The Dwell 24: Amalia Attias

The Rhode Island designer creates experimental pieces and reconfigurable furniture.
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Growing up in Rhode Island, Amalia Attias struggled with conventional ways of learning. "I am extremely dyslexic and had to teach myself a lot about understanding visual language," she says, which eventually led her down a creative path to studies at RISD, from which she graduated this year. To process language on her own terms, Attias engages in experimental "mark making" on canvases and objects and develops parameter-based constructions of "repetition and accumulation," as she describes it. 

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These techniques have led to pieces like the Marked chair, a combination desk and chair methodically covered with red splotches and rub-on Letraset letters, and the Tessellation chair, which is composed of connected triangular pillows that can be reconfigured by the user. "I made it interactive because I want people to talk to it," says Attias, "the same way that I talked to it when I was making it."

Sketches of upcoming products by Amalia Attias

Sketches of upcoming products by Amalia Attias

Learn why Attias treasures a necklace made of jade, plus read more of her responses to our Q&A below.

Hometown: North Kingstown, RI

Describe what you make in 140 characters. My work translates our incorporeal relationship to consciousness, asemic by nature, into the universally accepted language of materiality.

What's the last thing you designed? A shelving unit for my father’s LP collection.

Do you have a daily creative ritual? I typically start my day in bed attempting to recite my dreams. This recollection gives me a topic to digest throughout the day.

How do you procrastinate? Surprisingly procrastination turns out to be a productive endeavor for me. In the process of avoiding the task at hand I end up distracting myself by completing a dozen other. It is exhausting.

An installation by Amalia Attias

An installation by Amalia Attias

A paint marker test by Amalia Attias

A paint marker test by Amalia Attias

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why Windowpanes, because they are the transparency of an architectural space and I am intrigued by the three-dimensionality of a flat object being subjected from both front, back, and through.

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? Ana Mendieta.

What skill would you most like to learn? I have always wished I could sing.

What is your most treasured possession? A necklace made of a jade circle on a chain, which was carved by a longtime family friend. It was a gift from my father during my first year of college and I have worn it every day since, for safe travel.

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? I was in kindergarten when I was introduced to the work of Andy Goldsworthy. On Friday afternoons we would sit in a circle and have a lesson on optical illusions. A lot of these lessons stuck with me but I was nothing less than utterly entranced by the lucidity of his illusions. He was the first artist I ever knew of.

What contemporary design trend do you despise? Corporate Memphis and resin.

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Finish this statement: All design should...look back at you when you look at it.

What’s in your dream house? So many rugs and tiles. I love being surrounded by intricacy.

Did you pick up any new hobbies or learn a new skill while in quarantine? What was it? I started basket weaving, using hay from my neighbors garden and yarn I had laying around from previous projects. This pastime quickly developed into my furniture practice as a dimensional drawing method, creating form through the accumulation of a line.

How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? I like to think that for a moment the pandemic slowed down the ever increasing speed of consumer progression. If anything I hope it disrupted the steady course of systemics (based in wealth and consumption) enough to create a space for new developments in design standards. I think this pandemic has also created space around each of us as individuals in a way that most of us have never experienced. I hope this space has encouraged people to become creators and less consumers.

How can the design world be more inclusive? I think the design world needs to stop prioritizing arbitrary elitism as a measure of success, as if success were even quantifiable in this regard. Design institutions have a tendency to hire the notable name, as if prestige makes you a better designer, or teacher.

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? That both need to step away from preconceived notions of aesthetics, and that my graduate class of furniture design was predominantly female. 

You can learn more about Attias on Instagram

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