Tell us about Studio Den Den?
Starting a business is never going to be the easiest path, but for us it represents creative liberation, it’s the way we have both always wanted to work. George is trained as an industrial designer and Jillian is a licensed architect. When we met, we were both equally interested in learning about each other's work and formed the studio as a way to collaborate on the wide breadth of projects we were interested in. Studio Den Den represents freedom for us in many ways. We are free to define our creative process, and to blur the lines between objects and architecture, and design and art as we so choose. We are also free to choose where we work, when we work, and who we work with.
Today, we specialize in creating one-of-a-kind objects and spaces. We work on a range of project types, but most of our clients are attracted to us for our playful creativity and expertise in fabrication techniques. Clients will often come to us for architectural or interior design and end up wanting a specialty piece of furniture or lighting. Other times a company wants to develop a unique home goods product or a light fixture with us, and then we end up designing their storefront.
What is your favorite product from Sounds (in addition to the soap dish!)
We received the Banya Candle as a gift a few months ago and totally love it. Nice candles are just one of those things we never think to buy ourselves - which is why they make such lovely gifts. But once you have one in your space it makes a huge difference. We love the ambience of candles but always struggle to find a candle that isn’t overly fragrant or feminine. It’s a beautiful, natural smell that is really wonderful to come home to. And bonus, once the candle is done you’re left with an awesome little glass.
Do you have a ritual for creativity?
Definitely. It's three steps that expand, contract, and repeat cyclically:
- Take a break
- Use your hands
Take a break: It’s really important to have the space to reset totally un-distracted by technology, so your brain can form new ideas. For us this tends to look like a hike out in nature, visiting a new restaurant, or going to see art or live music.
Use your hands: Whether we’re just starting out or we’re stuck and need to refine, materiality and hands-on construction play a huge role in our creative process. Sketching, prototyping, and use case testing are direct versions of this, but cooking, exercising, playing instruments, and fly fishing also counts.
Iterate: We are so consumed with media, it’s hard for young designers to find their own voice without replicating what they’ve seen 1000 times before. You have to counteract that 1000 with a 1000 of your very own. Even if it’s bad at the beginning, you’ll get there. Sketch, prototype, test assumptions, and repeat.
What is your creative aspiration for the next few months?
We are pretty excited to start scaling up our model shop operations over the next few months. This past year was all about tabletop objects, which we’re continuing to develop alongside the custom pieces we make for our interior design clients. But in the next year, we’re also excited to break into lighting, and to keep developing our made-to-order furniture through our relationships with local Rhode Island and New York fabricators.
How do you stay balanced, inspired, and nourished?
We go on a lot of walks together. All times of day and night. It sounds quite cliche, but the mind needs rest and empty space to generate new ideas. It's not uncommon that on walks that we come across a new material, texture, or shape that sparks an idea for a project. We’re trying to really push our sources of inspiration beyond pintrest and google images searches, which we’re all guilty of, but we find tends to make the inspiration phase of a project more of an afterthought, or post-rationalization. If we can sprinkle in our own photos and experiences, it leads to a more fulfilling process, and more unique work. In terms of balance, we both remain dedicated to exercise as both a physical and mental practice, and engage in a lot of creative hobbies like cooking, making music, fly fishing, camping, the list goes on.