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.

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. 

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. 

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

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.

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.

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

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.
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