Designer Spotlight: Souda Collective

Recent Parsons School of Design graduates Shaun Kasperbauer, Isaac Friedman-Heiman, and Luft Tanaka (from left) are the founding members of the design collective Souda (a Japanese word pronounced “SOH-duh”).
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In June 2012, when Parsons School of Design graduates Isaac Friedman-Heiman, Shaun Kasperbauer, and Luft Tanaka got the keys to their shared studio space in the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick, they didn’t know they were unlocking the doors to their soon-to-be-merged effort, Souda. The main goal at the time, Friedman-Heiman says, "was to get sawdust out of our apartments." But, he continues, for the three product designers—who share an experimental approach to process as well as a drive to get a jump on things— "it became evident that it was in all of our best interests to work as a group." Months later, Souda—which means "Oh, yeah!" in Japanese—launched with a handful of objects like ceramic Kawa pendant lights and concrete Kreten tables (cast from leather molds and rubberized fabric, respectively), both of which were developed when the founders were still in school.

The Kreten candelabra and side table demonstrate Souda’s focus on exploring new fabrication processes. In this case, stretched fabric is used as a mold for fiberglass-reinforced concrete.

True to its name, Souda seems founded on the finger-snapping moments that accompany great ideas. The team sought a commercial space near their homes, hoping to find a deal from "someone more personal who doesn’t own a lot of buildings." They scoured Craigslist until they stumbled upon a raw space with high ceilings (it used to be a nightclub). Now fully stocked, their workspace owes a lot to their alma mater, which donated tools it could no longer use.

Rather than using traditional plaster molds that form identical replicas of a design, Kawa bowls are made by individually slip-casting reusable leather molds to create one-of-a-kind imprints on the porcelain.

Goals for the young company include a stronger focus on lighting and col- laborations where they can explore new typologies, like working with an elec- tronics supplier to make trivets out of aluminum with a gold chromate electro-bath finish. Currently, the trio is moving through a master list of projects. "It’s like how we work with materials," says Tanaka. "We figure out alternative processes."

Tanaka works at the ceramic station in the trio’s Bushwick studio.

“We all feel responsibility to each other. We know that if we’re going to be doing this a year from now, we need to work hard.”—Shaun Kasperbauer, Souda


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