I meet Leah Ring at IDS Vancouver this last year where her work was being featured.
She introduced herself to me like this: "Hi, I am Another Human".
While she does design under the moniker, it made me instantly like her. It's an amazing way to introduce yourself (and makes me think I chose a terrible name for my business).
Leahs work is unlike anything else.
It is colorful, and confident. While her work is often inspired by the Memphis group, but is very much original. It is playful and adventurous. The use of primary colors is a staple. Her forms are fluid and unapologetically bold. Her work is thought-provoking and many of her pieces could be valued for their artistic merit alone and left unused as furniture.
Her unique design voice and light hearted approach to design is very admirable.
Design Questions for Another Human
What is Another Human and and how would you describe your work?
Another Human is a multidisciplinary design practice, encompassing product and furniture design as well as spatial design. My work is sculptural and playful - generally my pieces lean more toward the conceptual side but I strive to make sure that they’re useful, functional pieces.
What elements, materials, and color-ways describe your design best?
There’s a common geometry that can be seen through my work, I rarely work in all straight lines - circles, semi-circles, curves and squiggles generally make an appearance. In terms of materials, I like using a pretty wide range of materials, but I do work a lot in acrylic and I love using bright colors whenever possible.
Because your work has a very strong and specific identity; I imagine people have a lot to say about it. Who are the people that gravitate towards it and how do you see them incorporating it into their interior spaces?
There’s a definite Memphis and post-modern influence in my work - and part of the reason I’m so drawn to this aesthetic is because you have designers like Sottsass or Peter Shire (who’s still working in LA) who are iconic and have created really significant catalogs of work, but it’s not so serious. There’s such a sense of joy and playfulness in the work and I really strive to achieve this in my work as well. I think that I used to think that luxury design had to be serious and use very weighty materials like brass and marble in order for people to take you seriously as a designer. But now I’m like...I’m going to use confetti and recycled foam and neoprene and that’s that! (Sorry I digress.) I’m not quite sure who gravitates towards my work but I think you definitely have to be a bit adventurous - I’m not delusional in thinking that my work is going to be for everyone. I do a lot of customization of my pieces for interior designers to make sure that my pieces really work well for the end user and in the environment it’ll be living in. I hope that my work adds a bit of an artful feel to a space.
Memphis is pretty clearly an influence for you; how did you come to love that sort of dramatic design? Did you grow up with it or was it a reaction to the environments you experienced as a child?
I grew up in the Midwest, and while my creativity was encouraged, I didn’t grow up in a particularly artistic family. My real design education happened while working at high end residential interior design firms in LA and New York - really getting to work with iconic vintage pieces and incredible high end contemporary studios both in the US and abroad. These experiences really opened my eyes to product design and I somehow stumbled upon the Memphis Group and it just really resonated with me. The sense of play and total disregard for convention excited me so much more than other design movements - and people took the Memphis group very seriously! They were well respected designers making nonsensical things - what a dream come true!
Much of your work straddles the line between fine art and functional furniture. Do you seek this out specifically? For example the Vacation Table is more thought provoking than most furniture is intended to be.
The structure is transparent as if it were to be secondary to the object on display within but then it has a very strong form itself. The stone/materials within are beautiful and organic and set within to be displayed as precious; and intentionally paired with a very synthetic man made material.
Can you talk a bit about this piece? Its inspiration. How do you deliver this to a client? Does the client fill the table or do you?
The Vacation Table is definitely one of my more conceptual pieces (although I wonder how many of my clients actually know that.) The original two versions feature star sand from Japan, quartz crystals from China or black sand from Hawaii and obsidian from Mexico. The idea sort of being that we now live so much of our lives just for the purpose of sharing the experience - in this case taking these beautiful natural elements from other parts of the world just so you can show them off to visitors. And to your point, taking these gorgeous natural minerals and distilling them in a manmade box for public consumption. When I ship these pieces, I send the sand and crystals in separate containers along with basic instructions so the end users is the one who arranges them inside the table. There is meant to be a sort of interactive element to the table - and in theory it could be used to display whatever you want inside.
When you sit down to create a product what are your top design drivers and constraints?
Generally product ideas come to me at random times (so I always keep a sketchbook with me), and I just doodle it and put it away along with hundreds of other doodles. It’s when a design keeps coming back to me, like I can’t stop thinking about it, then I know it’s something I want to try to make. I guess my top driver is just how much an idea excites me, and a top constraint is of course, do I have the resources to make it. And more than that, do the materials lend themselves to one-off or small batch production. The reason I work in acrylic so much is that I can do one-off pieces without any problems, whereas often with metal-work you need to do at least a small run and if I’m not even sure an idea is going to work, I don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of failed products in my studio. So material and cost realities come into play a lot, but generally if I’m really excited about an idea I figure out a way to make it work.
Do you have any favorite design trends or ones that really bother you?
There are lots of design trends I’m just SO OVER but I’m not here to throw shade. I mean technically I think I’m part of a Memphis resurgence trend, although really I try to avoid designing per any trends because trends are fickle and will look dated in two minutes and, quite frankly, I became a designer to express what I feel is a unique creative vision. Design trends in general bother me - it suggests that people need someone to tell them what they should like...and that it’ll probably change in a year. Doesn’t that just seem wack? Just like what you like!
I think a lot of people are starting to think about and interact with furniture and interior spaces more intentionally because of varying factors such as technology, availability, instagram/social media influence, resource and environmental changes.
Where do you see the furniture industry going?
I’ve recently seen a few furniture companies pop up that offer inexpensive, customizable furniture and I think that might really end up hurting small studios because it’ll make people think that a custom bed should cost $600...when really those companies are selling a crappy quality piece that’s being mass manufactured overseas. That seems dangerous to me. But on the flip side, I do think a lot of consumers are becoming more thoughtful with how they purchase, and thus understanding that buying a quality piece of furniture that’s hand crafted by local artisans and will last a long time is worth it and it has soul and they’re contributing to their local economy by supporting small businesses.
Lastly (and I want to start asking everyone this): What music are you listening to right now? Favorite record?
I can never pick a favorite record (that’s way too hard!) but lately I’ve been into a few female Norwegian electronic artists - Smerz and SASSY009. And Jessy Lanza is always a favorite - what a dream woman!