Design studio Grey on Grey, founded by Justina Vilčinskaitė and Dovilė Aleksandravičiūtė, creates contemporary art works and home decor. The studio is based in Vilnius, Lithuania. VVOVVA talked to Grey on Grey and found out the story behind the collaboration of two artists, the brand creation, and details of production processes.
We begin with the story of how those two talented people ended up choosing art and design as a profession that takes as a significant part of life. As Dovilė Aleksandravičiūtė shares, she just was really into arts since she was a kid.
‘I was always very intrigued by how using different objects you can create very unique environments. Or how you can manipulate existing environments to create different experiences for people.’
However, Dovilė started truly appreciating home decor and product design while I was living in Amsterdam. During these years she moved around a lot as she was always renting a place. And she never had a chance to create spaces that would feel truly hers.
‘Through this experience, I realized that smaller design items and home decor can be a great way to achieve this ‘homey’ feeling. That these items can move with you and make any space feel like home. This experience was really important for me. I delved deeper into product design and developed a profound appreciation for it.’ — Dovilė Aleksandravičiūtė
Justina Vilčinskaitė had very similar experience when it comes to introduction to design and arts.
‘For as long as I remember I was always interested in art. As a kid and teenager, I never separated design and fine arts. I always saw it as a means to express one’s creativity.
When I was 15 years old I thought I would do something related to interior design or product design in the future. However, my fields of interest changed during the years and I ended up studying Fine Arts. Nonetheless, after finishing my studies, it came back full circle to design and home décor objects. My interests always lied between arts and design.’
It is surprising that even though Justina and Dovilė are from Vilnius (Lithuania), they only met during their studies in the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In 2011, while studying at the Basic Year course in Amsterdam they didn’t know that their friendship will lead to something bigger.
From professional experiences, the studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie influenced Justina & Dovilė art- and design-wise the most.
‘It taught me how to constantly question and evaluate whether things I am making still make sense. What do I want to communicate? And do I communicate exactly that?’ — Dovilė says. Similarly, for Justina, the time at Gerrit Rietveld Academy helped her develop and push her work further while always questioning her artistic practice. Dovilė graduated from Rietveld in 2015 and Justina in 2016.
But of course, there were more experiences that shaped the artists they are today. For example, for Dovilė it was also time afterward — when she was doing her MA at the University of Amsterdam. As she mentions it made her much more cautious about the context that she is working in. And for Justina, it was her previous experiences with art studies in Lithuania. This experience was much more traditional and less conceptual than her studies in Amsterdam. However, Justina is grateful for that opportunity to experience both educational approaches.
After both artists were finished with their respective studies, it happened that they found themselves rather uninspired. One can say even ‘empty’ creatively. As Justina and Dovile explain, after years and years of going through art education which encourages (and somewhat demands) high productivity this was a very new and scary feeling for them.
‘By then, we were friends for a couple of years. We would often spend time discussing each other’s art practices. And we shared a lot of similar ideas about art, design, and creativity in general. During one of those discussions, we decided to try and collaborate on something, hoping that we can challenge and support each other creatively. And in that way to break out of this stagnation that we were both experiencing.
We didn’t have a clear plan or a specific goal in mind. But somewhere during the process of making different tryouts and playing with materials, we realized that we are gravitating towards sculptural objects that have a clear function. The functionality of objects helped us to stay focused. We were creating certain ‘rules’ that we would stick to if we felt lost or overwhelmed. And during this process, once we paused and stepped back, we realized that we somehow managed to create a cohesive vision and base for a design brand.’
The studio Grey on Grey started in September 2019, as a sort of ‘melting pot’ of those backgrounds of Justina & Dovilė. Symbolically the color grey became a significant part of the brand’s identity and ideology. Easy to combine with other colors and patterns the color grey is a great neutral color that makes other colors pop.
The name Grey on Grey, therefore, carries the values that they have as a business.
‘Color grey is considered to be an intermediate color. But also commonly referred to as being an achromatic or a non-color. In other words, it is usually synonymous with everything dull and boring. Through our work, we want to overturn these negative connotations associated with grey. We see beauty in simplicity and appreciate slow and thoughtful design.’
‘For us, ‘grey’ stands for focus, calmness, and pleasant tranquillity. Nowadays there is so much stuff and clutter everywhere. We want to promote minimal and cautious design that opens up the more you spend time with it, that doesn’t go out of fashion. We base our designs on clean and simple forms that upon a closer look reveal a plenitude of details on the surface.’
With this attitude, studio Grey on Grey produces home décor objects that combine minimal forms with inspirations from nature. Each of their works, which is built by hand, can subtly tie together any interior.
Justina and Dovilė work very closely when developing new ideas/designs or making and testing prototypes. For them in production it is important to take time, not to rush any processes. In other words, truly spend time thinking and developing designs they believe in.
‘Our motto might sound a bit banal but it is very true to us: Quality over quantity.’
‘All our items are made by hand and we always try to add a personal touch to them. Take for example the Twisted candles that are made out of pure Lithuanian beeswax. We source the wax from Dovilė’s uncle’s apiary where she spent most of her childhood summers. Or for example our series of prints Liquid Stones that depicts stones with naturally occurring holes in them. This series are based on Justina’s stone collection that she has been collecting for many years. Mostly while she would spend time with her family that lives on the coast of Lithuania.’
The main inspiration for the Grey on Grey studio comes from those personal stories. And also from nature; different stones, rocks, and rocky landscapes. Nature in general became an intriguing part of the studio’s design processes. They ask themselves different questions and try to solve this way intriguing tasks. For example, how to capture and translate something so big and grand as a mountain range into the candle holder?
Organic and minimalistic designs from Grey on Grey studio are unique and each piece will be different from the other one. The sculptural pieces; candles, candleholders, coasters, etc, can work in almost any space thanks to their calm and subtle appearance. Those objects do not overpower interior but complement it. Made from strong and durable materials their designs are long-lasting and can serve for generations. For instance, the jesmonite, frequently used by the design studio is an eco-friendly and safe (non-toxic and water-based) alternative to resin, plaster, or concrete.
Thinking of the future, Justina Vilčinskaitė and Dovilė Aleksandravičiūtė investing more time in developing bigger sized objects. Where the lines between design and art are much more blurred.