Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Zen Art Meets Responsible Design: Interview with BOA

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to meet BOA, founder and head designer of Object Interiors. Our meeting led to a long exchange about what it means to be an artist in our craft, about sustainable design, about our affinity for wood and organic materials and about our love for the creative process itself. I went home after our inspiring meeting and immediately checked out her site...I was completely blown away by her work! Object Interiors, a company she founded and where she serves as the head designer is a space where minimalist aesthetic meets zen spirit and eco-friendly design. The materials used in constructing her pieces range from cork, eco-felt fabric, bamboo, recyclable aluminum, reclaimed beams from 19th century industrial mills, water-based lacquers, and other eco-friendly media. Her furnitures create an environment that gives a sense of harmony and clarity of mind. I envision having her pieces in my home could lift my spirit on a daily basis...isn't that what all artists strive for?

BOA studied graphics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has worked in a variety of different media over the years before stumbling into the world of interiors and furniture. She has over 10 years experience in this industry, previously working as a furniture buyer, furniture sales rep, interiors / prop stylist and magazine art director. Having been brought up on St. John, US Virgin Islands (a national park) her aesthetic is heavily influenced by nature.

YOU CAN CHECK OUT HER LATEST CREATIONS AT THE UPCOMING BKLYN DESIGN EXPO this weekend May 8th-May 10th, 2009. See flyer below for details.

Lichiban: You mentioned the first time we met that you are the only "black female furniture designer doing modern furniture". How did you end up being a furniture designer and what would be your advice to aspiring designers?

BOA: "I first got interested in the field when a close friend opened a furniture showroom back in 1991 and hired me as the sales rep. I started hanging around the designers and collecting their work-Instead of getting paid a salary I was one of those "Will work for furniture" people. LOL. However, I got sidetracked into fashion modeling and did not come back to this field until 1997 . I had a serious physical injury and had to re-assess what I wanted to do with my life and I quickly realized that my love for art & design-basically all things creative-had never died. I took a job in a furniture showroom and learned the business from the ground up.
My advice to aspiring designers is to take classes or apprentice: know your stuff-know architecture, construction, material constraints but also learn the most important aspect of how to be a business person as well as an artist. To succeed in this industry requires a significant financial investment so write a business plan. Get really clear on how you will distinguish yourself from the next designer that is your competition because the competition is fierce-especially in New York. And I would say have faith and believe in yourself because that is 50% of your success."

L: I believe that all craft that is mastered and is done with a passion is art. Would you agree?

B: "Yes, yes, and yes!! Here in the western world our culture separates art from life. in traditional cultures all over the globe, the two are interchangeable and inseparable. Everyone in the community has an opportunity to fulfill their creative expression: women in many parts of Africa build and decorate the houses; children make pottery; Clothes are designed and sewn. Paintings are done on tree bark or walls-the list goes on. I have such reverence for art that is motivated from within and is not 'art for art's sake' as it is here. No juries or art critics to decide what is or isn't considered art. Just an individual, their imagination and some raw material."

L: Do you see yourself as an artist?

B: "Absolutely. I am first and foremost an artist. That description comes right after me being a woman. I trained in fine arts and worked in a multitude of media-sculpture, painting, jewelry design and graphics. What I'm fighting to try and change now is the perception that design is not art. Why does a lump of clay molded into the shape of a rock warrant a spot in museum and an exceptionally crafted chair doesn't? is it just because it's functional? Whose decision is it that function somehow negates or mitigates aesthetic appeal? Whose to say that you or I can't find inspiration in our daily lives from looking at a beautifully designed rug?"

L: Your furniture designs are eco-sensitive. Could you tell me a little bit more about what that entails?

B: "I coined the term Eco-sensitive because I feel that Eco-friendly is played out. almost anyone is getting away with calling themselves Eco-friendly these days whether they truly are or not. What I mean is that with every product I bring to the market, I consider all aspects of production in a way that supports living sustainably. For instance, I design in Brooklyn and manufacture nearby: Brooklyn, Staten Island and Jersey, to minimize fossil fuel usage from trucking long distances. I print everything on recycled paper. My materials are usually sustainably harvested wood veneer, other material with high recycled content, reclaimed wood beams, steel that can be re-purposed later and I pay particular attention to my finishing process. Most people don't know that the furnishing s they live with everyday off-gasses toxins into their indoor environment because the finishes contain harmful solvents. I use water based lacquers, no VOC paints and plant-based oils for all my finishing. Every detail of every component is carefully considered. I think living in Northern California so long made me into this super crunchy person I hardly recognize."

L: What’s your favorite medium to work with?

B: "Virgin wood that was just cut down, BUT I had to give that up when I decided to become a responsible designer. I love wood like no other love-it's just where it comes from that's an issue."

L: What are you going to show at the upcoming BKLYN Design showcase?

B: "My Live Earth" collection based on inspiration from botanicals and nature."

L: What’s the latest project you’ve been working on?

B: "Man, I'm a crazy multi-tasker so I have my hand in so many things right now. A video blog of design around the world, lecturing at high schools to young girls about design-I've got a lot on my plate. Just trying to take it one day at a time."


Cheryl Thomas said...

I would like to wish my sister good luck on her upcoming showing this weekend. Hard work and determination is what lander her where she is. I know first hand all the struggles that she overcame. Luv ya.

Cheryl Thomas

cocolatie said...

Good luck Sis, I know this weekend will be extravagant and you will sparkle as always. We are proud of you and we love you....

Charline Hickman

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