blog

Walls, Hedgerows and Other Boundaries

11/20/2020

With small children at home and our local preschool back to remote learning this week, we’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries. There are the boundaries between work life and home life. There are the boundaries between being a parent and also trying to be an adult human. 

Some have completely faded while we Zoom with bedhead at the kitchen table. Others, like being limited to our home and the woods that surround us, feel restrictive as the weather turns dark and stormy. 

When watching new episodes of The Crown this week, we were struck by scenes of the British countryside and by a sense of grief for our limited ability to travel and to be with friends and family - especially this time of year.

To feed that wanderlust, above and below are some images of the stone walls and hedgerows we photographed when last visiting family in the Cotswolds. The interlocking shapes of these dry-stacked limestone walls that trace the historical boundaries of the land - many of which are 500 years old - are what originally inspired our Walling Rug.

Strength in Numbers

10/29/2020

As we continue to sit on the edge of our seats in uncertainty, it feels like a good moment to celebrate things that do feel safe and sound - like working together in community. 

We’ve had the privilege to be a part of the burgeoning independent American design community since the start of our studio. Early on, this community helped us build our business in a recession by coming together to share resources, organize group shows and split tradeshow booths.

A Case For Stewardship

9/29/2020

Like many on the West Coast, we spent ten days inside our home this month hiding out from wildfire smoke. Though the most threatening fires were at a safe distance from our home and studio, we did have a small brush fire on the island one evening that pushed us to make a go-bag list as we waited for updates from our local fire department. 

When the smoke finally cleared, we were drawn to the mountains. To put our feet on the earth in an intentional way. To take in the mountain air - thinned by altitude - but full of the scent of spruce and juniper. We ate ice from a snow patch with our kids - embodying as much of that mountain as we could. They knew what to do - stretching their bodies all the way out on a great rock under the sun.

We weren’t alone in this work as the trail entrance was more crowded than we'd ever seen. We saw marmots and deer, an anthill and hawks, and crickets and bees. The humans we spotted were responsibly distanced and masked up. They were drawn out to the top of this ridge just like us. If we were looking for hope over the last month, it was here.

In Slow and Steady Service

7/30/2020

As a small independent studio nearing 12 years of partnership, we are committed to and respectful of the continuous process required to develop and refine a design practice. Whether working with technology or historical craft techniques, we approach everything in the slow and steady service of curiosity and growth.

Our furniture, lighting and textiles are formed from a selection of considered natural materials. Our intention is to honor these resources and build work that will be cared for and passed down for generations. 

We bring this care into our relationships with ourselves, employees, collaborators, vendors and clients. It is our hope to cultivate a community around this practice that is reciprocal and beneficial. 

Showing Up Imperfectly

6/25/2020

Earlier this month we cautiously reopened our studio on Bainbridge Island. Our production assistant, Hannah, returned to work from Seattle via ferry and bike commute. James joined her and they are masked up with safety protocols in place as they work on building furniture and shipping out orders. 

As grateful as we are to be back to work in this new and strange setup, like many, our heads and hearts are elsewhere. We are deeply disturbed by the systemic racism at work in America. From police violence and mass incarceration to how the pandemic hits certain communities harder to the long-standing racist policies built into housing and lending practices, Black people in America experience traumatic injustice every day. This includes living in the neighborhoods most affected by the climate crisis, pollution, contaminated drinking water and lack of food security.

We have been part of the frenetic protesting, donating, workshop taking, petition signing and information gathering and sharing over the past several weeks. We have felt an urgency to educate ourselves further and speak up. Black Lives Matter. Human rights are not optional. 

We also know that we cannot act meaningfully from a place of emotion alone. Antiracist work is intensely personal. It requires time, reflection and commitment.

Grain has always made social and environmental responsibility the metric for measuring success, from materials and finishes, sourcing, production and artisan partnerships, to our carbon footprint and investment in environmental non-profits. As designers, we approach everything through a process of continuous improvement. We are actively at work to transition our business into a B Corporation making these commitments to progress more transparent and ourselves more accountable. 

These are some of the questions we are asking ourselves as we do this work: 

Anti-Racist Resources

6/7/2020

The pandemic and the murder of too many Black Americans by police officers underlines the systemic racism in our country. As white citizens, business owners and parents, we will not be silent in the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement.

We recognize that we have a lot of work to do personally and within our small business. The following are some of the anti-racist resources that we have been learning from as we widen our social justice lens.

Support:
Black Lives Matter
ACLU
NAACP
The Bail Project

Support educators and activists. Many have Venmo or Paypal so that you can support their work directly.

Support Black-owned businesses and media. And, stop supporting businesses and media that promote and fund hate.

Follow:
@rachel.cargle
@laylafsaad
@ijeomaoluo
@mspackyetti
@greengirlleah
@theconsciouskid

Please remember to support educators and activists. Many have Venmo or Paypal so that you can support their work directly.

Read:
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
My Grandmother's Hands by Resmaa Menakem
Here and here and here are some suggestions for children.

