These Uruguay-Born, Los Angeles–Based Women are Poised for Furniture Stardom
Four years ago, Emiliana Gonzalez and Jessie Young moved to Los Angeles from their hometown of Montevideo. Back in Uruguay, they’d known each other only peripherally, but as creatives in a new city, they were drawn to one another. Gonzalez had trained as an industrial designer, while Young was a conceptual artist and a new mother who didn’t have the energy to navigate a new art scene. “We found ourselves talking about what we wanted to do,” says Young, “and when Emi was offered an interiors project, we decided to go for it together.” After designing a few houses, they moved on to products — first geometric walnut planters, then furniture — and founded Estudio Persona.
The two had the opportunity to flex their interiors muscles again when they recently designed a collaborative showroom with Atelier de Troupe in South Los Angeles, but at the heart of their practice is furniture. Their pieces are minimal but sculptural: a chair with a lollipop-like bolster back, a C-shaped stainless steel table with a white oak cylinder pierced through its core. “We usually start working on an idea together,” says Young. “I think more about the concept and Emi is the one who takes a functional approach. Once we have an idea narrowed down we spend weeks criticizing it! The products that get prototypes are the ones that we are in love with and feel strongly about.” We felt rather strongly about them, too, at first glance — so much so that we reached out to find out more about what inspires them, how their heritage influences their work, and what’s next for the duo.
Describe your most recent project. What inspired it and how are you making it?
The Totem was produced for a specific house we are working on. It is the house of an amazing artist who truly inspired us. She is of Japanese descent and the simplicity of the piece was essential, as well as its multipurpose functionality. The piece had to serve as an entrance tray for small objects (car keys, sunglasses, etc.) as well as stools for the living room. We started with Brancusi as a main inspiration and worked around the juxtaposition of different shapes. We kept going until we took away every possible detail. Weights and Measures III, a drawing by Richard Serra, was the main inspiration behind the color composition of the piece.
What inspires your studio’s aesthetic in general?
Emi and I met while living here in LA a few years ago. We are both from Uruguay, a country strongly influenced by the Art Deco movement. Living in California has been refreshing and inspiring for us, and the relocation to a new country changed our perspective. I would say our work has been a reaction to the aesthetics of Neutra, Schindler, Lautner, Late Moderne, Brutalism (especially Brutalism) and the Case Study House Program.
What is your next project and what’s inspiring it?
We are on the early stages of our new collection, highly inspired by Tadao Ando (above). After working with wood, leather, and metal, I believe now we are ready for light and color. It’s a very subtle and timid approach; we have a weird relationship with color. We are always attracted to raw natural materials and how they open the possibility to experience nature through design.
What is your favorite design of the last 10 years?
Stone and Light no. 4 by Yatsuo Kawaguchi. More of a sculpture than a design piece, but could slide gently to the design side if you wished and really wanted to.
What drew you to the world of design?
Emi studied industrial design in Uruguay and had her own company with her sister. I believe she devoured her father’s design magazine collection since she was a little kid. I worked as a contemporary artist, mainly in video art. I stumbled upon design when we met and started to be creative together while living here in Los Angeles. I started collecting vintage furniture and light pieces back in Uruguay — so I guess we can say that the seed was planted back home and harvested in LA.
Where’s the most inspiring place you’ve ever been?
Last year we had to go to Budapest for a month. Inspirational on every level. The baths, the color combination of the city, the subways (I believe it is the second-oldest electrically operated subway, dates to the 1890), the Wes Anderson vibe, the playgrounds (we are both mothers), the food, the fooood.
Dream place to install your work?
Brazilian architects have always inspired us; perhaps Uruguay being the tiny country below gigantic Brazil is the reason. From Lina Bo Bardi to Niemeyer, and Paulo Mendes da Rocha to name a few. But to give a contemporary approach to Brazilian architecture, our dream place to install our pieces would be the Jungle House by Marcio Kogan (top) or Geneses House by Isay Weinfeld (bottom).
If you had an unlimited budget, what would you make?