An Interview with Industrial Designer and Studio Owner Asher Rodriquez-Dunn
Sometimes people ask me what I do for a living and I respond that in the simplest terms, I'm a "words person" who works for a "pictures person." What does this mean? Well, to me it means that I attempt to translate an artist's visual work into a written form. And why do this? Like so many designers, Asher likes to let his work speak for itself, but that only gets you so far. If you want to be a successful designer, you also have to be able to talk about your work; marketing, sales, customer service - all these things are integral to a company's success, and they all depend on good written and verbal communication.
Every once in a while, Asher and I do an exercise where I interview him about his newest pieces. Sometimes it can be like pulling teeth: "The chair is right there," Asher says. "Just look at it, sit in it, and you'll learn everything you need to know." And to an extent, he's right. But in our world of SEO, hashtags, email, press outreach, and Google searches, the words we use to describe our work and how we choose to communicate about them to the world are of utmost value. Asher's on board with this idea; sometimes he just needs a (gentle) shove in the right direction.
This week, I sat down with Asher to talk about his newest work. He's added a chair, bench, and table to the Rockport Collection, as well as a pendant light to the Equinox Collection. These latest pieces, just released last month during New York's design week, have already had their photo shoot, but I was insistent that we needed to talk about them, too. Below, please find some pictures and words about the new pieces, courtesy of Asher and myself.
Q: What inspired you to expand the Rockport Collection to include a new bench, chair, and table?
A: I enjoy designing seating, and as I was developing the first pieces in this collection, which we launched last year, I always envisioned adding seating. The design language combines the angular geometry of the surfaces with the subtle curvature of the legs, and I felt this would lend itself well to seating. I jumped between the Chair and Bench because I wanted them to imitate each other, drawing from a common design language and matching details, but I also wanted them to have their own, unshared, characteristics. This required development on one, then going to the other, and back again to develop a strong balance and tension in each of the pieces.
The Sawhorse was released last year. I call it my oddball piece because it does not have a single prescribed use. Rather, it can be used for many things: a rack for your quilt at the end of the bed, a free standing towel bar next to a bathtub, and, of course, two of them could be used to create a desk or dining table when you add a tabletop. This naturally led to the development of the Sawhorse Table. The tabletop matches the aesthetic of the collection and can be customized to meet the sizing needs of the particular project.
Q: In your mind, what are the defining characteristics of these pieces?
A: For this collection, I enjoyed mixing angles and straight lines with the subtle curves of the turned legs. I like designing with duality in mind - nature and industry, hand made and machine made, and in this case, angles and curvature. DUNN is best known for the flowing curves in our woodwork, and I wanted to bring a new look into our portfolio.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working with wood as a material? What are the challenges, and how do these pieces meet them?
A: Wood is a natural, living material. As a naturally occurring resource, each tree, and thus timber, has unique characteristics in appearance and workability, which is what makes woodworking so interesting. These characteristics demand a high level of consideration and respect. Ignoring them can decrease the attractiveness and strength of a piece, whereas respecting them can create strong, beautiful pieces. For each wood piece, we hand select the boards, seeking particular qualities to ensure we're creating beautiful, long lasting pieces.
Q: Why did you decide to create a Pendant version of the Equinox?
A: Last year we released a full metal sconce to launch this collection. I'd been looking forward to expanding the collection and the idea of creating a pendant drew my attention. It was an interesting challenge to start with a planer form that mounts to the wall and consider what I wanted for the design when it was free standing, off a wall, and could be viewed from all sides. Through a mix of sketching and modeling we tried varying numbers of discs, orientations, bulb types, and bulb quantities. The result is a unique three-dimensional form with a planer bias that looks different depending on the viewer's angle.
Q: Why did you go with glass as a material?
A: The outer most discs are glass. Since they are a detachable component, we have the option of using different types of materials to diffuse the light. For this release, I wanted to display a material that emphasized the inspiration of the piece: the Equinox. This occurs when day and night equalize to be the same length, once in the fall and once in the spring. Due to the lunar inspiration, I wanted something topographical and found it in a hand-rolled glass. The molten glass is poured onto a work surface, kneaded with tools until the glass begins to set, then rolled out into sheets. After the glass has fully cooled, the sheets are cut into the discs used in this fixture. As a material, it provides an opulent diffusor for the bulbs located just behind. We value hand craftsmanship, and this fixture has a lot of it. The glass brought in another element of the handmade and a process that creates unique variations in the texture of each piece.
Q: When you picture the Equinox Pendant in a space, what do you envision?
A: I see these pieces standing alone and in groups. A single pendant can accentuate an entranceway, landing, hallway, or bathroom. A group of pendants can be hung at the same height or staggered heights, creating a centerpiece over a bar, dining table, or in a stairwell. The list goes as far as the imagination can stretch.
We've been inspired by those "Ah ha!" moments in the past when we see how our clients choose to use our pieces. Often they install or adjust them in a way that we never imagined, but absolutely love. Such is the nature of our work when it is customizable to a client's vision for their space. We look forward to seeing and hearing how these newest pieces become part of our clients' businesses, offices, and homes. Send us your pictures...and words!