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En Route: Marni and Willa Blank of Blank Studio NYC on Founding a Space for Creativity

Blank Studio NYC

Address: 457 Broome Street, 2F (buzzer 3) New York, NY 10013

STORY + VIDEO EDITING BY RACHEL SCHWARTZMANN – DISCOVER BLANK STUDIO –  PHOTOS + FOOTAGE BY BRIDGET BADORE FOR THE STYLE LINE

“Blank Studio NYC is really a

place where you can be yourself and bring your personal style with you,” says sisters and co-founders, Marni and Willa Blank. “We are a blank space – literally – so it lends itself to allowing one to express themselves as they feel in that moment.” On the surface, the year-old photo and event space may lean towards a minimal aesthetic, but at its core, the company is rooted in something much more.

Since its inception, Marni and Willa have sought to create a (welcoming and sun-drenched) space – both literally and figuratively – for New Yorkers to create with confidence. Nestled in the heart of the historical (and equally picturesque) Soho neighborhood, it’s hard not to be inspired when visiting the entrepreneurial duo while on-duty. Their growing clientele includes some of the most innovative companies in fashion, lifestyle, art and more, who use the space for photo-shoots, corporate events, and similar gatherings. And while Marni and Willa are proud to host these industry game-changers, they too have plans to cultivate a unique community of their own. As they mentioned in our interview below, “Although we are mainly a rental photography studio, our hope for the space is to bring people together to share stories, ideas and a sense of community. We plan on bringing in more original programming in the new year, with talks, discussions, and workshops we feel would benefit the community.” Based on our recent visit with the inspiring founders, we do not doubt that they’ll achieve all of that and more.

With that being said, today we’re thrilled to share our full story with Marni and Willa who kindly had us over before the holidays to give us a more in-depth look at the space and share more of their stories. From their respective professional backgrounds to their advice for the next generation, discover more from the founders of Blank Studios and enjoy exclusive photos (and film footage!) captured by Bridget Badore for The Style Line.

I’m Marni. I’m a sensitive

soul (ISFJ). A decade-long resident of Brooklyn. A recovering lawyer. A lover of international solo travel, baking, the Adirondacks, and sushi. Staying informed and remaining engaged politically is very important to me. This year has been very heavy in that area, but it is imperative to stay hopeful… or at least not accept this as our new normal. I am forever grateful to my sister, my partner in Blank Studio and her adorable dog (my nephew) Otis. I really value my health, my support network, and my free time. The flexibility and control that our new venture allows are priceless.

I’m Willa. I’m independent,

practical, a problem solver. I am a doer. I love more than anything to help and connect people I love and to do the same for the people they love. I am a collector and a curator of all things that make me feel something. I’ve recently taught myself how to crochet, and have since created an unhealthy amount of baby sweaters for my family and friends.

When not at work, I can be found in my garden in Brooklyn Heights with my dog Otis or traveling with friends (less so lately with the new business), but it’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Walk us through the space itself. What do you hope visitors or customers engage with the most when they first enter?

When we first imagined what the studio could look like, we were immediately drawn to the raw original details. We knew we wanted to strip down the space and offer a white box with warmth and character (easier said than done). We love the natural brick wall, the original tin ceilings, the wall of windows with original casings, and cast iron columns. We think the natural light and the ceiling heights offer so much space for creativity. Beyond the space itself, we included a few pieces of furniture to make the space warm, layering different textiles to add character (velvet sofa, cowhide rug, afghan rug covered chairs).

“Creativity is harder than just doing what’s been done before. We want Blank Studio NYC to be a place where people can feel inspired to create.”

– WILLA BLANK

“Blank Studio NYC is really a place where you can be yourself and bring your personal style with you.”

– MARNI BLANK

When it comes to the BLANK Studio community what are your hopes, especially given the current political climate? Do you have plans or wishes to have that community span beyond NYC? 

As of now, our focus in on NYC. Our current goal is to open a second location in our second year of business! People in the city have everything…except space and we hope to fill that void. Although we are mainly a rental photography studio, our hope for the space is to bring people together to share stories, ideas and a sense of community. We plan on bringing in more original programming in the new year, with talks, discussions, and workshops we feel would benefit the community. We just had a holiday fundraiser at the studio where we raised over $11,000 for Puerto Rico hurricane relief.

What is one question you wish people asked you more often?

We are both different versions of introverts, so we are probably happy when people don’t ask us questions! But maybe, “How are you?” and really mean it.

Sometimes having surface level conversations are more exhausting than actually talking to someone about how you are actually doing in that moment (excited, exhausted and everything in between!), whether it is work-related or personal.

We use personal style as the lens we use to tell our stories. With that said, how do you think BLANK Studio encourages its community to embrace that same sense of personal style when creating their work at the studio? 

Blank Studio NYC is really a place where you can be yourself and bring your personal style with you. We are a blank space – literally – so it lends itself to allowing one to express themselves as they feel in that moment. Willa and I take the same attitude. Some days we are dressed up and some days we roll in in our Converse. We do find that a lot of our clients appreciate the artistic direction of the space and appropriate our furniture and artwork or plants as props for their shoots. Some of the items we had custom upholstered or paintings commissioned by friends that pop up in people’s shoots and we feel pride in the fact that they were inspired by their surroundings at Blank Studio.

When we see images out in the world that were shot in our space, we feel all the feelings! It is always exciting to pick up a magazine and see a model in front of our windows or see a Casper advertisement on Amazon that was shot in our space.

How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations, and what role do you hope BLANK Studio plays in this?

Creativity is everything! Creativity takes things out of the black and white and sheds light on the in-between. We need more of that when addressing the world’s pressing issues. We need problem-solvers and creative thinkers to look at an issue or question from all angles and work from a lens that there is no one way to get something done.
It’s not always easy to put one’s ideas out there in the world- it takes guts. Creativity is harder than just doing what’s been done before. We want Blank Studio NYC to be a place where people can feel comfortable and inspired to create – whether it is for a photoshoot, a corporate brainstorming session or mastering a skill. We hope to start putting on more original programming at the studio to give people the tools to confidently create the world we all deserve.

How would you advise the next generation of small business owners to leave an imprint in the world, simply by doing what they love?

Don’t be afraid to take risks or take that first leap of faith.  You don’t need to have it all figured out before you can start something new. Seek advice from those you admire.  Be generous with your time, expertise and money to those in need- we are all in this together, and it will always come back to you in full.