I met Jamie Iacoli and Brian McAllister last year during ArtBasel Miami at Tap Tap, a very cool Haitian restaurant. They are the only people I have ever started a conversation with during a closely seated dinner (or actually, Jamie started talking to us) and then gone out bowling with afterwards. It turned out that they have an eponymous line Iacoli & McAllister creating lighting, furniture and now jewelry out of their studio in Seattle, producing and designing all of it in-house. They also started Join Design Seattle, a place where like-minded local artisans could promote each other through a website showcasing their collective talents. Being a bit off of the beaten path from the rest of the design world hasn’t affected them at all- they cite the inspiration they get from the Pacific Northwest right next to the low priced studio space. Originally, I thought I could have them as my own best-kept design secret but it seems that a year later these guys are everywhere, being sold at OAKNYC, debuting a line in collaboration with Urban Outfitters, and designing the lighting for Thomas Sires in Nolita.
Katherine Krause: How did you guys meet and start your company?
Jamie Iacoli: Through mutual friends. Brian was studying Industrial Design at the University of Washington and I had been working as a designer at Henrybuilt. I was planning on jumping the Seattle ship to move to New York. But, here was this guy who was as big of a furniture geek as I was, even more so it turns out, knew how to weld like a master, and do a whole lot of other things that I couldn’t do in a shop.
Brian McAllister: Jamie was stalking me online and saw that I was obsessed with design and we had very similar taste, so we connected.
Jamie: We started making stuff together, with no real plan. Then in the spring of 2009 we participated in a group show, “Hue Are You?” at The Future Perfect. We showed our Frame Lights and Mini-Pedestals. From there we started getting a lot of attention, press and people wanting to buy our work. So we got a business license, and we’ve been trying to figure it all out ever since.
Katherine: How did you get started in furniture and design?
Jamie: I grew up watching my Italian grandfather make stuff – he was a carpenter. Our ‘Panca’ (Italian for bench) is named in his honor. And I’m probably a bit of an egoist and want to make stuff that’s going to be around long after I’m gone. I was initially drawn to art, but probably because I’m from a small town, I never really thought that being an artist was a viable profession, so design seemed to make more sense to my young pragmatic brain.
Brian: I was interested in architecture at first, then I got turned on to the furniture and lighting that architects designed for specific spaces. I started learning more about industrial, furniture and graphic designers and was drawn to the smaller scale projects that goes with that territory.
Katherine: What is your background in?
Jamie: I studied Philosophy during my undergrad at Indiana University, and then I worked for The New World Symphony in Miami doing marketing and event planning. I had dabbled in Interior Design but I was far more inspired by and drawn to objects of design. So it was always a plan to study product design at some level. After my fill in Miami, I moved to, and studied Industrial Design in Seattle.
Brian: Well, I was a snowboard bum for a number of years so I spent a lot of time in the mountains. During that time I worked at a small woodworking shop. I was bent on learning as much as I could about materials and process. After getting some experience with wood working I moved to metal. I’ve always been drawn to metal forming and structural connections so I ended up buying a small welder and started playing around. Eventually I got a job with an architectural metal firm which gave me a nice intro into metal forming and fabrication. After I had enough of that I finished a degree in Industrial Design.
Katherine: I went on your website to buy a mini-pedestal and they are all sold out, again. You have created a frenzy for cake stands- how does re-introducing the cake stand to popular culture make you feel?
Jamie: I sort of feel weird about the whole cake stand thing. When we first started making the Mini-Pedestals we thought they’d be used for display, hence the name “Mini-Pedestals.” But be they as they are, people are far more into putting cakes on them, and that’s fine with me. It just weirds me out that we get contacted by a lot of people in the Bridal industry, that whole scene is so foreign and unappealing to me- being someone who hasn’t spent any time dreaming about a wedding, or being married for that matter. I have crystals, sage, and a piece of coral displayed on my pedestal right now.
Brian: I’m pretty stoked on it. It was never a grand plan with marketing charts or anything. I remember seeing some awesome brass candle holders at a vintage store and thought, that would be amazing if it was powder coated yellow. Then we just evolved the idea from there in a organic way.
Katherine: What projects are you working on now?
Brian: Right now we are working on a line for Urban Outfitters. And for our inhouse line we are working on some smaller desktop objects and a table light, as well as some jewelry.
Jamie: Something else that we are working on is the large print piece, At This Moment, that will act as a catalogue for us. We knew we needed to do an annual catalogue, but we wanted to make it a fun project that’s not just about our product line. So it’s a non-traditional approach – the content will be 2-4 page spreads featuring work that we love by people we know. Accompanying each spread will be a short interview with the artist. And then our product will show up throughout the magazine as mock ads. We’re working with Alex Lin, so that it’s a beautiful and interesting publication, but still works as something of a catalogue.
Katherine: What’s up with all of the felt covered lights? How did you come up with that idea?
