Q: Describe the moment you decided to become a furniture/object designer.
Growing up I enjoyed painting and drawing as a hobby. My introduction to working three dimensionally in college was life altering. Instead of focusing on a single composition in a two-dimensional space, every conceivable viewpoint of an object became a new composition. Furniture further complicated the creative challenge because a piece had to exist as a complete object both in the interaction with a human being and as its own entity.
Q: How has being a woman in your industry been challenging?
Both furniture making and design are still very much male dominated fields. However the most annoying character I regularly come up against is the woodworking hobbyist/weekend warrior. It’s frustrating to be patronized by the far less informed and less accomplished amateur.
Q: What have you learned from those specific challenges?
Specifically, I’ve learned to adopt a concussed look that deters even the most determined rambler. But more broadly, I’ve learned to enjoy being the underdog.
Q: What is the one piece of advice you would give to young women who are just getting started?
I want to emphasize that self-doubt and cynicism are never conducive to designing. Sometimes the attitude I have to adopt to see a piece in an objective light or give myself constructive criticism is very similar to these outlooks. The difference is crucial to understand. Doubt and cynicism only leave someone feeling weaker and less focused.
Q: If you were handed any project in the world, what would it be? Who would you like to create something for? Where would it be located? What materials would you use? Would it be a collaboration?
When I graduated from RISD, my Yumi Chair was exhibited at the Dwell On Design: Faculty Selects show. After the show, I found out Nick Offerman—who plays the unflappable Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation, a personal hero of mine—had been one of the judges! He even commented on my piece in his review of the show. From that moment on, I made it one of my life goals to one day create a chair for him as very large, three-dimensional fanmail.
Q: What is the inspiration behind your most recent project/creation/object?
The most recent project I revisited was my vaulted stool. At the time I was designing the stool, I became very interested in cathedral architecture from Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth novel, and it fascinated me how the shape of a space can evoke such a spectrum of emotions. I was simultaneously taking a class in traditional upholstery techniques, and felt driven to create a piece of furniture which manifested my design aesthetic while showcasing the unique effects achieved by upholstery.
Q: Walk me through your creative process.
When I begin designing, I like to use strips of paper to mock up experimental forms. Paper is a two-dimensional material, and I am entirely uninhibited by any nagging doubts of what is or is not possible with my chosen materials. Once I create a form that feels complete, I then attempt to apply my woodworking knowledge and resources to the design. Often the initial form isn’t physically possible through traditional means, but by reaching out to other designers or industries I sometimes find surprising solutions.
Q: What is the most challenging project you have ever worked on and why?
One of the most challenging projects I’ve worked on was the first piece I made outside of school: the Yumi Chair II. Since I no longer had the support and structure offered by my professors and classmates, I initially felt very isolated and unsure of myself. And because I was designing the piece in “real life” there were real consequences if I made mistakes, fell behind schedule, or had poor craftsmanship.