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Fredericks & Mae

Fredericks & Mae

Faux-blizzard aside, it’s been one of the most dismal winters in New York in recent history, and designer Gabe Cohen can barely contain himself.

“We are going to two different tropical islands TOMORROW!” he e-shrieks. “I’M SO EXCITED!!!”

Enthusiasm pervades every inch of Gabe and his partner Jolie’s world, from the technicolour German silk thread they wind around their decorative wooden arrows, to their dream introduction at a party: “This is Gabe and Jolie - they are so nice!”

Gabriel Fredericks Cohen and Jolie Mae Signorile are makers of tools, games and fun and are the duo behind New York-based label Fredericks & Mae. The pair met in a silk screening studio at Oberlin college in Ohio and immediately developed a “materials crush” on each other based on a shared love of toys, bright colours, paper and thread. 

After collaborating on a senior project, the pair moved to an apartment in Bushwick, New York in 2008 to continue working together between day jobs and other such inconveniences.  It was in 2011, with their debut collection of marbles, backgammon, and other ancient war games, that they really made their mark.

These days, the pair operate from a space shared with other makers, an elevator repair shop and a torah factory.  From their huge, white room they press flowers into paper kites, paint wooden bocce balls with metallic and rainbow stripes, fletch arrows and darts, paint miniature dominos with nautical flags, and, inspired by Mesopotamian talismans, weave shining horse hair into tassels. 

Because the pair produce work in batches, it’s hard for them to estimate how long it takes to create a piece from start to finish.  Their beach tennis set, for example, involves cutting out and silkscreening Baltic birch, covering it in a protective coat, attaching and shaping cork to the paddle, and cutting, silkscreening, sewing and stringing its kit bag. 

“We have relationships with a number of bird sanctuaries, Mongolian horse hair distributors, and fishing tackle shops - among others,” says Gabe.

Gabe, whose favourite game is ‘Would-You-Rather?’ describes his design aesthetic as “imperial”, and has talked often about the utilitarian and ceremonial uses of the objects they design.

It’s a vocation that’s hard to explain, though the pair’s recent installation of 100 floating arrows in New York’s Museum of Art and Design suggests they are beginning to be recognised as serious artists.

In any case, their imaginative, ever-changing projects neatly capture the spirit of the city they both hail from.

“There is a lot to love about New York - there is a lot of New York. I don't know if we could have started this project anywhere else - there is just so much resource and so much hustle all around us,” Gabe says.

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Check out Fredericks & Mae’s bocce set, dominos and beach tennis.