Earnest Studio creates bold silhouettes and contemporary functionalism

Earnest Studio has in a short time created quite a buzz in the world of design with their distinctive designs for Muuto: the Kink vase and the Post lamp. Design Stories interviewed the multi-talent behind the coveted pieces, designer Rachel Griffin.

Rachel Griffin, founder of Earnest Studio.
Rachel Griffin, founder of Earnest Studio.

Hello Rachel! So great that you were able to find the time to answer a few questions. We can’t wait to learn more about you. How are you?
Very well, thank you! Despite the strange circumstances in which we all find ourselves these days…”

Can you tell us the story behind Earnest Studio: who is Rachel Griffin and what drove you to create your own design studio?
“I founded Earnest Studio shortly after graduating from the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. In my previous life as a graphic designer I worked for several years producing books and exhibitions for cultural institutions in New York, and I was always a part of a team. While I enjoyed those projects, I always wanted to work for myself, and it seemed like the right moment to develop my own vision and imprint.”

Where does the name, Earnest Studio, originate from?
Rachel Griffin is quite a common name, so when setting up the studio, I decided to search for something different. I chose Earnest because it is not only a given name but also an indicator of sincerity, with a hint of humour in its nod to Oscar Wilde.”

Rachel Griffin on her way to her workspace in Rotterdam.
“I came to the Netherlands to study at the Design Academy and decided to stay; both choices were based on an appreciation of and support for design here that is really exceptional,” says Griffin.
Earnest Studio's workspace from outside.
Earnest Studio is based in Rotterdam, in the historic area of Delfshaven.
Rachel Grifiin at her desk in her workspace.
Rachel Griffin prefers simple shapes, with a strong connection to the process and the material.
Muuto's Kink vase in light blue
The Kink vase designed for Muuto by Earnest Studio

Your design career has gotten into a flying start with your collaboration with Muuto. How did Earnest Studio and Muuto meet?
“We met for the first time at the SaloneSatellite in Milan, and again during an exhibition at the London Design Festival. Two brief meetings that happily led to a longer collaboration.”

“I often begin projects with something physical, such as a tool, a material or a production technique. I rarely have a finished product in mind; exploration in and around the starting point eventually defines both form and function of the finished product.”

Your designs, the Kink vase and the Post lamp have in a short time created quite the excitement. Where do you draw inspiration for your work?
“I am most inspired by themes of modularity and multiplicity; I prefer simple, flexible structures that do more with less. This is best expressed in the Post series, which uses a single lighting module to create a diverse family of lamps. The flexible nature of the magnetic joint allows you to use as many or as few modules as you need, and furthermore, allows those modules to be fixed in a wide range of positions, with each combination producing a different function, composition and character.”

Muuto's Post wall lamp attached to the wall.
The modular Post wall lamp designed for Muuto by Earnest Studio.
A slip-cast model version of the Kink vase.
Muuto's Kink vase is an end result of an experiment to bring together digital and analogue processes.
Rachel Griffin at her studio.
Rachel Griffin's work brings together form and function in a fresh, contemporary way.

Does your background in graphic design have an influence on your work?
“My background in graphic design has led to an interest in simple, bold silhouettes and in modular pieces. Graphic and product design intertwine in my work in the sense that both use a structure being repeated again and again.”

“The Kink Vase was an experiment in combining digital and analogue processes. I was experimenting with Rhino, a digital tool, and slip-casting, a traditional, analogue process, to create a form that would not be possible by other means of production.”

Hand-drawn sketches of Muuto's Kink vase.
The Kink vase is named after its signature curves, which give it a distinctive, surprising form.
Muuto's Kink vase in light blue and sand.
Muuto's Kink vase is available at Finnish Design Shop in light blue and sand.
Rachel Griffin looking at her design, the Kink vase.
“I rarely have a finished product in mind; exploration in and around the starting point eventually defines both form and function of the finished product,” Rachel Griffin describes her design process.

You are originally from the United States and currently live in the Netherlands. What brought you to Rotterdam?
“I came to the Netherlands to study at the Design Academy and decided to stay; both choices were based on an appreciation of and support for design here that is really exceptional. More specifically, Rotterdam is great because it is relatively small and liveable, but also quite rough and open to change and experimentation.”

What does your home in Rotterdam look like? How do you like to decorate?
“We live in a building from the late 1800s that was gutted by a fire in the 1980s. So, while the exterior of the building and the surroundings are all traditional, our interior is modern; one long room, divided by white cubes and glass walls. My partner and I have filled the space with a mixture of items inherited from family, and design and art objects collected from friends and collaborators over the years.”

Rachel Griffin at her desk at her studio.
The work of Earnest Studio has been exuberantly welcomed by design lovers. We can't wait to see what's next.

What are you currently working on? Do you have an ultimate dream project or collaboration?
“Right now I'm working on furniture, lighting and accessory projects in varying stages of development. I do not have one ultimate dream project, but believe that longer-term collaborations between designers and brands are the most fruitful.”

See also:

Earnest Studio at Finnish Design Shop >
Muuto at Finnish Design Shop >

Text: Mira Ahola Images: Jonas Jacob Svensson

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