blog

Introducing: Grain's Cork Collection

9/22/2021



We are thrilled to be launching our new cork collection this week at the Colony co-operative showroom in New York. This collection is three years in the making and is fully inspired by the unique properties of cork itself.

In order to talk about the collection, we first have to share what it is about the material that has fascinated us for years.

Grain's Cork Collection Launch at Colony

9/13/2021




Three years ago we began to research a material that had long held our curiosity. It is a rapidly renewable material. It is a powerful carbon sink. And, it fully represents the vision we see for our work and our business as a whole as we adapt and grow into the future.

This material fascination is with cork - the outer bark of the cork oak tree that grows in Mediterranean climates and can live for up to 200 years.

We are pleased to announce that we will be launching a new collection of cork furniture informed by the unique properties of this material as part of Here at Colony, 2021 in New York on September 22 - 24, 2021.

Along with our new cork collection, Here at Colony, 2021 will feature new patterns from Flat Vernacular, a new series of works from architecture studio Workshop/APD as well as little seen new pieces from Bec BrittainA SpaceDeborah CzereskoHiroko Takeda and Vonnegut/Kraft.

If you are in New York and can safely make it to one of the open days, please RSVP here for the COVID compliant staggered entry. We hope you can make it!

Back to School

8/31/2021



Though autumn solstice is still a few weeks off, the change of season feels upon us both at home and in the studio. Our kids go back to school (1st Grade! Pre-K!) in person this week with new teachers and class pets. Our studio is feeling a similar eager and optimistic energy with two new woodworkers joining us full-time.

We’re also excited to be launching our new cork collection on September 22 (equinox!) at Colony in New York. With shows cancelled in 2020, this collection has been long deferred, but somehow feels just right for this moment. It is warm. It is regenerative. And, it wants to be touched!

Summer Heat & Adapting to Change

7/26/2021



Earlier this month we experienced a record-breaking heatwave here in the Pacific Northwest that is now linked to hundreds of deaths and the loss of over a billion sea creatures. This may not be the best opener for a furniture design-related newsletter, but experiencing that heat makes it hard to think of anything else.

Our family was safe in a house with a cool basement surrounded by the Salish Sea. We ate no-cook dinners. We jumped in the ocean before bed and slept with wet hair. We made it an adventure for our kids. In the same way we tried to make Zoom school an adventure. In the same way we made staying inside due to wildfire smoke last summer an adventure.

As a business, we have adapted to a tremendous amount over the past 16 months. We are still navigating post-pandemic realities that have slowed our lead times and have made sourcing materials and working with artists and other vendors more challenging.

An Ode to Our Pool Rug

6/22/2021



When we launched our Pool Rug in 2016, a designer we admire came up to our booth at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, took one enthusiastic look, and said, “Oh, I get it. It’s the new cowhide rug.” You get used to taking in spontaneous first impressions at trade shows, but this one kind of stuck with us because it gave us insight into what it was about the rug that was exciting. This kind of reciprocal relationship with our clients over time has more deeply shaped our practice than I think we’ll ever know.

Over the past five years of making these rugs and seeing where they end up, we have had a chance to witness this design’s ability to create space and movement within a floor plan. Its biomorphic shape breaks up the rectilinearity of an interior and allows designers to reimagine their furniture compositions. So, this newsletter is an ode to our Pool Rug, but even more so, it is an ode to the designers who have used it to envision new relationships within space.

Plant-Based

5/25/2021


A few weeks ago, The New York Times ran a story about the Michelin-starred restaurant Eleven Madison Park going plant-based that momentarily took our breath away. Within a few hours, several friends had sent us the link. It was clearly a moment they knew we’d want to note.

The famously thoughtful chef, Daniel Humm, is quoted saying: “It became very clear to me that our idea of what luxury is had to change. We couldn’t go back to doing what we did before.” He was speaking about the social and environmental scrutiny of our global food system and how that intensified for him during the pandemic.

If you have been following our newsletters, you know that level of scrutiny is something we have been working on ourselves in regards to everything from sourcing our raw materials, to how we staff our studio, to how we account for our carbon footprint.

Climate Neutral Certified

4/22/2021



This Earth Day, we're celebrating that we are officially Climate Neutral Certified!

We joined 215 brands in offsetting all of our 2020 carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits to fund climate solutions and by committing to reduce our future emissions.

