Iden­tikit How a min­i­mal­ist brings graphic sil­hou­ettes to her light­ing and ac­ces­sories

How Rachel Grif­fin chan­nels her graphic de­sign train­ing to give sim­ple ob­jects un­com­monly sleek sil­hou­ettes


COL­LAB­O­RA­TION Work­ing with other peo­ple is where I’m at my best. I’ve col­lab­o­rated sev­eral times with French tex­tile artist/de­signer Em­i­lie Pal­lard, who I met in school. Our part­ner­ship is such a good ex­am­ple of how col­lab­o­rat­ing can bring you some­where new. We’re al­ways jok­ing that, if it doesn’t work or if it falls apart, she likes it more, whereas I’m more fo­cused on func­tion and sim­plic­ity. One day, she said that she’d like to have some­thing that would make it eas­ier to use left­over wa­ter for plants. We even­tu­ally landed on Deuce, a com­bi­na­tion carafe and wa­ter­ing can. Um­bra had asked us to pitch to them, and we thought it was a good fit. It’s such a strange, whim­si­cal ob­ject.

MUL­TI­FUNC­TION­AL­ISM I re­ally en­joy adding an el­e­ment of trans­for­ma­tion to my se­rial ob­jects, whether it’s reusing the ma­te­rial or giv­ing the user a lot of op­tions for chang­ing the ob­ject and the way it’s used in ev­ery­day life. In 2013, I worked with Cana­dian de­signer Dana Can­nam on a col­lec­tion of mod­u­lar cen­ter­pieces that con­nect re­con­fig­urable wood, mar­ble and LED sec­tions with mag­nets. And my new Post lamp se­ries, which uses mag­nets to at­tach in­de­pen­dent LED sources to a cylin­dri­cal steel ar­ma­ture, can also be cus­tom­ized in all its it­er­a­tions.

CREATIVE PROCESS I started my ca­reer in the U.S. as a graphic de­signer be­fore en­rolling at De­sign Acad­emy Eind­hoven. So in the same way that I’ve tried dif­fer­ent medi­ums, I don’t stick to one spe­cific way of work­ing. I’ll take an archetype and try to sim­plify it and make it more func­tional or eas­ier to pro­duce. For a while I was re­ally into stone and I still am, but I be­came wary of its overuse. I like to work with metal be­cause it’s so ver­sa­tile in its form and still so pre­cise. It’s re­ally con­trol­lable, and I’m very con­trol­ling. In my own work, I think a lot about flex­i­bil­ity. I want form to be func­tional. But it’s still re­ally im­por­tant to have a sense of won­der in the ma­te­rial or the pos­ture of an ob­ject; it should still have a sense of char­ac­ter.

BAL­ANC­ING ACT The re­volv­ing Mill table lamp was – no pun in­tended – a real turn­ing point for me. It’s where I found the bal­ance be­tween form and func­tion and aes­thetic that I’d been look­ing for but hadn’t achieved be­fore that mo­ment in 2016. When

I was de­sign­ing it, I had a bunch of Sty­ro­foam balls on a table and was just putz­ing around; I put a ball on a cylin­der and re­al­ized it could move around freely. Then it be­came all about bal­ance, and that’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing when it comes to light. The lamp is just a ball rest­ing on a cone, and keeps its po­si­tion us­ing bal­ance as you ro­tate it. Peo­ple aren’t nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to move their ta­bles all the time. In our home, we hardly ever move any­thing – there are U.V. rings around our plants where the sun has light­ened the wood. But peo­ple are more likely to ad­just their lamps, so for am­bi­ent light and desk light, a flex­i­ble sys­tem is pos­si­ble.

IN­SPI­RA­TION I love Jasper Mor­ri­son for his sim­plic­ity, and Bert­jan Pot for his colour and play­ful­ness. I did an in­tern­ship with Dutch de­signer Jur­gen Bey, at Stu­dio Makkink & Bey, be­fore I founded Earnest Stu­dio. He’s a mag­i­cal thinker. But, rather than cultivating men­tors, I think I tend to pick up wisdom from the com­mu­nity around me. Rot­ter­dam is much more ex­per­i­men­tal than other Dutch cities. There’s far fewer his­tor­i­cal build­ings here – it was bombed re­ally heav­ily dur­ing the war – so it’s re­ally mod­ern, strange, and ex­per­i­men­tal, with a lot of un­usual build­ings. I moved here five years ago – now it’s re­ally boom­ing. And it’s still rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive to live here, so you can start up your own stu­dio with­out be­ing su­per stressed about where the money is com­ing from.

WHAT’S NEXT Since cre­at­ing the Mill lamp, which is cur­rently in de­vel­op­ment with a man­u­fac­turer, I find I’m able to home in more quickly and sharply on the dy­namic be­tween func­tion and aes­thetic. My Post lamp se­ries is an ex­am­ple of that. It hap­pened fast, and had a me­chan­i­cal flex­i­bil­ity and strong graphic char­ac­ter that I was re­ally happy with. The hang­ing rail I showed at Salone­satel­lite this year, called Strand, tar­gets those el­e­ments too. I played with the archetype of a coat rack us­ing steel and wood. That project is also now in de­vel­op­ment with a brand here in the Nether­lands. I am work­ing on a few new projects that are also ex­er­cis­ing those skills. My two big­gest works-in-progress are a new light­ing piece and an in­te­rior – a top-to-bot­tom ren­o­va­tion of an apart­ment in Rot­ter­dam. But I’m bound to se­crecy right now.

BORN Bos­ton, United States, 1982 LO­CA­TION Rot­ter­dam, the Nether­lands OC­CU­PA­TION Mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary de­signer ED­U­CA­TION Bach­e­lor of de­sign from De­sign Acad­emy Eind­hoven (2010); Bach­e­lor of arts in graphic de­sign from Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity in St. Louis, Mis­souri (2003)

SE­LECTED AWARDS 2017 Ger­man De­sign

Deuce com­bines a carafe with a wa­ter­ing can to al­low users to share a drink with their plants.

↓ New York man­u­fac­turer Good Thing and shav­ing brand Harry com­mis­sioned the Nick shav­ing set for a 2017 New York De­sign Week ex­hi­bi­tion.

All of a Piece is an­other of Grif­fin’s mod­u­lar creations, this one a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cana­dian de­signer Dana Can­nam.

For Grif­fin, the Mill lamp rep­re­sents a turn­ing point in dis­cov­er­ing the bal­ance be­tween form, func­tion and aes­thet­ics.

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