Walter Knabe: Creating His Own Mythology
Writer / Kara Reibel
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
The new location for the Walter Knabe Studios on 54th Street in the Village surrounds clients with Knabe’s signature works of art and inspired creations. It certainly feels like Knabe has come home. The environment is comfortable, and one could easily imagine what it feels like to be seated in Knabe’s and his fiancé Kelle Lindenberg’s living room.
Knabe’s aesthetic is a hybrid of antiquity and modern with a tangible timelessness which makes every piece of art that Knabe creates feel like it’s ahead of its time yet classical simultaneously. Knabe believes art helps create your own world, creating your own mythology.
“You get to ‘create your own mythology’ with art,” shares Knabe. “People should feel empowered to create their own world in which they would like to live. I ask clients to envision their dreams and ask what inspires them.”
The gallery takes on the role of a hybrid store with Knabe’s signature artwork and lifestyle pieces for sale, creating an opportunity for someone to become a new patron of his for as little as $12, spend a good deal more for large original works or commission Knabe for a more personal piece such as a unique portrait on canvas.
“What is interesting for me to witness is the process of creating a collection, such as Walter’s ‘Tranquility,’ and its application to a non-canvas product such as the yoga tanks or cosmetic bags,” shares Lindenberg who is a principal with Walter Knabe Studios.
Working through a specific creative process to bring the ambience of the art to a non-canvas product is something that Knabe has mastered over his 30 plus years of experience with functional art. In addition, his focus in his new location will merge the ethereal artistic process with his new space for retail.
Knabe’s art is well-known across the country and around the globe, yet he proudly calls Indianapolis home. “We raised our girls here, and I just love Indianapolis. It’s centrally located in the U.S. and simply a great place to live,” says Knabe.
Originally, Knabe had his studio in the Stutz building downtown, but he’s been at the Indiana Design Center in Carmel for the last five years. The decision to move his studio to 54th Street seemed like a natural progression, bringing additional vitality and confidence to the area where he has lived for years.
“With this new location, it will be the first time that I could ride my bike to work…safely,” shares Knabe.
Lindenberg adds, “The proximity to downtown or to clients outside I-465 is much easier here in the SoBro area, and we can’t beat the commute for us personally.”
“I feel like I have come full circle,” says Knabe who started out in New York City, working as Walter Knabe Functional Art. His rebranded messaging is Walter Knabe Studios: Making Fine Art Functional.
What began as large wall murals and hand-painted and hand silk-screened wallpaper has evolved, expanding his offerings through a wide variety of mediums. Today, there are new tools at Knabe’s disposal to utilize for his creations, such as digitizing techniques. This tool helps expand Knabe’s pattern collection, allowing for a selection of 800 colors. Prints created in this manner do not require hand-printing, thus lowering the cost for clients.
“Walter is capable of creating full color fabrics and wall coverings through the digital process,” shares Lindenberg. “This will exponentially expand his library of patterns.”
Knabe adds, “With the digitized tools, I am able to create more conceptually in the same realm, and with all those colors to play with, it allows the product to look very different, expanding choices and selection for clients.”
Knabe’s art graces many corporate buildings, and he is frequently commissioned to create unique pieces, including recent projects for Riley Hospital for Children and the OneAmerica lobby downtown.
Riley Hospital for Children commissioned Knabe to conceptualize four wall murals. Each are 28 ft. x 8 ft. and are printed on panels. The four themes of these murals are water, mountain, prairie and forest. To create these murals, Knabe used his digital tools.
“These murals were made for kids, so keeping children in mind, the murals are printed on washable material so the art can be touched and cleaned off,” shares Knabe. “There’s a strong message of positivity with the murals, and it takes away the clinical nature and purpose of the building. In addition, 55 banners identical to the murals are being added in their outpatient center.”
For his commissioned work for the OneAmerica building, Knabe used the American flag as the inspiration. The result is 16 flowing, floating banners, hung from the ceiling. Each are 4 ft. x 8 ft., creating a visual piece of interest that inspires all who walk through the lobby.
Knabe’s modus operandi with his art is to “uplift daily life.” He starts creating pieces rather organically. As with many artists, the experience of creating art is cathartic for Knabe and serves as his personal means of expression.
“I will begin a piece on a canvas and go with the flow of the experience. If you’d ask me at the beginning, ‘What are you creating?’ I would not be able to say, but closer to the end, I realize what it is and where I was guided to go with it,” shares Knabe of his creative process.
The studio’s small storefront offers a variety of Walter Knabe items, including yoga tanks, handprinted napkins, handbags, cell phone cases and handprinted scarves among the offerings.
“We have all sorts of items spanning a wide range of price points,” says Lindenberg.
Given an inside look at the new studio, it’s exciting what is going on in Knabe’s new space. “We were not looking to open a walk-in store, but given this location, it’s ideal for a retail space,” shares Lindenberg.
“We will be open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m. for the holiday season and let this organically evolve.”
Patrons will quickly learn that the Knabe gift shop will offer a preview of his latest products. Word will spread on this new gem, becoming another fun destination in Broad Ripple.
The Walter Knabe Studio is a vehicle for Knabe to create a variety of mediums and all with the intention of uplifting daily life. Knabe has returned to his roots, creating functional art designed to inspire and complement one’s story, or in his words, “create your own mythology.”