If You’ve Never Seen Anything Quite Like it Before, It Might Be a Good Business

Jan 24, 2018 | Stephen Jackson

What’s perhaps most fascinating about the entrepreneurial landscape is the sheer breadth of creativity it encompasses. A glance at all the small businesses, innovative ideas, and art collectives operating these days can be inspiring to even the most jaded out there, and one example of some truly outside-the-box thinking is HYBYCOZO, a “collaborative installation arts collective” based in the Bay Area.

Serge Beaulieu and Yelena Filipchuk are the artists behind HYBYCOZO, a company that erects large-scale public art installations around the world, from L.A. and the Nevada desert to Miami and Dubai. The pieces are massive, delicate-looking geometric shapes featuring intricate laser-cut patterns that provide stunning light displays when the sculptures are illuminated from within.

The name HYBYCOZO stands for “Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone,” a nod to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — Beaulieu and Filipchuk’s favorite book. The two first met in New York City in 2013, but moved to the Bay Area to make a series of large pieces for Burning Man. ‘We decided to create a set of sculptures that could represent our fascination with the beauty of mathematics and the language of the universe,” Filipchuk says.

Earthbound Funding

In order to fund the project, the pair launched a Kickstarter campaign and built small-scale versions of the sculptures to be used as interior lights. The campaign was a success, and they were able to raise enough funding to create the installations.

“That fall, as we started to prepare the sculpture lights to send off, we saw how unique and precious having this golden geometric jewel in your house felt,” Filipchuk says. “They can feel meditative, they can feel inspiring, and they can make any room feel warm and special. It was this interesting moment of wanting to release our art into the world through these big six-foot sculptures and then give that experience to as many people as we could … because of course not everyone can go to Burning Man.”

Burning Man in the Den

In 2015 the two launched the retail side of their collective, COZO. (They used the now-defunct TechShop, a chain of open-access DIY workshops across the country, to fabricate their products.) Now, COZO is operated as an online storefront that sells home-lighting decor, clothing, and jewelry.

“Because we are experimenting in this space between public art, fine art, and design, we decided that we wanted to keep each of our cozo lights special, so we sell only online, through our website. We don’t do wholesale or anything like that,” Filipchuk says, adding that COZO only puts out two collections a year.

“That way we can focus on creating bigger sculptures and new works during the rest of the time while we are not operating our online store and we always have new and interesting designs when we do push them out to our community,” she says.

Keeping It Personal

In addition to keeping things fresh through limited runs, Filipchuk and Beaulieu like to keep things personal on the sales end, often including small gifts such as extra lights or jewelry in a shipment. Along with handwritten notes to customers and an accessible, friendly social media presence, these little touches help reinforce the fact that COZO is a small, high-quality operation.

This approach flies in the face of Amazon and two-day shipping, which is something Filipchuk says can be sometimes challenging. Everyone once in a while she’ll run up against a customer who is surprised by slightly longer shipping times. It’s all worth it though, as both Filipchuk and Beaulieu remain deeply passionate about what they do.

“I love doing public art, where everyone can see and access the art. It’s just such an amazing experience to see people counting the sides or walking around it,” Beaulieu says. “Through it we hope to bring some joy, light, and maybe a little curiosity to people’s day.”

Work Efficiently at Small Scales, Blow Minds at Large Scales

Filipchuk is also fond of their medium as the technology they use allows them to realize new concepts quickly.

“Because we use these adaptable and iterative methods for producing our work — like laser cutting and 3D printing — we can have it ready to look at and refine the same day,” she says. This kind of quick turnaround and quality control means faster and more efficient production and less risk of costly mistakes.

As for the future, the pair are excited to both grow their business and expand their capacity for creating public art. With plans to expand their studio and look into new projects for COZO — including a possible children’s toy and a big project in Oakland — Filipchuk says she looks forward to more “constant exploration into new materials and geometries.”