Today we kick off our series of interviews with young architects and designers by speaking with Jamie Wolfond. Jamie is finishing up his last year at RISD and already has a substantial CV to his name, with stints in film and in design studios to his credit. He has also designed some intriguing objects himself, which were what initially brought him to our attention. We wanted to find out what makes a young designer tick, his thoughts on design and his vision of the future. What follows is our Q-and-A with an emerging young talent about his inspirations, plans and why design is like looking for your keys.
We plan to bring you more interviews with young architects and designers down the line, so keep checking here regularly.
FORM: How did you get interested in furniture design?
Jamie Wolfond: I wanted to design furniture before I knew there was such a job. In the beginning, I wanted to use my toys to make things that my parents would take seriously. K’nex is just a building tool for kids, it isn’t “real,” but when I use it to make a shelving unit or an umbrella stand, people see it differently.
F: What was the first piece of furniture you ever made?
JW: When I was around 11, I screwed together these pine cubes that act as a modular shelving unit. I still have some in my apartment. I joke that they’re the most useful thing I’ve ever made.
F: Was that your “ah ha” moment in terms of your career, or did it happen more gradually?
JW: I guess it was one of the first times I really thought about it. I always knew what I wanted to do, but before that it was more visceral than intellectual.
F: What sorts of things inspire you?
JW: I can’t think of any sorts of things that don’t.
Lately, I have been searching things like ‘bad design” on Google Images to see if I get an idea. It’s not that I’m necessarily looking for bad design, but I can only find certain things by searching something else entirely.
F: Who are your top three favorite living designers?
JW: They’re always changing. Three things that I’m really excited about right now are Sebastian Wrong’s slipcast table for Established and Sons, Erwin Wurm’s work and this short animated film called BAKA! by Immanuel Wagner.
F: How about top three of all time?
W: Marcel Duchamp, Sol Lewitt and Alvar Aalto.
F: What do you see as trends in your field?
JW: Computers and technology seem to be an increasingly prominent way of making things. I guess I can’t say that the very use of technology is a new thing, but I think, now, designers are polarized by the question of 3D printers and CNC in general.
F: What’s your process like? Are you sketcher, a tinkerer, a computer guy?
JW: I usually know what I want the thing to feel like before I know how it might look or work. So it’s really just a matter of doing a lot until I know how to get what I want.
I feel the same way when I’ve lost my keys. At first, I have no idea where I left them- no clue at all- so I look in the obvious places. As I look, my idea of where they might be gets better and better. Soon, I’m checking under specific books and papers, half expecting to find them. When I finally figure out where they are, I don’t even have to check to know I got it right.
Looking for the keys is research. I usually combine iterative material experiments and working models with internet research until I find whatever it is I’m looking for.
F: What’s your all time favorite object?
JW: I’m sitting in my kitchen now, so I would say my French press and this box of plastic cutlery are my favorite objects, but when I go back into my living room it might be my Sorel boots, and when I leave the house, a cast iron spigot.
I am always falling in love with some things and falling out of love with others. I think that changing my mind is a large part of the reason I keep wanting to make new things.
F: What has been your professional highlight so far?
JW: Last summer I worked at Den Herder Production House in the Netherlands. I lived in a spacious trailer in the sheep field on Bas Den Herder’s farm. I helped produce work by Maarten Baas and Bertjan Pot and some custom projects. It was like nothing I’ve ever done- challenging, gritty and beautiful.
This interview has been edited for length and style.