The Dwell 24: Joyce Lin

The Dwell 24: Joyce Lin

Like an enthusiastic anatomy professor redecorating her living room, the Texas designer exposes, explodes, and suspends the components of formerly familiar pieces of furniture.


For Skinned Table, she peeled away an otherwise ordinary specimen’s varnished surface and pinned it back on a few inches above the underlying wood, making skin levitate over bones. Similarly, the dismembered parts of her Exploded Chair are suspended—Damien Hirst–style—in acrylic, as though frozen the moment before they come together or fall apart. 

By working with objects others have discarded, the designer calls attention to how materials are sourced and resources are used and exploited, an interest that goes back to her student days, when she pursued dual degrees in geology-biology and furniture design at Brown University and RISD. 

After graduating in 2017, the Alabama native started her design practice in Houston, where she also manages a woodshop in a 300,000-square-foot makerspace. There, she is surrounded by tinkering engineers—fitting neighbors for someone dissecting the conventions of furniture design. 

Learn why Lin designed her own fanny pack and more by reading her responses to our Q&A below.

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

Describe what you make in 140 characters. I make objects that deconstruct furniture forms, materials, and archetypes to make sense of being a maker in a rapidly changing environment.

What's the last thing you designed? A policy document for a communal woodshop.

Do you have a daily creative ritual? Getting stuck in traffic on my daily commute is my greatest source of contemplation and creation.

How do you procrastinate? I don't really procrastinate, but when I am not being a workaholic I watch anime.

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? The fanny pack. I want to like it, but there are some major design flaws regarding size and position, which is why I made my own that I use every day.

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? No one is perfect, but I'm constantly inspired by certain qualities in my parents, my old teachers and mentors, and my friends.

What skill would you most like to learn? Basic electrical engineering and financial investment.

What is your most treasured possession? A small blanket given to me by my grandmother when I was born, featuring an image of nine Santa Clauses riding a bus together.

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? I used to make miniature furniture and home goods using trash and scraps like toothpicks and glue caps.

What contemporary design trend do you despise? I have a whole Instagram bookmarks folder of orb lights sitting on phallic shapes. I don't hate it, but it's becoming its own species.

Finish this statement: All design should... have integrity.

What's in your dream house? A spacious woodshop with air conditioning, dust collection, and spray booth!

How do you want design to be different after we emerge from the pandemic? Maybe slow down, and put more thought and care into what we put out in the world.

How can the design world be more inclusive? Lowering tuition costs for design schools, and more financial support for emerging artists and designers who do not have family wealth as a safety net.

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? I would like the public to have a greater understanding of how things are made and the time, skill, and money that go into making physical objects.

You can learn more about Lin by visiting her website and on Instagram.

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