Please support Black-owned bookstores with your purchases.

Podcasts:
1619 from The New York Times 
Race & Healing series from OnBeing
Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist with Brené Brown
Layla Saad Stepping Out of Privilege on The Goop Podcast
The Systems that Protect the Police on The Daily

The Certainty of Spring

3/19/2020

Come with me into the woods where spring is
    advancing, as it does, no matter what,
not being singular or particular, but one
    of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.
- Mary Oliver

Product Focus: Quilt Rug

2/13/2020

Our Quilt Rugs take direct inspiration from the patchwork quilt making process. Blocks of braided wool lines are ordered but not exacting as we try to evoke the looser style of scrap quilts which allow irregular shapes to make up the whole. During their conception, we looked at everything from Alabama's Gee's Bend to the work of Oregon artist Shiela Laufer

The historic braid technique that we use to fabricate our rugs was made popular by the women of colonial America as it could be executed by hand without a loom using any available textile scraps.

Today, we fabricate our new wool designs through a partnership with a family-owned mill in New England well known for perfecting this traditional craft.

In the Spirit of Optimism

1/24/2020

Maybe it’s the start of the new decade or just twelve years of unbroken practice leading us in this direction, but our vision for Grain as we enter 2020 is one of complete and total optimism. We started this business with the personal goal of working creatively in partnership along with the deeper intention of social and environmental responsibility.

As our business has grown and shifted over the years from practical solutions such as recyclable non-toxic shower curtains, to human-centered projects such as developing sustainable income opportunities for weaving cooperatives in Guatemala, to designing furniture and objects from natural materials and finishes that you can trust to be clean and safe for your home and family, we are always exploring what is possible within this artisan economy.
 

Product Focus: Utility Card

12/6/2019

Originally launched in 2013, our Utility Card is a word search puzzle that includes over 100 salutations. It is our attempt at a minimalist greeting card - the last one you'll ever need.

We wanted to create something practical - that would really get used - that was also fun to give and receive. As of our last count, we've sold over 30,000 of these babies and couldn't be prouder of the feedback we've received from enthusiastic snail mailers.

Giving Thanks: Ornament Benefit

11/29/2019

If you are already overwhelmed by the holiday season, take a chance and opt-out with us. You may miss a few deals, but you might just save yourself. 

We are celebrating this long weekend with a house full of friends and an attempt to reflect on gratitude in between the busyness.

This year, our studio is most grateful for our new production assistant, Hannah Bartlett - a Northwest native and recent RISD graduate - who envisioned Douglas, the cheerful ornament seen above and below.

Douglas is carved from some of our favorite locally reclaimed Douglas Fir, finished in beeswax and strung from brass and hemp. He is up for auction along with 50 other one-of-a-kind original works as part of the WorkOf benefit for Scope of Work, a social impact company with the purpose of making the creative industry more inclusive. 

Less is More

11/16/2019

We've always taken the less is more approach to design and this extends to our own home as well. As we start to prepare for the holiday season, we find it is easy to get distracted and lose sight of the simple pleasure of time spent at the table with friends and family.

Above and below are our Stick Candle Holders made of graphite, FSC certified ash and brass. You can now find them on our site with a choice of Oregon-made beeswax candles from tapers to pillars. 

Product Focus: Pool Rug

10/25/2019

Several years ago, we began a conversation with a family-owned mill in New England making traditional braided rugs. This historic fabrication technique was made popular by early American colonists as it could be executed by hand without a loom using textile scraps.

We were curious about the possibilities of this fairly straightforward rug-making method and were lucky to find a partner with over 30 years of manufacturing experience willing to explore our biomorphic concepts. 

Product Focus: Totem Candles

9/20/2019

About six years ago, James cut the first candle that would eventually become our Totem Candle series on a lathe in our garage shop. The original prototypes received nice feedback at a local pop-up, so we decided to produce a small batch run for our friends and family. The wax cut like butter on the lathe and quickly became the favorite job to do in the shop.

At Home on the Salish Sea

8/29/2019

We've been thinking a lot about time and place this summer. Back in 2007, when we decided to return home after nearly ten years on the East Coast, we were nostalgic for the Northwest but didn't really know if we could build a design business here.

We chose the natural beauty of this place and the benefit of being deeply connected to family as things we valued above all else, so we set up our practice in a 100-year-old farmhouse and got to work. 

This Land is Your Land

8/1/2019

We live in awe of the natural world. Summer in the Northwest is the time when we feel this most. The day extends into the night and the draw to be outdoors pulls us like no other season. 

It is not unsurprising that our work is deeply inspired by nature. Our Lands Rug was originally envisioned during an extended residency in Northeastern Oregon where alpine mountains meet grassy wildflower prairies. We were so energized by this new, but also familiar landscape that we made it our mission to capture some of its quiet drama in our work.

Product Focus: Dish Table Series

6/14/2019

One of the rewards of running a small design business for over a decade is seeing where our work ends up - how people live with and care for the products we've made.

