In the Studio With Rural Modernist Jason O’Malley
Rural Modernist or Modern Ruralist – that is the question. Jason O’Malley of Rural Modernist and Jason O’Malley Design collaborates with clients to create one-of-a-kind work across many disciplines. An illustrator, graphic designer, book designer, artist, painter, art director, ceramist and branding professional – whew! – Jason is a true modern renaissance man.
Jason, an illustrator/graphic designer by trade, makes bespoke modern ceramics, wallpaper, and art in his fabulous Kingston, NY studio in the Fuller Building.
Jason’s work is as distinct as it is fun and memorable, and there’s a good chance you’ve seen it in your travels. He resides in rural Kerhonkson, NY, but his work spans the globe. His colorful illustrations have been published by top brands like The Gap, Mini-Cooper, American Express and Random House (to name a few.) His editorial illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, OUT and InStyle magazine (to name a few more). Jason created the iconic branding for NYC’s Big Gay Ice Cream, and he designed and illustrated the best-selling, entertaining book The Cocktail Party: Eat Drink Play Recover for fabulous caterer-to-the-stars, Mary Giuliani.
We had a blast catching up with Jason at his colorful studio in Kingston, NY’s Fuller Building.
How did you decide on the name for your business?
Back in the olden days I had a design blog of the same name. I had just moved to the country and I lived in the middle of nowhere and I loved modern things. Viola!
You started your career as a book designer and illustrator having worked with some of the best names in the business. In the early days of Rural Modernist, at what point did you decide to dedicate yourself to this second line of business?
I still work as an illustrator and graphic designer. Rural Modernist is the home for all of my personal projects: wallpaper, paintings, ceramics, pillows….
Illustrator, ceramicist, painter… what do you enjoy most about each process and how do you decide which creative projects to focus on?
I’ve been primarily digital for most of my career so anytime I can be creative without being chained to a computer I get very excited.
Legend has it that Rural Modernist got its start through an instagram direct message. Does social media continue to play a role in the growth of your business?
Really? That’s news to me. It’s not true, LOL! The reality is most of my best clients arrive via word of mouth and referrals or at public markets and events where I’m selling my wares, rather than social media.
How do you market your services/business and how do your clients find you? Do you approach marketing differently for your illustration business vs. Rural Modernist?
Marketing for both is mostly referrals and word of mouth.
Does living in the Hudson Valley affect how you work and your actual work?
Living up here I have the best of all worlds. All I need is high-speed internet and a computer to do my illustration and design work and now I have my art studio in Kingston where I can make a mess. And I’m just 2 hours away from NYC.
How long have you had studio space in the Fuller Building in Kingston? Where did you work prior?
I’ve been in the Fuller Building for 2 years. Before that, I worked out of my tiny apartment in NYC or my home office in Kerhonkson. It’s really nice to finally have some separation between work and home.
Does having a creative space away from home affect your creativity?
Having a separate space for work is something I craved after 20 years of working out of my apartment or my home. It’s great to finally have room to spread out and make a mess without the distractions of home (dogs, laundry, yard work)
What impact does your business strive to have on your community?
My wallpaper is in several chic powder rooms in the Hudson Valley area. I love when friends send me selfies after powdering their proverbial noses with my wallpaper in the background.
As a modern maker/product designer, how is the industry changing and how are you adapting?
Trends come and go so fast now because of social media, so I try my best not to do anything too of-the-moment or so trendy that it will be dated in 6 months. I try to stay true to my own weird creative vision. The best part about working with me is my ability to customize art and color to create truly unique designs that can’t be purchased “off the rack”.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
Catskill Art Supply; great giclee printing services and paint supplies.
Where did you grow up and how did you wind up in Kerhonkson?
Grew up in Michigan. Moved to NYC in 1996. Started weekending upstate in 2004. Moved up full-time a few years after that. Once I had a taste of country life the city wasn’t so thrilling anymore.
What’s next for you? Sneak peek of new direction or product?
I’m doing pillows featuring my repeat patterns now. I sold out of my first run this holiday season so I’m definitely doing more in 2022.
Five Things About Jason O’Malley
no.1: What are you reading
Trashy Bravo gossip sites most likely. It’s embarrassing.
no. 2: Watching
Giallo. Italian horror movies from the ’70s. Fake violence and gorgeous interiors and fashion.
no. 3: Listening to
Probably The Smiths and Depeche Mode or Madonna. I prefer to live in the past.
no 4: Fav Podcasts
Watch What Crappens (Bravo recaps and impressions)
Girls Guts and Giallo (horror movie deconstruction and analysis by lesbian film geeks
Sam Pancake presents: The Monday Afternoon Movie
(hilarious recaps of made-for-tv horror and supernatural movies from the ’70s and ’80s)
no. 5: What’s your current state of mind
Stop the world. I want to get off.
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To purchase products or prints and/or to hire Jason O’Malley for branding, graphic design, or his AWESOME portrait work:
Purchase Books Designed by Jason
Commission a Portrait by Jason O’Malley