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Designer Interviews

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Designer Interview: Sarah Jane Studios

Becky

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We are so excited to announce the launch of a collaboration made in heaven. Illustrator Sarah Jane of Sarah Jane Studios has teamed up with Pop & Lolli to bring her charming and whimsical creations to removable fabric wallpapers and decals.
Pop & Lolli founder Mia Viljoen first fell in love with Sarah Jane’s work when her daughters’ South African grandmother made them matching dresses from Sarah Jane’s fabric. She then realized the charming illustrations would make brilliantly gorgeous wall decor, decals and wallpaper .
Today we’re sitting down with Sarah Jane to learn more about her inspirations for this charming collection. Thanks so much to Sarah Jane for sharing her thoughts and inspirations with us!
PHOTO CREDIT: Tara B Photography
How does this collaboration differ from others you’ve done before? My products in the past mostly have been created here at Sarah Jane Studios. My fabric that I design is a collaboration … a licensing relationship. And this one is just that. I love that I can design for Pop & Lolli while still keeping the Sarah Jane esthetic as a strong brand. This collaboration is different in that I am actually able to sell and market the wallpaper myself as well, which I get really excited about. I love being directly involved with the customer!
What’s it like to go from prints and textiles to wallpapers and decals? Is your approach any different? If so, in what way? From textiles, wallpaper is an easy translation. Most of my wallpapers are directly from my fabric collections. My approach with the wall decals took a bit more preparation. It was a matter of in some cases redrawing the illustrations to fit the end result of being enlarged and used separately.
How can parents help keep the magic of childhood alive the way your illustrations do? Creating creative spaces for children is key. Children live in their imaginations, and will do that naturally regardless of their environment….for a time. Keeping their spaces a live with color, design and story is what keeps that whimsical thinking an ongoing experience for them. I’ve also found that when  children’s space is designed with creative play in mind, the parents are more likely to engage in that play as well. Fostering creative play is always easier when the space is fun, colorful, and whimsical first.
What inspired this collection? Is there a particular message seen in it you’d like to reiterate? What does this message mean to you? Simple, imaginative play inspires most of my designs. I am a firm believer in letting children be children. Not growing them up too fast. The world does a pretty good job of that already. Children parading around with balloons and bugles, mermaids that seem classic and timeless, and children riding bareback through an open field might seem unrelated in context. But in feeling, it’s the same. Let children imagine themselves without boundaries, keeping play simple and creative and imagining themselves in the art.
But on top of that, I also care greatly about making sure that a children’s space is in line with the design-minded parents. Color that’s fresh, line work that’s simple and expressive. The parents have to love it too!
Thanks so much Sarah Jane! We’re so excited that everyone who makes a Pop & Lolli purchase will be entered to win a $50 gift card from Design Public, now through August 8, 2014, so be sure to check out all things Pop & Lolli.
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Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Designer Interview: Brad Musuraca, Owner of Tronk Design

Becky

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After graduating from The University of Cincinnati with a degree in classics,  Brad Musuraca  noticed his friends in the architecture school working on their final furniture-building projects, and thought that it looked like a lot of fun. He carved out a spot in his family’s factory to start experimenting during his free time outside of working there, working with wood and metal and creating prototypes. This led to him starting his own  furniture company, Tronk Design.  Here’s more about how he got his start, his design process and advice for budding designers. Thanks to Brad for answering our questions today.


Tronk Design Hudson Table with Inlay

What was the first piece of furniture you ever built?

The very first piece I ever built was a tall long thin table you might put in a hallway and throw your keys on it as you came into the house. It was very simple because I only had one machine, so the wood came from Lowes and I stained it, trying to make it NOT look like cheap pine. It’s actually still around in my Dad’s office.
Cincinnati is chock full of great design history — are there any examples of local designers/designs  that inspire you in particular?

Honestly I really like Charley Harper, as does everyone I suppose. I actually tried to get in touch with their studio to see if I could integrate some of his iconic animal designs into my furniture. Nothing happened with that, but I’m still holding out hope.

Your work has the vibe of a contemporary take on mid-century modern. What are some of your favorite elements/principles from that era that you like to use in your work today?

I try and keep the furniture as slim and elegant as possible without sacrificing functionality. Yes it is very minimalistic, but each item has something subtle that adds a little pop to catch the eye. Ultimately mid-century furniture was designed to be high quality, but also able to be mass produced.
Can you walk us through your process a bit, from the time you get an idea to the finished piece of furniture?

