Interviews POP-IN@Nordstrom

Pop-In Studio Visit: Ladies & Gentlemen

Ladies & Gentlemen Studio is a Seattle-based design partnership comprising Dylan Davis and Jean Lee. Refined yet playful, minimal yet imaginative, the duo’s functional art is invariably easy on the eyes. And—with four handcrafted glass/brass/wood/leather wind chimes designed exclusively for Pop-In @ Nordstrom Welcomes Poketo—it’s pleasing to the ears as well.

Keep reading for an exclusive Q&A with Jean—and to see more photos from our visit to Ladies & Gentlemen’s Seattle home/studio.

How did the two of you begin working together?
“Dylan and I met during college, studying industrial design at the University of Washington in ​Seattle. ​We both found creative/design jobs after we graduated in 2005, and then we gradually started doing our own thing during our free time, which was jumpstarted by the Seattle independent design scene​. In 2010, we decided to officially launch our own products designed and made for L&G Studio. It started mostly with small gift/home goods, and over time, we expanded to offering furniture and lighting as well. We hope to keep evolving and exploring other realms of design, as we’re interested in a lot of other creative disciplines as well.”

How would you describe your workspace? Do you find your surroundings to be influential?
“Currently, our studio is in our midcentury home, which, as you can imagine, has its pluses and minuses. In almost every room, there are open shelves, on which we display things that we love—from housewares, books and objects to prototypes and material swatches. They function like a three-dimensional inspiration board; we often find ourselves grabbing things off the shelf to reference or play with when we’re working on ideas.

“A lot of our production/assembly takes place in the shop space, which is our garage. It’s not the most ideal, since there’s not much separation between work and personal space. We’ve made it work with the space we have and our own resourcefulness, but we’re also looking forward to having a separate studio space soon!”

What’s your process like? How do you know where to begin and end?
“Our process is heavily reliant on being immersed in our work. We’re constantly on the lookout for things that inspire us in daily life—and we work to surround ourselves with those types of things. That’s why the shelves of our home are filled with scrap material samples, right alongside antiques we’ve collected over the years. Inspiration for a product can come from any of these (or combinations). To keep creativity flowing, we do creative sketching exercises as a company, a couple times a week. These don’t always yield a specific product, but are key to keeping our minds tuned to new opportunities.

“Real product typically begins with a prompt: an upcoming design show, a retail season or a client with a specific need. We use our collections, books, and past sketches and experiments to help fuel as many ideas as possible. We look at the concepts all together and begin critiquing and improving them—an intense, but often dynamic part of the process. Together, we refine the product on the fly with quick sketches, simple mock-ups and a lot of discussion. From there, we must build the actual product ourselves, so this is an important consideration in the design: How do we make this real? After a number of versions and revisions, we arrive at a product that we’re all equally excited about.”

Day to day, what compels you to keep creating?
“We’re driven by the magical moment when a design idea turns into a real, refined product—the moment when visions in our heads align to a result that we find compelling and meaningful. The reality is that the day-to-day tasks of production, admin, packing and shipping fill most of our time—and aren’t necessarily the most ‘glamourous’ or creative work that we like to do. We often have to remind ourselves that we’re doing this because we want to have the freedom to design and make what we want. This involves viewing every part of the business as a design challenge. It makes us constantly strive to be better, and to tailor our business direction toward the creative paths that inspire us most.”

Which projects are you most proud of, to date?
“Our Shape Up lighting collection, which we recently launched at NY Design Week in mid-May. The collection is versatile, modular lighting in celebration of our ​love for mixing materials and geometric shapes. The system allows the shapes to be suspended and composed indefinitely, in response to a space’s architecture and function. As if connecting the dots, the cord network graphically expresses the light sources’ formal and electrical connection to each other.”

Which designers of the past or present have you found to be transcendent?
James Turrell.”

When you’re not in the studio, where would you prefer to be?
“Anywhere with sun, good scenery, good food, good drinks, and good company.”

Ladies & Gentlemen Studio created four special-edition mini wind chimes exclusively for us. They’re part of Pop-In @ Nordstrom Welcomes Poketo, a unique collection of home goods, jewelry, stationery and more, guest-curated by our favorite Los Angeles boutique/gallery, Poketo.

For more, read a Q&A between Poketo’s founders and Nordstrom’s Olivia Kim.

Interview courtesy of Ashlyn Behrndt
Photos courtesy of Robin Stein with art direction by Ashley Helvey