When I began sketching the vanities, I couldn't help but consider the transformative power of cutting, coloring, extending, braiding, and styling hair. It is perhaps the most uniquely human and universal form of culture that takes place all over the world. Whether it's a trim or a more extensive transformation like coloring, braids, or extensions, the experience is generally positive, except for the occasional (but temporary!) bad haircut. Using renewal and transformation as a starting point, I thought there couldn't be a more positive, transformative image, symbol, or even metaphor than a blossoming flower.
My goal for the Tulip Table was to create something that used color and form as the primary expression and to utilize color on color, similar to how an Ellsworth Kelly relief operates. I experimented with various other forms and shapes for the table, but I kept coming back to this idea of the tulips. I wanted to make something that felt sweet and optimistic. Tulips for me are a very special flower and a table is already a special object that is very human. It’s both a communal space to share a meal, a conversation, or a solitary surface to work, write, think and draw. I tried to add a layer to this by thinking about my table as more of an artwork than simply a piece of design. What happens when we do all the things we would normally do on and with a table, but the table is itself expressing back to us?
Nick Bell, the co-founder of Ask Us For Ideas—a creative studio in London, who I met via Airbnb of all places in 2014 and is now one of my best friends, asked me if I would contribute something special to the new AUFI office designed by CAKE architecture. The goal was to create a piece that would be immediately activated upon arriving at the studio. Something that would sort of set the tone for the entire experience of the space, office, and culture. The idea came rather quickly, and I thought what better way to do this than to replace the existing door pulls, with something bold, graphic, and playful such as a simple tulip shape.
Bar Part Time, a San Francisco-based natural wine bar and night club that began as an underground wine delivery/distribution operation during covid reached out to me asking if I’d be up for collaborating with them on a product leading up to the opening of their brick and mortar wine bar. The idea to do a coaster, which I later added to be a permanent product for Spiritual Objects, came rather quickly but realizing it took much longer than expected. First versions included laser cutting leather—turns out it burns— trying to cut out the shapes by hand—also not a good idea—and finally having a die made, punching out three layers of leather laminated together, and finishing by painting the edges to match the color of the leather.
Scott Barry, a dear friend of mine, design genius, entrepreneur, and partner at Plant Paper—a toilet paper startup attempting to take on the evil giants of the industry—asked me to participate in an exhibition he was organizing where about 50 artists and designers were asked to create toilet paper holders. At that time I was looking at a lot of furniture by Roy McMakin, and his use of drawers. I thought, what better place to be able to have a little stash of matches, incense, tampons, etc. than built into the toilet paper holder? Once I knew I wanted to incorporate a drawer into the piece, the house shape and holding mechanism designed themselves.
I lived with the original coaster prototypes—and still do—for over a year before releasing them. I was surprised at how much of an impact such a small seemingly low-stakes group of objects could have on a space. I love seeing them migrate throughout our space, stacked on books, stools, and tables, and strewn all over the floor by our son.
The Flower Collection was an attempt to expand on the original Flower Necklace pendant into a full jewelry collection to include a bracelet, stud earrings, and hanging “drop” earrings. I don’t actually wear any jewelry myself daily—yet—but whenever I do, I love the feeling of wearing these tiny little sculptures.
For the second edition of the Flower mugs, my goal was to make them a little lighter and thinner than the original set and to use slightly brighter, more colorful glazes. I had some trouble getting the color to pop, but ultimately I was happy with how they turned out, and actually quite liked the watercolor-like glazes.
Similarly to the Sardine, the initial form for the flower necklace came about by mindlessly playing with some soft casting wax. I think the first versions were made by forming a little pancake of wax and smashing the blunt side of an exacto knife to form pie-shaped petals. I had the flower experiments cast in bronze before I knew what I was going to do with them. Initially, I was thinking maybe buttons but ultimately decided to turn them into necklace pendants. They really came to life once I had them cast in silver and gold and found a simple cable chain to pair with them.
