Designer to Know: Ian Love

Designer to Know: Ian Love

By Dwell
With his Brooklyn studio, Ian Love produces collections of furniture, lighting, and other objects—all made from logs salvaged by arborists on Long Island.

Compared with most designers, Ian Love has followed an unconventional career path. Before setting up his own studio in Brooklyn about four years ago, Love was a touring vocalist and guitarist in New York’s post-hardcore scene. But the self-taught maker dove into his new calling with aplomb, letting instinct and a deep reverence for his materials guide him.

Love’s diverse creative output spans furniture, lighting, sculpture, and smaller-scale home goods, but is united by his fascination with timber. Using logs salvaged by arborists on Long Island (where Love now lives full time), he shapes seemingly-flawed logs and stumps into organic stools and side tables, sometimes with timber inlay or decorative carvings.

A Black Walnut coffee table with resin inlay by Love

A bowl and cutting board by Love

Other pieces, like burls, become part of mixed-media projects, bowls, lamp bases, or geode-like sculptures filled with dried flowers and resin. "I do believe there is a synergy between me and the material," Love reflects. "Sometimes it takes a bit to get there, but there usually is a point where we’re in a flow."

Learn why Love recently started experimenting with encaustic painting in our Q&A below.  

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Describe what you make in 140 characters. I create furniture, sculpture, lighting, and other items that focus on unique materials and combine functionality with art.

What’s the last thing you designed? A side table made from bleached spalted maple wood, with a pigmented-marble concrete base.

One of Love's recent table designs

A spalted maple end-cut bench with legs made from ebonized oak and concrete

Do you have a daily creative ritual? I like to experiment as much as possible, and when "mistakes" happen each day, I simply push through them to find the new thing that might emerge.

How do you procrastinate? A lot of the materials I use are very heavy, and I can sometimes become so overwhelmed by the physical aspect that I'm unable to work.

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? Since I recently started making sculptural lighting, I would soon like to redesign desk lamps, chandeliers, and wall sconces to infuse more fluidity and movement with organic materials.

A table lamp carved by Love

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? In design, [George] Nakashima's furniture speaks to me in a way I've never felt before. I can really feel the life of the tree in his work, along with the beauty and simplicity of the design—all of which showcases the material with such respect. In life, I love all things David Lynch.

What skill would you most like to learn? Although I know some things already, I would like to learn more about stone carving and sculpture design.

What is your most treasured possession? After my mom died I made a piece called "heirloom objects," which is based on one of her old belts. She always wanted to live in Montana and never got the chance. In her memory, I hollowed out a big cherry blossom burl and created a three-dimensional scene incased in resin. [The scene] combines a mountain-like image with flowers, along with Polaroid picture of her and the belt. I keep it on the dresser in my bedroom.

"Heirloom objects" by Ian Love

What’s your earliest memory of an encounter with design? I have been a musician my entire life, but once I started making wooden objects in my 40s, it opened up a flood gate of creativity and inspiration that I never experienced with music. That was only four years ago. Also, my first exhibit at the Salon Art and Design Show in NYC—where I saw other galleries and designers in person—had a huge impact on me.

What contemporary design trend do you despise? I don't know if I despise anything, but I would like to see more authenticity in the making of items. I don't like when a piece of furniture looks nice from across the store, but up close the wood appears of low quality or is badly veneered.

Love's hand-carved stools are all unique and each one is made from a singular piece of wood.

Finish this statement: All design should... be open to experimentation.

What’s in your dream house? Items that I made, along with a nice garden, a pool, and a sauna.

Did you pick up any new hobbies or learn a new skill while in quarantine? What was it? I recently started experimenting with encaustic painting, which relies on heated beeswax and resin that are fused on top of one another in layers. It's cool because it can be applied to various materials, and I've been using [the technique] to paint on unique pieces of wood and make wall art. I eventually want to create encaustic-painted cabinet doors.

How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? I think people will want more of a connection to the things they buy and will be willing to look beyond the "big box" stores. Perhaps, people will be willing to pay a little more for special, bespoke items like those I create.

How can the design world be more inclusive? The more the maker is involved in discussions with the client the better, whether it's directly or via an interior designer. The dialogue will help customers create a connection with what they're buying and understand the value of craftsmanship.

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? How hard design can be, and how much work goes into a finished piece.

You can learn more about Ian Love by visiting his website or Instagram.

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