When thinking about how to mitigate our footprint, we were inspired to work with Climate Neutral because they are the leading consumer label designating carbon neutrality. As much as we want to believe that our individual actions have a positive impact, we know that working together with a collective would not only make this effort more meaningful but it would also make it more visible.

It is our belief that visibility has the potential to shift culture and eventually systems.

We're Hiring: Woodworker

4/15/2021

Work directly with Grain partners, Chelsea and James Minola, in our Bainbridge Island studio to bring furniture and objects to life through careful fabrication. Hone your craft skills as you learn our unique manufacturing processes. Lead the care of our shop space and tools. Grow with us as we intentionally expand our twelve-year-old family business and our commitment to people and the planet.

Life Lived

12/17/2020

One of our greatest pleasures is seeing our work out in the world living a life that we could have never imagined ourselves. It is a reminder that putting things out into the world with intention and care does create a ripple effect. 

For most of our projects, we work directly with architects and interior designers who carefully select and place our work in community with other objects to create an environment that becomes much more than the sum of its parts. 

Our work gets thoughtfully installed and arranged then over time becomes a part of someone’s private life. The Marin County family room designed by Studio AHEAD (seen above) is grounded by our custom Duo Rug and is a perfect example of this process. 

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. 

Beeswax Totems Back for the Holidays

11/22/2019

Ok, listen up friends: We've made a small run of our popular Totem Candles in the original beeswax formula just for the holiday season. This limited edition batch was cut on our lathe here in our Bainbridge Island studio from the highest quality Oregon beeswax. They smell amazing, naturally!

We made this run especially for our pals at Areaware who are hosting a holiday pop-up that includes an assortment of work from a shortlist of their favorite independent designers. 

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 2019/20

5/23/2019



Above and below are images of our new collection made in conversation with artist Shiela Laufer in response to Pas de Deux, a duet between art and design, at Colony as part of NYCxDESIGN.

Shiela created two new paintings for this show and in response we made our Quilt Rug and Clover Rug as well as our walnut Offset Coffee Table. The collection plays with standard expectations of shape and edge while embracing Shiela's graphic sculptural forms and warm palette.

Pas de Deux is open at Colony, through May 31, but you can find our work represented in the showroom year round. As our work is made to order, custom dimensions, colors and materials are always possible. 

Photography thanks to Charlie Schuck

Doing and Being: Ten Years of Creative Collaboration at Grain

10/25/2018



This month marks our tenth year in business and we celebrated with our first solo show, Doing and Being: Ten Years of Creative Collaboration at Grain. The show welcomed visitors into the understated Grain aesthetic with select works from our current collection as well as a few pieces made specifically to shape the Colony space.

The title was a nod to the main motivation behind our business: finding a way to spend as much time together in creative pursuit as possible. Visitors had the chance to immerse themselves in the natural materials and smart sculptural forms that we have quietly championed from the start through tabletop objects to custom rugs.

To commemorate the ten year studio anniversary, we presented a ten piece limited edition run of our well known Dish Side Table made from twice reclaimed Northwest old growth fir.

Huge thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate with us and to our long time collaborator and friend, Charlie Schuck, for the installation photos above and below.

Save the Date: Doing and Being

9/28/2018



New York friends, please save the date for our upcoming solo show celebrating ten years of practice at Colony, 324 Canal Street, opening on October 11.

Thursday October 11, 6:00 - 9:00 pm opening night
Friday October 12, 12:00 - 6:00 pm
Saturday October 13, 11:00 - 12:00 pm yoga class
Saturday October 13, 12:00 - 6:00 pm
Monday October 15, 12:00 - 6:00 pm

In addition to the above, we will have a press preview Thursday October 11, 10:00 - 12:00 pm. We are also happy to make client appointments for anyone interested in a walkthrough with Chelsea or James Minola from Grain. Please contact [email protected] to make an appointment.

RSVP for the opening here. RSVP for the yoga class here.

Balance / Unblanced

5/21/2018



Our new Walling Rug made its debut in the Balance / Unblanced show at Colony last week. Colony is a community of independent furniture, lighting, textile and objects designers coming together on a New York City stage to celebrate American design with an international audience. The show is up May 17 - 24 at 324 Canal Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10013. All photos taken at Colony by Alan Tansey.
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