White Oak might just be my favorite of all the hardwoods. It’s not always the easiest to work with—its porous grain easily splinters and cracks—but when lightly finished with oil, makes for a really beautiful and warm surface that only gets better with time and use. I like to imagine what the Cutting Boards will look like after 20-30 years of use.
Cookbook, a small market here in LA that sells farm fresh produce and specialty pantry items used to commission artists to create a small edition of ceramic mugs/cups. This was actually the first time I had ever experimented with clay and thanks to the guidance of my friend and clay wizard, Zachary Leener, I was able to pull this off. I was humbled by the challenge of working with such an organic and unpredictable material, but loved the process and will definitely be returning to it in the future.
In the fall, before the pandemic hit, shortly after launching Spiritual Objects, Alex Tan of MOUTHWASH Studio hit me up about collaborating on a project together. At that point, I had only released a couple of projects, but somehow Alex saw my vision and thought he could contribute something. Spiritual Objects will forever be indebted to all things related to Italian art and design, especially the Radical Design movement of the 60s and ’70s which was a starting off point for the direction of the Zine. This project is still so special to me and really confirmed what I had hoped when starting the studio which was to allow for more collaboration and community, and to just trust the vision!
I started using these funny graphic music notes in my art as far back as 2013, but over the years they became much tighter and more refined. I had just completed a series of “note” paintings in 2018 when the idea came to me to make a piece of furniture using a simplified note shape, stretched out like a Robert Indiana sculpture. This sent me down a deep wormhole and eventually led me to start Spiritual Objects. After 6 months of trial and error, and 3 furniture design night classes later, I had my first Disco Stool. I think this project ultimately taught me to trust my intuition, and not be afraid to try new things.
The Caffè Lamp came shortly after I finished the Mug Lamp and was experimenting with other readymade forms that would work well with the same concept. The pieces are sand cast, which is a fairly crude way to reproduce an object, but the result is a very satisfying 1:1 material transformation. It was a challenge to then find a solution to fit a light into the small espresso cup, yet keep it completely concealed when hanging upside-down. The issue was eventually resolved with a small LED fixture, and the light actually produces a really nice intimate glow.
My wife and I lived in Copenhagen for a little over a year starting in 2015. There was this humble little cafe/bar near our apartment that we went to from time to time. Hanging over each table were these little pendant lamps, no larger than 4 inches wide - which I still can’t figure out the designer, but I’m assuming from the 60s. They were the perfect lights for the space and also worked really well at creating a space within a space. When you were sitting at a table, it felt as if you were in your own environment, yet when you looked around throughout the cafe, you saw other people experiencing their own intimate spaces as well. I don’t know why I chose a Coffee mug to create a similar function, but it seemed like a perfectly scaled object, and a form that would be familiar, yet kind of disappear at the same time.
A friend gave me a box with various bits of wax—I believe sprue wax for casting bronze—to play with when I was experimenting with making wedding rings for my wife and me. One of the larger sticks of wax was about 3/4 by 3/4 inch thick and about 4 inches long. I was playing with the wax in my hand, warming it up so that it became softer and easier to manipulate when the form of a fish—a sardine in particular—started to take shape without really thinking about it. It was only after I had finished articulating the sardine out of wax that I thought that this might make the perfect incense holder once cast in bronze. The finished piece has such a nice weight to it when you hold it in the palm of your hand and with two different holes on the tip of the tail, it functions quite beautifully with various shapes and sizes of incense.
The Cutting Board was the first piece that I completed for Spiritual Objects and one that remains a favorite of mine. I was working on several other objects, all at various stages of completion at the time, and the cutting board eked its way out ahead of the others. It’s probably the only thing that I’ve gotten right the first time around, without any failed drafts, design revisions or tweaks. I was trained as a painter and still consider myself a painter among other things—dad, designer, artist— so in addition to it being a nod to my love of painting, the board also gets to the heart of my design ethos, which is to make art useful or to make art out of useful things.