I’d like to start off by saying that I tend to have a bit of an obsessive personality.  I will literally think about a new product idea non-stop for days. I have a long list of ideas sitting on my desk that honestly, I will probably never get to make. Usually I just end up making the latest idea that pops into my head.
It starts off with a prototype, roughly fashioned with cheap wood from the hardware store. Then I’ll make whatever changes I would like from there, because nothing ever seems to look exactly as you imagined it. Once that is done I’ll make another prototype out of cheap wood, but this time do all the joints properly to see what it will actually be like in reality to make the thing. If that goes well then I’ll make all the appropriate jigs and make another prototype out of slightly better wood, which I usually stain to get a feel for the color of the final piece. This prototype inevitably ends up in my house. Finally I’ll make the real deal and make up a manufacturing direction sheet from everything I just learned through the prototyping process. A lot more methodical work than inspiration, unfortunately!


I love the way the Franklin Shelf works a corner — how did you come up with that?
I just wanted to design some type of shelf that fit into a corner. I went through all the usual suspects you would imagine. Then I thought “well, what if it was just a flat board in an L shape?” Then I figured it would need support so I added another shelf and connected them. Then I thought it would be interesting if they could stack, so I added another shelf on top, which  gave me 3 layers of shelving. Then I thought that if the user wanted to put something on the shelf that was larger than 10″ in height, they would have a problem. So I made one side of the top shelf a little shorter than the shelf below it — this created a little shelf where you can put a vase or something else a little taller. Then for the sake of symmetry I did the same thing to the opposite side of the bottom shelf.

Do you have any advice for budding furniture designers about running their own shops?

Be prepared to work 60+ hour weeks for little or no pay, and focus on PR.

What do you have on the boards next?

Trade secret :)
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Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Designer Process: Silkscreening With Thomas Paul

Becky

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Today we’re going to take a trip to India, and you don’t need to fight over all of your vintage Louis Vuitton luggage with your siblings ala The Darjeerling Limited beforehand. Designer Thomas Paul is taking us through the steps of how his dynamic prints come to life through the ancient art of silkscreening. I have many Thomas Paul items around my house, including a version of this amazing octopus shower curtain, and as I type, my elbow is resting upon a Thomas Paul Zebra pillow. After seeing exactly what goes into creating his pieces, I am even more of a fan. I hope you enjoy this virtual field trip, and thanks to Thomas for taking us on it!

Thomas Paul Octopus Vineyard Shower Curtain

The final product: The Octopus Vineyard Shower Curtain. This shower curtain requires a four color process.

Thomas Paul

1) The design is printed on vellum.

Thomas Paul

2) The screens are shot, one screen per color, and then washed to reveal the design.

Thomas Paul

3) The screens are dried.

Thomas Paul

4) Swatches are chosen.

5) Colors are mixed.

Thomas Paul

6)  The fabric is laid out smooth for printing.

Thomas Paul

7) The screens are inked.

Thomas Paul

8) The screens are cleaned.

9) Ink is pulled through the design onto the fabric

Thomas Paul

10) The process is repeated along the length of the fabric, one screen per color.

Thanks so much to Thomas Paul for providing us with the art and process. If you’d like to see more of his designs, browse all Thomas Paul here.

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Monday, October 7th, 2013

Guest Post: Designer Interview with turnstone’s Jenny Gauld

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Recently, writer Carla Turk had a chance to pick turnstone designer Jenny Gauld’s brain about how the process of designing a harmonious functional office works. Take it away Carla and Jenny!

Turnstone Bivi Holders

So how does this process begin? In any design project, it all starts with a good set of questions. It is about finding solutions to your needs, discussing how you want to use your space, the type of storage requirements and how to use color and materials to support your brand. The budget, move-in schedule and any other pertinent details are addressed at this point. This is about you and how you want your space to be.

It also starts with your vision. There are online tools you can use to create an overall scheme or get a better idea of what you like, such as Pinterest or turnstone’s past work.  I’ve known designers take their clients to check out spaces that might be in line with what they are looking for. Co-working spaces are also good places to visit since they have the same amenities as an office: open and private spaces, break room and copy/print areas.

Turnstone Bivi Rumble Seat

What are the office trends you’ve seen/designed in projects that you’ve completed recently? Startups tend to create a workplace that speaks so vividly about their culture, foster a tight community and exude fun. An office is traditionally where we collaborate, meet with clients and facilitate our day to day business. With planning furniture, we can help foster activities that will encourage interactions like dotting the space with comfortable soft seating to capture a sense of your home’s living room or a communal table to get everyone to each lunch together. It is about culture and how to stay true to it everyday.

