In New Voices, we shine the spotlight on inspiring up-and-coming talent shaping the future of their respective industries. Consider this the new class of creatives.
Growing up, Leah Ring always thought she’d be a lawyer. In her mind, her creativity was more of a hobby. But after studying visual communication and business and getting her start in interiors, she knew her imaginative side could be put to better use. The aha moment happened after working at Julie Hillman Design in New York, where she got a glimpse into the world of independent design studios. “It opened up my eyes to American contemporary design in a huge way,” remembers the 33-year-old designer. In 2017, Another Human was born.
“For a while, I was very concerned about making sure that I came out of the gate with really high-end work, but I had notebooks full of designs that I wouldn’t have had the resources to make for at least another decade,” she says. “It got to a point where I needed to start my own practice. The ideas just had to get out.” After quickly pulling together a website and a small collection, she exhibited her first works at a sponsored booth in the Sight Unseen Offsite show that same year. “It was really a pinch-me moment,” says Ring. Now two years later, with confetti-filled acrylic tables, pool noodle pedestals, and squiggly armchairs under her belt, Ring gives us a glimpse into her world.
What inspires your otherworldly designs?
Most of the product ideas I have just pop into my brain fully baked. I’m really interested in using materials not commonly found in high-end furniture in unexpected ways, so often I’m inspired by utilitarian items found in hardware stores or on construction sites. I do think a lot about space and the future. Not in a realistic sense, but in a Joe Colombo’s environment of the future sort of way. When I’m talking to people who don’t work in design and they ask me what my vibe is, I often say it’s Memphis on a spaceship.
Why do you think there is more playfulness in decor right now?
I think from the 1960s and onward there has always been a group of designers making really playful work (Archizoom, Italian radical design, the Memphis Group), but perhaps they’ve fallen in and out of fashion through the years. I think the sense of irreverence in decor is being celebrated in this particular moment in history because the world is sort of a hot mess right now and we all just need something to smile about.
What excites you the most about your job every day?
As a small business owner, you really wear a lot of hats, which sometimes can get overwhelming, but it’s also incredibly rewarding to steer your own ship. I really love that I get to decide how I present my work to the world and interact with my customers, and I really am learning something new every day.
What’s your least favorite part of your job?
Right now there just aren’t enough hours in the day. If I could teleport to all of my fabricators and site visits, that would be hugely helpful.
If you could start your career over and money was no object, what would you want to do?
Honestly, probably furniture design. But if money was no object, I would make much bigger, crazier work. Maybe I would be a sculptor, that’s always interested me. But I like that I get to essentially create functional art that people live with every day.
What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
I spend a lot of late nights looking at bizarre vintage stuff on Etsy. Sometimes, I really do find things that are useful for my interior design projects or my apartment, but, mostly, it’s a calming exercise for me to flip through 20 pages of weird plumbing fixtures, tea kettles, or decorative hooks.
What’s the one thing you’re pretty much guaranteed to do every day?
Besides drink about a gallon of coffee? Respond to emails for sure.
What excites you right now in design?
The designers who inspire me the most are generally those who are either creating their own materials and processes, like Max Lamb and Chen Chen & Kai Williams, or those designers whose work is super-imaginative and unique, like Guillermo Santoma and Susan for Susan. Of course, I’m also always inspired by legends such as Ettore Sottsass, Peter Shire, Gaetano Pesce, Shiro Kuramata…the list goes on for ages.
What’s a trend you wish would disappear forever?
Designers chasing trends. We all live in this super-connected world where we have access to the visual landscape on a constant basis, but I really hope that my designs stand the test of time. I hope that I don’t look back and think: Wow, that lamp was for sure designed in 2018. I always create what I like and what feels right to me at the time; I don’t really consider what’s trendy or not.
If the sky were the limit, where would you want to take your career next?
I’ve recently been building up my interior design practice, so in my dream world, I would have a studio and showroom here in L.A. with a small team, splitting our time between interiors and furniture design. I think it’s important for my practice to do both, as they inform each other and make me use very different parts of my brain.
What is your dream project?
A boutique hotel where I’d be allowed to go as crazy as I want and design custom furniture and lighting throughout.
What’s coming up for Another Human in 2019?
I’m keeping very busy! Right now, I’m working on residential projects in New York and Los Angeles, as well as an office and a recording studio in L.A. I’ve also started developing a new furniture collection that I’m hoping will be ready to show next spring. In August, I’m learning glass fusing and would like to apply these skills to a new product line I’ve been thinking about for a while. In general, I want to keep pushing myself creatively and keep the momentum going. We’ll see what the next six months have in store!
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