Now Featuring Eric Trine

Designer and artist Eric Trine is serious about play.  It’s not just a way to enjoy an object, it’s a way to know it, to uncover new uses for materials and solve problems.  His work invites use, touch and interaction and offers the joy of discovery.

To view Eric’s collection of LPP exclusive prints: GO here.

Exclusive Print 1, Dosequis

Exclusive Print 1, Dosequis

Exclusive Print 2, Radio Towers

Exclusive Print 2, Radio Towers

Exclusive Print 3, Totes Twins

Exclusive Print 3, Totes Twins

Exclusive Print 4, Tower Power

Exclusive Print 4, Tower Power

MH: Can you tell us about your project for LPP and how it fits in with your other work?

ET: The project for LPP circles around the part of my practice that I don’t really know how to define exactly. I do a lot of different things, and big portion of what I do is functional design. That kind of work has a very specific set of criteria and objectives, whereas with this stuff I’m not really sure what my objective is. It’s more of a playful meandering visual exploration kind of vibe, versus an explicit “art project.”

The objects themselves are based on simple geometric structures and they’re just fun to stack and arrange in different little situations. I’m going to set them up in the window at LPP, but I imagine that it won’t be long before they get re-stacked and re-arranged in a different formation.

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MH: Can you talk about how sculpture influences your functional design work and vice versa?

ET: One of the major influences is my love of materials – but the big difference between art and design is that you get to touch design. I’ve always disliked the hands-off experience of traditional sculpture so all of my projects have tried to subvert the “eyes only” experience. I think that’s why I fell into furniture, because everyone knows it’s okay to sit in a chair, or use a vase, or put their feet up on a coffee table. When I make a chair and put it in a retail store people just sit in it – no one says, “Don’t touch that, it might be art.” I had a solo art show a few months back and it was really frustrating to watch all the viewers just view my pieces. If I could do it all over again, I think I would put signs that said it was okay to touch things. I think that’s what I’m trying to get with these objects for LPP.

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MH: I really like how your furniture work mixes natural colors with really zippy, electrical applied color. What are your color inspirations, and how do you make color decisions when designing?

ET: Most of my projects begin as a response to materials – so I usually start a piece with a material already at hand. I pick colors in the same way, based on what’s available. I go to the powder coaters and look at the colors they have and pick a few that I think go well together. It’s kind of like picking out paint chips at a hardware store; I just pick out one that I like and try and match the others to it. It’s kind of arbitrary. I recently found out that my powder coaters could apply glitter, so I decided to a get a few pieces with glitter in them because why not?

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MH: What were some of the big influences in your craft, design and art education?  I see you worked at the Lab/the Camp and that they shaped your practice a bit.

ET: For me it’s always been this marriage of theory and practice, and an overall insatiable level of curiosity that always keeps me moving. I like to switch between a lot of types of projects and discover ways that these different disciplines talk to each other. The biggest influence was watching the lives of professors, mentors, and employers who had been doing creative work for twenty to thirty years and they still had a ton of energy, if not more energy than when they started. That’s what it was like working at The Lab and The Camp, just a nonstop stream of creative output. I come from a family of extremely hardworking people, but it was my formal education at school that really taught me how to channel that energy so I’m not just spinning my wheels.

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MH: What big risk or challenges have you faced recently in the studio, or are you about to tackle?

ET: I’m moving from Portland, Oregon, back down to Long Beach, California, at the end of the year, so my studio space is kind of in a holding pattern right now. The big challenge for me, like every independent artist and designer, is figuring out how to generate sustainable income. For me, it’s scaling up my furniture production and really making a go of it with the branch of my practice. On personal level, my wife and I are having our first kid in a month – so that’s going be crazy! I know that will change my perspective on life in general, but I’m really interested to see how that affects and influences my work. I think I’ll start making a lot of toys!

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MH: I love that part of your interest in furniture if from the fact that everyone knows it’s OK to touch.  And that you mentioned making toys. (Are you serious?  I hope you are!) How does touching, interacting with materials and playing help you design?  I see from your Instagram feed that you spend a lot of time rearranging objects, handling them.

ET: Almost all my projects – like 99% of them – start with materials first. I’ve never thought about a chair design and then figured out what kind of materials would suit it best. I usually come across a material and then think about what I could use it for. I call this the “dinglehopper principle” based on that scene from the Little Mermaid where Scuttle claims that a dinner fork is called a dinglehopper and shows Ariel that it’s used for combing hair. Kind of an obscure reference – but the idea is that there’s a lot of functional potential in materials that we often overlook because we already know its “name.”

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MH: Who are some designers and design projects that get you excited, or have been big inspirations in the past?

ET: Charles and Ray Eames are so ubiquitously known, and I feel like I should cite someone more obscure, but I find their work so inspiring. And it’s not even the objects they made, but really the ethos behind their work that I love.

I love the work of Russel Wright – another mid-century designer. I became familiar with his work through some folding chairs I found at a flea market a few years back. He wrote a book with his wife in 1954 called A Guide to Easier Living, and it was all about the positive impact of a well-designed home. I think that when we think of a well-designed home today we think in terms of Pinterest boards, and editorial spreads, rather than how it actually benefits the lives of the people who live there. That’s something I find attractive about a lot of the mid-century designers, that their design ethos was about benefitting the lives of others.

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MH: What artworks would you touch and play with if you could?  Or design objects?

ET: Brâncuși’s sculptures for sure – I just want to see how they feel in my hands, feel the weightiness. Noguchi designed a few public playgrounds back in the day, I don’t think they are around anymore – but I would love to climb all over them.

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