Our Dish Table originally launched in 2013 as we began to pivot into furniture after five years of working on tabletop objects, textiles and jewelry. Our inspiration came from what was right in front of us - the furniture we lived within our Bainbridge Island home.

Grain Collection 2017/18

6/21/2017



Our 2017/18 collection of furniture and lighting was inspired by a recent residency experience in Northeastern Oregon — think alpine mountains meet prairie. We were so energized by this new, but also familiar landscape. We endeavored to capture some of the quiet drama of that wilderness in our new work.

Above and below is photography by Charlie Schuck styled by Natasha Felker with artist Signe Quitslund wearing Maiden Noir. See our presentation of this work at Sight Unseen OFFSITE as part of NYCxDESIGN.

Tour of Sight Unseen OFFSITE 2017

5/31/2017



We had a great time switching it up this year by showing at Sight Unseen OFFSITE instead of our annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair booth. OFFSITE 2017, curated by Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov - the tireless editors of Sight Unseen, featured 25 up-and-coming designers in a 13,000 square foot space in Soho, May 19 - 22, as part of NYCxDESIGN.

Above is our booth with all new work inspired by a recent residency in The Wallowa Mountains of Oregon. It included our Lands Rug, Vale Sconce, Snake Screen, Duo Rug, Saddle Stools, Drift Side Table, and an updated custom composition of our Strung Chandelier.

Below are a few of our favorite booths from the show. All photos are thanks to Charlie Schuck. Check out the full tour on Sight Unseen.

The Jennings Hotel Residency

11/16/2016



Last month we had the incredible experience of traveling to Joseph, Oregon to attend an artist residency at The Jennings Hotel. We hiked through mountains, along rivers, and through prairies and later used the inspiration from our outings on a series of watercolors. Check out our photos above and below. Huge thanks to Greg Hennes for the invitation!  

Totem Candles for Areaware

8/15/2016



We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Areaware, the Brooklyn-based producer of everyday objects, who will be producing our Totem Candles from here on out.

When Lisa Smith of Areaware first approached us about working together, we were excited about the partnership. Areaware represents many small independent designers like us as well as a few of our design heroes. They create work that is playful and inventive. We live with several of their products in our own home - such as Jonas Damon’s Torch Flashlight (we lose power a lot at our house in the woods) and Pat Kim’s Alphabet Blocks (our daughter Ada’s favorite) - and want to see our candles take on a new life by reaching a larger audience than we have the capability to serve through our in-house production.

Above and below are photos of the new candles, now available in three colors (Forest, Terracotta and Sand), taken by Carson Fisk-Vittori at The Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, an experimental green architecture lab located just outside of Austin, TX. The new Areaware Totem Candles are available for purchase on their website here now

3 Rooms at King Street Station

8/2/2016



Come check out 3 Rooms at King Street Station in Seattle this weekend, August 4 -7, 2016. We'll be one of the 20 featured local designers in the JOIN market sponsored by Civilization. Designers include: Apartment on Belmont, Blk Pine Workshop, Bremelo Press, Brian Beck, Delgado House, Faris, Five Ply Design, Fruitsuper Design, Gabriel Stromberg, Grain, Jennifer Ament, Mavro/Tawny, Meg Callahan, Piano Nobile, Pine & Boon, Rachel Illingworth, Rachel Ravitch, Small Craft, Turnco Wood Goods and Urbancase. More info here

Grain Studio Bainbridge Island

7/28/2016



It's been almost a year since we moved out of our home-based shop into our new studio space off Day Road on Bainbridge Island. We're so happy to have made the move to an industrial space better suited to our needs: design studio, fabrication shop and packing and shipping.

Our neighbors include businesses such as Fstopcafe, Iggy's, Bainbridge Yoga House and we are meeting more each month. Above and below are a few photos taken in early May. If you are local and curious to see more, email us to set up a visit!

Hot Shop With John Hogan

7/7/2016



Above and below is a look into the glass fabrication process of our new Drift lighting and furniture series recently launched at ICFF. For this series, we worked with Seattle glass artist John Hogan (who also makes the diffusers for our Circlet lighting series). 

John helped us develop a series of graphite molds to cast our solid glass shapes. As the shapes cool, you are left with these amazing chill marks, making each piece completely unique. All of our new work can be found on our site now. See more from a previous hot shop visit with John here.

REFLECT

5/27/2016



During NYCxDESIGN we also had the chance to show at Sight Unseen's OFFSITE with 15 other studios from across the United States in REFLECT curated by JOIN Design. The designs centered around the common theme of reflection and were restricted by size and a single material.

Our contribution was our new Reflect bottle opener cast in solid bronze. Its overall shape is reflected on two planes. Its materiality shimmers warmly with reflected light. And its use as a bar tool aids in the often art of reflective drinking.

The amazing photos above and below were taken by Amanda Ringstad. Read more about the show at Fast Company, Design Milk and Core77 or by checking out the hashtag #reflect_SUO. Huge thanks to JOIN curators fruitsuper and Melanie Abrantes as well as Civilization who created all the graphic design.
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