Liam Lee’s textiles contain multitudes. The meandering lines and clustered forms that traverse his throws can alternatively be seen as representing microbes, star charts, or topographic maps. "I let the compositions unfold organically," the New York designer explains. "I think of them as large-format, slow sketches."
For Lee, the labor-intensive process of dyeing and hand-felting merino fibers into a woven base began in 2019 as a side project from his day job as a set designer. When the Covid-19 pandemic halted productions, he was able to keep working on textiles from the confines of his apartment, and the solo design practice became a full-time pursuit.
While Lee’s panels are available through the Noguchi Museum and Heath Ceramics, they live a second life on social media, where their tactile qualities translate vividly. "My goal is to provide a space that viewers can project themselves into," Lee says, "to allow for a moment of meditation."
Read the Q&A with Lee below to learn about his connection to Charles and Ray Eames, his enviable library, and more.
Hometown: New York, New York
Describe what you make in 140 characters. I make objects for the home that seek a balance between functionality and aesthetic uncertainty.
What's the last thing you designed? A handful of textile and stoneware pieces for Heath Ceramics.
Do you have a daily creative ritual? Many cups of coffee.
How do you procrastinate? Book hoarding and looking through the books I’ve hoarded.
What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? I would love to design a collection of cookware that can take a lot of use and gets better with age. I love to cook and feel that cooking with beautiful, well-made tools makes the experience all the more enjoyable.
Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? A few ofmine are Martin Puryear, Jens Quistgaard, Rei Kawakubo, Hayao Miyazaki, John Milton, Djuna Barnes, and Isamu Noguchi.
What skill would you most like to learn? Glassblowing!
What is your most treasured possession? My maternal grandfather, George Matsumoto, bequeathed his collection of architecture books to me. It includes volumes by Max Bill, Lewis Mumford, Sigfried Giedion, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, and György Kepes.
What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? At my grandparent's house when we were younger, my cousins, siblings and I would try to spin each other as fast as possible in a very old rosewood Eames lounge chair. My grandfather, who studied at Cranbrook in the 40s and became friends with Charles and Ray Eames there, was not at all phased by our game that inevitably and tragically resulted in disaster for the chair.
What contemporary design trend do you despise? Our collective infatuation with the surface of things, which I think has led to design solely for the image of the thing rather than for the thing itself.
Finish this statement: All design should... All design should—on a basic level—serve its intended physical function. But I tend to be drawn to design objects that also elicit some sort of emotional response or get me thinking.
What's in your dream house?An interior courtyard with one magnolia tree.
How do you want design to be different after we emerge from the pandemic? I would like design to be much more tactile.
How can the design world be more inclusive? The design industry can be more inclusive by offering more well-paying, substantial opportunities to designers of color as well as promoting their work and asking them what they need to advance their careers. Museums, design and art schools, firms, galleries, publications should actively recruit and promote people of color to positions of power and pay a living wage.
What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? People often don’t understand the amount of time and labor—both mental and physical—that goes into creating something new.
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