I recently had the opportunity to chat with Jeff Forrest, Designer and Founder of STACKLAB, a Toronto-based multidisciplinary art and design studio.
The studio pursues conceptual projects spanning a range of scales and disciplines by working in collaboration with regional experts in material, craft, science, and technology. Translation: Jeff is rad and his latest project will have you feeling all the feels, or rather, felts.
Sarah Wright: What's your background, and what inspired you to get into your field?
Jeff Forrest: My background is in architecture, but my field of practice is a little more nebulous and touches on multiple disciplines. Architecture trained and inspired me to think broadly and critically about the world. Starting and running my own business enabled me to maintain a broad focus and apply critical thinking in those areas that interest me the most. I go where there are opportunities to learn and solve problems.
SW: What's one of the projects you're working on right now in Canada that excites you?
JF: I'm very excited about the second generation of our Felt Collection. We're adding far more complexity to our system that will enable us to work with a wider network of regional suppliers, catalogue waste material more efficiently, optimize it for use more quickly and with greater accuracy and offer significant user customization. The form language is based on a system we're developing using parametric design tools and will allow users to configure a broad range of items. We're planning to test it first in partnership with Maison Gerard in New York and eventually open it to the public online.
Photo Courtesy of STACKLAB
SW: What trends or changes do you see coming in your industry which you like, or don't like?
JF: I’ve noticed a growing interest in locally-oriented work as well as a heightened emphasis on quality, which I think is great. With everyone having to stay home during the pandemic, there seems to be more commitment to personal placemaking - not only with respect to how it looks, but what it stands for. I see people starting to understand that the things they buy are really a reflection of who they are; their values, beliefs and even politics.
SW: How do you - or what do you do - to find your creative inspiration today?
JF: Collaboration is built into our approach at STACKLAB and creativity comes from collaboration. My ideas are best developed through conversation with my team and other industry professionals/skilled manufacturers. Ideas rarely just hit me while sitting in a park, [as] they may for some. For me, it’s about uncovering design opportunities by connecting with people across various industries.
SW: What is your favourite - or most compelling - example of Canadian houseporn?
JF: Anything by Shim Sutcliffe (see an example of their work in the photo below). They are thoughtful and have a very holistic approach to their work.
Toronto's Integral House by Shim-Sutcliffe Architects. Photo Courtesy of Architonic, Photographer James Dow
SW: Has your design aesthetic or intent changed throughout the pandemic?
JF: I don't really have an aesthetic, but I do have an approach that has been impacted by the pandemic. Because we're so collaborative, much of our process has turned (even more) digital. We're using Augmented Reality (AR) tools far more than before to discuss and test ideas with our partners and engage with our patrons - we even have AR versions of our collection on our website. We're just generally thinking about our work in digital terms now. Our Felt 2.0 project is a perfect example. While it has deep, tangible roots, and while it is ultimately a manufactured good, much of the design process has been digitally focused and the entire user interface will be digital. We also exhibited entirely in virtual environments this year, through our partners at Isola Design District we participated in VR exhibitions for Milan Design Week and Dutch Design Week.
SW: Why is design a powerful tool for helping people survive/thrive in times of challenge?
JF: By definition, design is applied critical thinking, so in that regard, I think design is really the only tool, or at least the most important one because it’s how we understand and then work through problems of every kind. Design is not limited to the creation of aesthetically pleasing objects and environments (as so many think), it really is the engine of the world and of human ingenuity. On a less serious note, I think a dog and a loving partner can be very helpful to have around too.
Photo Courtesy of STACKLAB
SW: Do you have any tips for creatives on how to stay inspired at home?
JF: First off I would say staying connected with real people is key. We need to exchange ideas. Secondly, I would say use the time to really get in touch with your values. I think introspection leads to tremendous creativity. As objective as design can and should be, there is always a subjective element to it that gives it soul or spirit. I think we need to nurture that whenever we have the time.
SW: What are the essentials for a fantastic Work From Home space?
JF: A dedicated space where you can really get absorbed into the work you have to do with good lighting and a background that looks good on zoom!
Thank you, Jeff Forrest! You can learn more about his designs and recent projects by visiting STACKLAB. Or...follow him on Instagram @stacklab_design
If there is anything that talking to Jeff has taught me, it's that good design never needs to take a backseat.
Check out more from Jeff's favourite Canadian Architects from these Houseporn.ca articles below:
Toronto’s Integral House By Shim-Sutcliffe Architects
Or kick up your feet and get cozy with other chairs by Candian Designers on our site, Houseporn.ca:
The Peacock Chair By Toronto’s Uufie Studio
The Cord Chair by Jacques Guillon
The Joya Rocker by Monte - Classic Meets Contemporary!
Researched and written by Sarah Wright, freelance writer and frequent sitter.
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