Interview with Jonathan Sabine

We fell in love with his less than 3 side table and pendant lights at IDS13 in January, so we just had to ask Toronto-based designer Jonathan Sabine a few questions about his background, current work and what he's inspired by.  Here's what he had to say.  But first his bio:
Jonathan Sabine is a Toronto based product and furniture designer. He established his studio after working as lead designer at Castor Design. He is the co-founder of Chromoly, a creative studio run with Adam Pickard and collaborates closely with MSDS studio. His design the Bourgeois Brass Knuckle is in SFMOMA's permanent collection. Every object produced by the studio represents an exploration of material and manufacturing process undertaken with the help of relationships with local fabricators and craftspeople.

Tell us a little bit about you. Where did you train or study and what led you to the path you currently are on?

I studied furniture design and construction at Sheridan College. After school I did some furniture and cabinet making but found that I had no interest in producing the kind of laboriously made and relatively conservative work that the market here demands. At that point I started transitioning my practice into the hybrid thing that it is now by piecing together a skillset: computer stuff, designing for new processes, finding suppliers, interior design, etc.

You used to work as a leading designer at Castor Design, can you tell us a little bit about that experience leading you here.

Working at Castor was rad. I got to see how a successful design project had structured its approach. The biggest takeaway from my experience there is the importance of a clearly communicated vision - obviously one of their proficiencies. Vision is one of those things that can't be put on though, and its development is iterative, so the sooner you start, the better. That's basically why I went out on my own.

Photo by Janis Nicolay

You mention in your bio that every object produced by the studio represents an exploration of material, could you expand on that concept?

Well, I guess it's that I'm looking for a transformative element in the things I design. That point at which stuff becomes a convincing thing. It doesn't always have to be a super technological approach, but in order to get to that transformative point I think you have to have a grasp on how materials behave and the techniques that we use to work on them.

What's your main focus currently and/or how would you describe your current design aesthetic?

I'm focusing on working with what I have on hand. When you start creating things you're kind of overwhelmed by the nearly unbounded possibility (I call it the anxiety of the arbitrary.) You have to choose the things that will constrain you (the luxury of being a creative type isn't that you're without constraints, it's that you have the privilege of choosing them.) So, I'm trying to stay away from working within an aesthetic but instead to try to make convincing objects using what's available to me. For instance, I designed the 60 pendant because I had a sheet metal guy who I knew would be up for a challenge. I then tried to make something beautiful using his capabilities.

Loving the <3 Side Table - especially the copper plating - can you explain that design process (and is that a marble top option)?

Thanks! That table was the result of meditating on the “tripod” table, a furniture type that I really love. I wanted to remove one of its already few elements, and I realized that a single bent leg could do the work of two. Metal is a pretty obvious choice for this function, so I highlighted its role with copper plating. The copper looks pretty fantastic with the ash, too. I did a marble top prototype, but there are still some issues to work out. I like it though, and the way it really separates the function of each component by material.

What Canadian designers/makers/architects, etc do you look up to, are influenced by or inspire you?

I'm a fan of Castor's designs. Omer Arbel and Samare always do exceptional work. Gord Peteran's thinking had a big influence on me, and when I was a student I learned a lot about how to make good decisions from Peter Fleming.

Where else do you pull inspiration from?

I read quite a bit of history, fiction, periodicals – middlebrow stuff. Mostly subjects completely unrelated to design. I take in a fair amount of news and politics, too. Also enjoy stand-up comedy, UFC. We bike a fair amount. Pretty disparate things that I'm sure impact my thinking in ways that are impossible to measure.

If you could design anything - what would it be?

A half-decent suit for Don Cherry and/or Karim Rashid.

Check out Jonathan Sabine online:

All photo's by Jessica Nakanishi  except for the marble top table by Shanghoon and pendant lighting by Janis Nicolay

Jan Halvarson


Coco Cake Land said...

wow... amazing work! love the little table with the copper legs and of course those awesome grey pendant lights. the history behind the lights is really cool - sheet metal challenge! ^__^

Unknown said...

Do you know where the bookcase is from?