This Haas Brothers Protégé is the Next Big Designer Out of Los Angeles
Ryan Belli is making some weird furniture, to be sure, and learning about the elements that have shaped his work is at once a lesson in ecology, geology, and childhood shenanigans. When talking about his work to date — wooden pieces with an often rough-hewn, whittled feel, topped by lollipop-like textiles — he describes a reference map in his mind of things he’s seen: the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, a bristlecone pine forest, the bubble clusters that form when you’re a kid blowing into a glass of milk with a straw. Sometimes these things come together in strange combinations to create an idea, and in recent months they have given rise to a wild collection of seating and light fixtures.
Belli studied product design at the Art Center College of Design and worked in fabrication, but an internship with the Haas brothers — where he was hired three days in and has stayed for the last six years, helping brothers Simon and Nikolai create their playful, often anthropomorphic and fantastical pieces — has proven Belli’s greatest up-close inspiration. “Their interests are as insane as mine — maybe more so,” Belli says. “It’s really inspiring to work with them and see the ways they are trying to push the boundaries.”
He sees the realm of furniture these days as an experimental arena in which to try out all of his wacky ideas. “Anytime I move to a new space I start thinking about what I want and what I need,” says Belli, who connects colors, textures, early architectural references, and materials, and turns them into pieces for himself or his friends. Those hoodoos — thin spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of an arid basin — become a couch. llareta—an ancient flowering shrub in Chile that looks like a bulbous moss structure — becomes a chair.
“It’s freeing to do stuff for yourself,” Belli says, who spends four days a week working for the Haas brothers and the other three on his own work, which includes a nascent eyewear brand. “I enjoy making things as much as I like the idea of things,” he adds — lucky for us.
PHOTOS BY TIM HANS