Turnstone Scoop Stools

Supporting different postures is becoming important in the office. Almost everyone works from their laptop and being mobile is a common activity in the office. Allowing different seat heights, ranging from standard seat to stool and bar height chairs, allows you to move around and support posture.

Turnstone Buoy Chair in Chili Red

We are pretty content with my existing reclaimed furniture. Does design really matter?Of course it does! Your office is where you create, collaborate and reach project milestones. But it’s not only about having a space conducive to productivity, it is creating an inspiring and comfortable space to share with peers who you spend most of your time with.  Just take a look at Fracture. A company which started with randomly placed “reclaimed” furniture, but has taken the big step by creating a well-organized and branded space. It brought a sense of ownership and a positive future.

Fracture's Offices

Letting go of the reclaimed furniture is a big step. But if you are serious about your company and its future, I believe it is time to outgrow the hand-me-downs and invest in the tools to help your business grow.


Inspired? Shop our Steelcase sale now through 10/14/2013


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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Designer Interview: Meet Elana Joelle Hendler of EJH Brand

Becky

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Today we’re getting to know Elana Joelle Hendler, the artist and designer behind EJH Brand
Tell us a little bit about the journey that led you to where you are in your art career today.

I’ve been drawing all my life, drawing in notebooks with a ballpoint pen since I was young. I studied art history in college but never had plans for a career with my art. A few years later, my life took a major shift and I decided to go out on my own and start a business. I knew then that I would use my artwork as the basis for the brand. As I began to work on the concept for EJH, I was drawn to designing products that I’ve always loved and enjoyed in my home. (I’ve been obsessed with candles since I can remember!) Your home can be such a sanctuary from the busy world around us and I wanted to create unique, design driven works of art that people could enjoy in their own environments.
You feature wildlife a lot –­ what inspired that and how do you decide on which species you are going to feature?

My earliest drawings were doodles that I would work on without really knowing what they were. As I would continue to draw, I would always notice the designs began to look like animals and then I would continue the drawing to look like that animal. I suppose you could say I’ve always been a wildlife artist. I find the modern elements of intrinsic designs in nature and wildlife absolutely fascinating and that is what I explore in my work. As far as selecting a particular animal to feature, the Wildlife Collection is a combination of work I drew before my business existed and other animals I adore that I chose to complete the series!
What are some of  the benefits of and challenges with production in the USA?

The main benefit to having production in the USA is shorter turnaround and better quality control. The challenges are cost, sourcing and sometimes a combination of the two! The truth is, even though it has its challenges, I feel very proud to say that I partner locally and that my products are all designed and handcrafted in the USA.
What are your studio space and neighborhood like? How do they inspire you?
My studio is in Venice just lining the canals. I love working so close to the water and watching the different canal birds that share my neighborhood! The culture here in Venice has definitely had an impact on my aesthetic and how I create environments to showcase the brand. My studio is filled with reclaimed wood and metal furniture including an oversized wooden bookcase that I use to feature the full collection. The first print from each limited edition hangs along the walls and my view out the window overlooks the Venice canals.
Speaking of inspiration, what do you do when you have a creative block to try and shake it?

Whenever I have a creative block, I’ve learned it’s best to get up, walk away, and get back to it later. Since I live a block from the beach, I sometimes take a pen and notepad with me and will plant myself right there on the sand and take in the fresh air. Sometimes the change of scenery is enough to clear your head and inspire a new perspective.
I fear writing notes on nice notepapers and cards is becoming a lost art. Please tell us about the inspiration for doing stationary and how people should use it.

There is something so special about receiving a handwritten note on a beautiful card, whether it’s a thank you, invitation, or just to say hello. The heart of the EJH concept is to really appreciate the nuances of handcrafted works of art and in this spirit, I decided to design stationery letterpressed by hand on paper made from cotton recovered from the textile industry. It’s a modern spin on an age old tradition of expression, and I think sending a handwritten note can be such a beautiful gesture that people truly appreciate receiving.
Tell us a little about choosing luxurious fragrances for your candles.

Our two candle collections are designed with 100% pure essential oils, using a delicate combination of fruits, flowers, herbs and plants. I love fresh, sophisticated, clean fragrances! I have always been repelled by strong synthetic smells and so EJH is about all natural coconut wax, earth­inspired essential oils that make you feel connected to the environment and add that subtle sophistication to your home space.
Anything else to add that my questions don’t cover?

I was 24 when I started the company with no business, product development or even product design experience. That’s a fun fact people usually find interesting. This business began on a dream and sheer determination.
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