If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. We asked artist and Sky High Farm founder Dan Colen — who, with Dover Street Market, is debuting a line of clothing and other goods at DSMNY this month for New York Fashion Week — about the hoe, cucumber seeds, and ceramic plates he can’t live without.
I have Sky High Farm because of my art practice; the studio really allows the farm to exist. There’d be no harvest without this thing — the weeds would take over the farm. It’s just a kind of classic farming tool. The blade is sharp; the grip is comfortable. Farming is tireless; you’re constantly juggling whether it’s more productive to weed (so your next harvest has the space to grow), or to get the current harvest. It’s all backbreaking, but a good, comfortable hoe that’s built right takes a little bit of the strain off. This one, when you’re holding it, is ergonomic — it allows you to use your knees and your back. Without it, I’d be down on my knees pulling things out of the ground or throwing my back out, which I do all the time regardless.
Emily Bode is a good friend of mine. She won [Emerging Designer of the Year] at the CFDA Awards last year, and GQ recently honored her. We’re looking at doing some wool stuff together for the farm. Today, most everything is so slick and mass-produced and kind of cheap — the hand is gone. But all of her stuff is so thoughtful and meticulous and handmade. There’s just a physical quality to it all that makes it feel very special and different from things that everybody else has. I wear this scarf, which has what’s kind of the signature print of the brand. I don’t want to wear Louis Vuitton, so I like that Emily offers her own take on a classic signature print.
Whether it’s Emily Bode or Chris Bollen, a big part of how I bond with my friends is through their work. I’ve known Chris probably since 2001; we met during my very early days in downtown New York. His 2012 novel Lightning People is on this list because I’m often inspired to go back to it. I recently turned 40, so I’m feeling a little nostalgic and have been thinking about my career, which started around the time Chris and I met. He kind of used our scene as an inspiration to tell this story; it’s a bigger downtown story, but our scene is definitely a part of it. It also explores death — something I’m always looking at in my own work — and how it can be an accident, a plan, or an inevitability. That difference between things kind of fading away versus things being more actively ripped away. I also just started a new sculpture that features a snake, so I’ve been talking to a bunch of snake experts, and one of the characters in this book is a snake expert. Chris actually just came out with a new book, too, which is another reason I’ve been thinking a lot about this one again.
This is a specific strain from a company that’s really reliable. The thing with farming is there are so many factors essentially out of your control — you can lose a whole harvest to one storm that floods your garden, or to cows breaking through your fence. So you at least want to make sure you’re working with reliable seeds. We’ve gone through a lot of different seeds, and these yield a great, really tasty cucumber. They’d be great for a New Yorker to grow a little cucumber bush on their fire escape; really, you need nothing else but the seeds and a nice pot of soil. Care for them, love them, check in on them, water them. These go from seed to vegetable in six to eight weeks.