative people of all ages, but I agree with Lyn…nice to see someone who is not 20 or 30.

  • I have been catching up on my blog lovin feed and this lovely post on Maira’s studio popped up! I just adore her illustrations and thank you so much for the tour of her creative space! Love your write up too! Always awesome!