Brian: The felt work was a collaboration with our friend Ashley Helvey, she does some amazing felt work. She approached us with a concept she had and asked us if we would be interested in collaborating. We love collaborations- there is so much to learn from working with other people.
Katherine: What’s the weirdest thing you ever powder-coated?
Brian: Would have to be the seven pound wrench.
Katherine: What have you made that you are most proud of?
Jamie: I’m digging the ‘As Is My Heart’ line of jewelry and the ‘Spica’ lights we did for Thomas Sires, a women’s shop that just opened in Nolita. I spent about forty hours hand thread wrapping the lights. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback lately from both the jewelry and the new lights. But I’d also have to say the ‘Frame Lights’ are pretty awesome too. They are super simple and have this utilitarian appeal that I appreciate.
Katherine: Tell me some of your favorite things, places, stuff to do in Seattle..
Jamie: Stumptown around the corner, Vietnamese and Ethiopian food, the cost of living. Our amazingly talented and creative friends and cohorts, the Japanese market and bookstore, the beautiful outdoorsy things that I’ve heard people do around here.
Brian: In general, I love being surrounded by water and mountains, you don’t always see it but sometimes you can be in the right place at the right time and it is insanely beautiful. I really like those moments- not to be too hippie or anything. Seattle is really such a small town, but there are some great things to take in here. Some of my faves are Alpental for the winter getaway, Mount Si for a great hike in the Spring. For some food Cafe Presse, Quinns and Oddfellows. For drinks Still Liquor and the Hideout.
Katherine: What city gives you the most inspiration?
Jamie: The ones I haven’t been to yet. I’m itching to get out of the country in the next year. I really want to visit Cuba for general inspiration and I want to go to Kuala Lumpur to visit my uncle -he’s teaching elementary school there to diplomat kids.
Brian: I would have to say NYC so far. Mainly for the energy, great food and old buildings. I can’t get enough of the aged sidewalks and structures, empty lots and construction sites. When I get back to Seattle some areas are so new with fresh sidewalks, it just bums me out to look at and to think that some people are totally into that makes me a bit ill.
Katherine: What’s the next big thing on your wish list?
Jamie: I actually just got them- I feel so excited and blessed. I have an amazing artist friend, Justine Ashbee, who is sadly leaving Seattle and I bought her loom. I’ve been wanting to get a loom and a knitting machine for quite some time. I spend a lot of time on the computer, so I’m looking forward to being able to zone out at a loom when my brain needs a break but my body wants to keep going. I am really drawn to repetitive processes.
Katherine: You create amazing furniture and interiors- what does your apartment look like?
Jamie: We have a reproduction Victorian sofa from the 80’s, our Frame Coffee Table, lots of Frame Lights, old crates, old painted dressers, I was on a dresser kick for a while, an LCW, a Bertoia Diamond Chair, and lots of books, crystals, succulent plants, Mexican textiles and other objects I’ve collected over the years. I definitely like the combination of new and old, clean and textured for sure.
Katherine: What are some design magazines and websites you are into?
Jamie: Magazines: Apartamento, Self Service, Dossier, The Gentlewoman, Artforum, The New Yorker, Vegetarian Times and Harper’s when I have the time. Websites: 101cookbooks.com- I’m inspired by how Heidi eats. Totokaelo, for daily wardrobe inspiration, Fffound! and booooooom! for daily general inspiration.
Brian: I’m actually taking a break from the magazines and websites. At one point I was quite obsessed with the mags and such. As a kid I had pages from skate and snowboard mags plastered all over the walls, I loved it. It was so hard taking down some of those images. I went through a similar phase with design, I put everything I liked up on the wall just like the skate pics, just too obsessed. So I’ve chilled out a bit and let it all settle.
Katherine: Tell us about the new jewelry that you are making…
Brian: This area is pretty new to me but I really love the scale and how it changes the way I think about materials. We’re currently working on a line of brass necklaces ranging from a small pendant to a heavy weight breast plate that are based on oblique hex formations.
Katherine: Any collaborations on the horizon? Who is your dream collobaration?
Jamie: We are always talking to friends about possible collaborations. My dream collaboration would be to do a chandelier with Rodarte.
Brian: I really like their work and process, and I can see the possibility of an amazing, mind blowing, wicked chandelier with them.
Katherine: Tell me your favorite thing about winter..
Brian: A Manhattan at the Hideout on a cold night.
Jamie: Hunkering down, drinking tea, lighting candles, dinner parties, boots, being cozy with close friends, and wintery smells: spices, musk, evergreen, etc.
Katherine: Does it really rain all the time in Seattle?
Jamie: Yes, damn it.
Brian: No, it really doesn’t. It’s kind of a myth really. We aren’t supposed to really talk about it, if people found out I could get bad looks from them. Maybe the Myth Busters crew can come to town and work their magic to prove it wrong, then all the empty condos that have been built all over could have buyers to enjoy our secret weather and new bustling economy.