American Design Hot List 2020
Sophie Lou Jacobsen
Sophie Lou Jacobsen has made our Hot List once before, for her furniture partnership with Sarita Posada, Studio Sayso. But Jacobsen’s solo career – which so far consists of wildly viral experiments in colored glass but will soon branch out into furniture – absolutely exploded this year. Does an Instagram shop even exist if it doesn’t carry Jacobsen’s Ripple Cups?
What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?
To me, American design mirrors the eclectic nature of America as a whole. It’s such a large, young country that is made up of so many different backgrounds; cultural rules and norms don’t seem to apply here in a broader sense and I think that is reflected in design. You can see each individual designer’s personality through their work, rather than a school, or a movement. That creates a lot of individual expression, originality and exploration. But I also find that American design is entrepreneurial. I think that if I had stayed in Europe, my design career would look very different right now. I probably would have tried to find some more traditional paths to “success” and I’m not sure that I would be running my own studio. The lack of a bigger production industry here creates a new sort of creativity, a hustle to make this career path work, that opens the field up to anyone who has the stamina to see it through to the end. I find that particularly exciting!
What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?
Before the pandemic shut everything down, I was planning to delve into more furniture and lighting. But then all the design fairs got cancelled and workshops closed, so all of those projects were put on hold. Instead, I was forced to spend more time focusing on what I already had going, this homeware collection that was gaining momentum and interest. And in the end, I’m really happy to have taken the time to do so. I feel like I’m setting up a more solid path that I can use to grow in different ways down the line, but that I may have spread myself too thin if I hadn’t taken this time to build it up properly. So with that in mind, I plan to spend this year growing this collection into a brand, and adding more variety in terms of materials and product offering. I’m hoping to make new connections with artisans in different parts of the world, and create thoughtful, long lasting relationships with them.
Currently I am working with an incredible glassblower in Spain, as well as here in Brooklyn, and have a factory in Asia that has been so wonderful to work with. COVID lockdowns depending, I’m planning to do a residency in Oaxaca in the spring, with the intention of meeting with different craftspeople I can work with around there and designing objects around their skills. I’m also speaking with a Lebanese woman who was in the process of setting up a new design company at the moment of the explosion in Beirut in August. Obviously devastated by the situation, she realized she could use her work to bring jobs to fabricators and artisans there, and we’ve been speaking about a potential collaboration. I love the thought of using my objects to help stimulate local economies. This year has had so many catastrophes, and there are so many important organizations and causes to support, it can be hard to pinpoint how and where one can be most helpful. It’s definitely something I’ve struggled with over the past year, but I hope to keep growing my brand and products in a thoughtful, intentional way, and that I can use it all as a platform for social engagement at the same time.
What inspires or informs your work in general?
To be completely honest, I’ve experienced quite a bit of a creative block since March. The situation with pandemic, police brutality, political mayhem, and general fear for my family members, friends, and the world really clouded over my mind and I haven’t felt much inspiration at all. What keeps me going is the idea that the objects I create can give a small moment of joy in a person’s day. My inspirations are definitely rooted in Modernism; I am drawn to rationality, simplicity and function, simple geometries and pared-back production processes. But that said I don’t think you can design in this world without a Postmodern lens. The frivolity of the material world needs to cast a critical eye upon itself at all times, and for me that’s manifested in a certain degree of humor and light-heartedness. Objects are important, necessary, useful and emotional, but I also believe they shouldn’t take themselves too seriously!