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Meet Nadine Nakanishi and Nick Butcher of Sonnenzimmer in North Center

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nadine Nakanishi and Nick Butcher.

Sonnenzimmer is the collective work of artists, Nick and Nadine. Their collaborative practice was established in 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. Initially recognized for their idiosyncratic commissioned screen-printed posters, their practice has since morphed into an interdisciplinary toolshed spanning multiple platforms, including exhibitions, publishing, performance, graphic design, and exhibition design. Equal parts balancing act between art and design and radical reclamation of all aspects of visual expression, the studio is grounded in the lasting potential of the graphic arts, while exploring the physical and conceptual friction between abstraction and communication.

Has it been a smooth road?
It’s been an adventurous one. Every 6 months, the nature of what we do changes – in some major way and yet things also stay the same. For example, we started our venture as Sonnenzimmer in the music sector doing gig posters for venues and bands in the city, but when the digital era of music distribution started with iTunes, that model kinda dropped off. After that, we started getting asked to make exclusive prints or printed matter for special occasions or events. Today, we do a lot of publication design and get asked to either create exhibitions or sometimes intervene creatively in exhibitions or events. Aside from that, our art sales have picked up.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We are a hybrid practice between art and design. We see ourselves as a modern classic graphic art studio that is interested in establishing a modern Americana that takes confidence in its own expression while believing in formal solutions. We are artists. And it’s important that when people come to us, they understand that we don’t just service the job but we attempt to create a new body of work. If they give us space, we can really find new visual solutions. We do publications, logo design, animations, records, books, illustration, writing, packaging, album art, exhibit design, products, lectures, workshops, etc. We hope that our studio model will encourage many young artists to be entrepreneurial in their ventures, no matter where they are. People are extremely generous in our city with supporting art on an individual level, we are a testament to that. That’s forever exciting and motivating and we are extremely grateful for that.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Chicago is amazing. It is a city where you can still produce things. It is a city where you can be self-made and be supported. If you reach a ceiling here, you either solve it or move away. The people that end up solving that problem for themselves usually end up making cool things. The history of manufacturing and art is deeply situated in this area and that goes into how things are done. There is a pragmatism to moving and making things. The art and music community is especially amazing. You find it very competitive internationally and extremely supportive and innovative. The only thing that is missing is for the city (and us all taking this personally and not seeing the city as an abstract thing) to build a transportation line (like an O) around the wards and the loop, to connect it all. That would address a lot of integration issues that we as a city still need to come together on and find some atonement in by actually tackling this. It would be amazing if we had the courage to take a front seat with admitting to past mistakes, past failures and not give up on it. History shows us that all the ideology, money, legislation couldn’t solve it. Perhaps, it’s time to come together to build something physical in a digital era and see if that can pivot it. How amazing that would be!


  • We have art from $40 on upwards.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Grants of rights for publishing, please run all photos with all the caption information.
1. “The Sun Never Sets” mural by Sonnenzimmer for Intelligentsia Coffee at Division and Ashland
2. “The Sun Never Sets”, full length LP by Sonnenzimmer, 2017, offset-printed jacket, 1-color screen printed dust jacket, 1-color screen printed one-sided vinyl
3. Exhibit view of “Café Avatar” at Cress Gallery, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, curated by Ruth Grover, 2106; Photo by Chris Oughtred
4. “Image Furniture 5”, by Sonnenzimmer, 2015,Acrylic and screen print on clay-coated panel, PVC fabric over foam and wood (removable), 36 x 36 inches + hat; Photo by Nathan Keay
5. “Balcony Side”, by Sonnenzimmer, 2016, 35 x 47.5 inches, edition: 9, signed and numbered, 6-color screen print
6. Portait of Sonnenzimmer; Photo by Sean Dorgan

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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