Seams like Couch Art

By Tanya Silverman

Tatiana the Cat.

“I call it ‘couch art,’” Ronda J. Smith remarks, describing the aesthetic of bringing an industrial water tower or a gritty sewer cover into a cushy domestic setting in the form of a graphic pillow–that is, with her ongoing collection, In the Seam.

Smith transfers colorful photos of urban scenery onto pillows. Living in NYC, she adapts icons of the experience present, like the Metrocard or Greenpoint Water Tower, as well as relics of times past, like subway tokens, or the soon-to-become Domino’s Sugar Factory. From cities elsewhere, she prints pictures of manholes on pillows.

“Every city that I ever visited, I would take a picture of my feet on the sewer cover to remember where I had been,” she explains where the theme originated.

Vintage Kodak Duaflex II.

Unsurprisingly, Smith is also a photographer, which is all the more apparent in the array of vintage camera pillows she crafts.

Animals make up a good portion of the inventory. Smith says that parents often buy their teens custom-made pillows of their families’ pets when they go away to college. City dwellers who can’t have pets also purchase ready-designed pillows. What spawned In the Seam, actually, was when Smith made a pillow version of her own cat Keywan, curled up sleeping. She says that Keywan sometimes sleeps next to the inanimate version of herself, not realizing the resemblance (though it does make a cute picture).

Texas Armadillo.

Other furry friends, however, exhibit much stronger reactions to the creature cushions.

“I do get emails from people that are like, ‘Oh my God, my cat was freaking out over the pigeon!’” laughs Smith.

Incidents do occur at trade shows where she displays dog and cat pillows in which a dog owner comes by, picks up a pillow pet, only to have their canine bark a bunch.

Miami Sewer Cover.

Any animals that get defensive over sighting other creatures, or people who become put off by industrial objects placed on interior furniture, should remember that they are just clean, safe couch art.

All photos courtesy of Ronda J. Smith.