Designers & Artists

Object Permanence: Meet Evan Jerry of Studio Anansi

The London-based product designer on his process, inspirations and best advice for aspiring creatives

Product design is a particular blend of art and science, something Evan Jerry of Studio Anansi understands better than most. A native of Toronto who now lives and works in London, Evan is the product designer and artist behind many of the statement-makers in our collection, from burl wood desks and cabinets to upcycled leather rugs handwoven on traditional pit looms.

A true lover of objects, Evan creates work that perfectly marries form and function to create vintage-inspired shapes that feel so right now. Whether it’s delicate fluting on Brutalist architecture-inspired cocktail tables or geometric tile patterns applied to textiles, there’s always an unexpected design detail. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity and ease of these products—an unparalleled level of care and thought goes into each and every design. We sat down with Evan to learn more about his creative process as a product designer, what it’s like collaborating with CB2 and the last thing he binge-watched. (Because what’s life without a well-deserved pop culture break every now and again?)

Meet CB2 Product Designer Evan Jerry of Studio Anansi

I want people to get it. I want people to relate to it. I don’t want it to be something that people have to “figure out.”

Meet CB2 Product Designer Evan Jerry of Studio Anansi

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration is all around us. I love riding around London on my bike and exploring the city. It is a very green city during the spring and summer months so the contrast between the architecture and nature is always interesting. My interest in exploring form and materials are always expressed through my work and I love the examples London has to offer, particularly the brutalist architecture. Travel, art and my Afro-Caribbean cultural heritage are also key sources of inspiration.

Travel is definitely a big inspiration with design—understanding and getting to see culture, going to different places, seeing the textures and the architecture and the food. However, I don’t necessarily have a “go-to” inspiration. It’s not about one specific thing, but it definitely is about materiality and form. Whatever inspiration I have, it’s all about narrowing that down and putting it into a design language through material and form.

I definitely like things that are almost monolithic, with a very clean form that allows the material to tell the story. [Brutalist architecture] is a big inspiration with its really solid forms, but I like adding more lightness through curves or something similar as well. It’s the constant need to find the balance.

Meet CB2 Product Designer Evan Jerry of Studio AnansiMeet CB2 Product Designer Evan Jerry of Studio Anansi

You’re based in London, but originally from Toronto. How does this international perspective impact your work?

Travel is a fundamental part of my inspiration process. How we navigate space, how space and culture influence us and how those experiences are interpreted are very impactful on my work. Toronto is where I was born and raised, so I think that tension to always find cultural balance comes through in my interior sculptural pieces because of this. Britain is tied to my cultural history as well through colonization, so I am constantly discovering more of that history and having it come through the work. I have also lived in other countries like Finland, Mexico and the US for periods of time, and have traveled to over 30 countries. It has all had some impact on different levels.

Tell us about your process as a product designer.

I play around with sketches and forms and ideas first, and then I do these little digital collages. I call them digital sketches. They’re not just a quick sketch where you don’t understand what’s going on; I want the forms to be combed out enough that you get the idea that it looks like a product, as opposed to a sketch that can be super interpretive. I play around with the idea, and really work out the shapes and the materials before I submit the concept.

I do a lot of editing. I might not have everything figured out, but I edit it down enough that you can say yes or no. There’s a lot of editing processes, and a lot of just making sure forms and materials match what [CB2 is] trying to achieve.

I love when I do something and I have an idea, and somebody else says it before I explain it to them. That’s when I know I did it right. If I have to over-explain it, something’s not translating. I want people to get it. I want people to relate to it. I don’t want it to be something that people have to “figure out.”

Meet CB2 Product Designer Evan Jerry of Studio AnansiMeet CB2 Product Designer Evan Jerry of Studio Anansi
Carve Travertine Cocktail Tables by CB2 Product Designer Evan Jerry of Studio Anansi

How did you first discover CB2?

I first discovered CB2 while on a trip in New York and I was instantly hooked. I was thrilled to discover a design-forward brand at an accessible price.

I met a couple of the buyers while exhibiting during the London Design Festival. They were very complimentary of my work and we discussed the potential to collaborate. I did a series of tiles and they really liked those. The [initial] focus was more on textiles, but I was inspired by the brief so I did a few extra pieces. The buyers at CB2 really understand product. They really understand what’s going to work. I feel like it’s a good process so far, easy and enjoyable and inspiring to see products go from ideas to launch, which is fantastic.

What is it like working with CB2?

Working with CB2 has been an amazing experience. The collaboration process with the team has been an incredible journey where we are free to explore, ideas are often bounced off each other and a sense of trust is shared between us to create a beautiful product.

For instance, particularly when working on the finishings, [we both wanted to] have things appear more “worked,” more hand-touched as opposed to really clean and perfect. I think there’s one table I suggested in plaster, and it was actually made in a plaster but was lightly textured. It’s not how I initially envisioned it, but it’s really beautiful and when I saw it I was like, “oh, I never thought of that.” It seems more elevated in a way.

It’s a really good collaboration because it’s truly a cross between everybody sharing ideas and trust in my design. So even if [CB2] can’t do it the way I suggested, I know they’re going to make sure that it’s beautiful in the end.

I will say, you have to understand the company you’re designing for. Of course I can select something to be made out of some blue Belgium marble that cost thousands of dollars and of course that would be beautiful, but that is not what we’re doing. So I’m very selective in suggesting materials that are achievable. I don’t want to suggest materials that are going to end up retailing for $10,000. For me, that’s not a good way to design collaboratively. I’m always referencing what [CB2 has] already made, how things are made and trying to understand that. I see that, I make sure I reference it. I try and design in a way where it’s obtainable for a more mass market. As much as I would love a $40,000 table, we can make it just as beautiful for less.

Meet CB2 Product Designer Evan Jerry of Studio AnansiMarisa Burl Wood Desk by CB2 Product Designer Evan Jerry of Studio Anansi

What drew you to product design?

I love objects. I love interior design, but I loved the things in the interior. They’re kind of a showroom for these beautiful objects and for me, it’s the objects that are the personal things. It’s the objects that tell more of the story and individuality of people’s spaces.

I always did art on the side, like sculptural work. So product design is the perfect balance between creating sculpture and art and being in the world of interiors. I’m not dealing with the interior spatial aspect, but I am dealing with the objects within it. And the objects are more like sculptures in that space. I like to think of the objects as a kind of art pieces within space.

What’s the story behind the name Studio Anansi?

The name ANANSI derives from the predominant West African and Caribbean folklore figure who often comes in the form of a spider and is considered to be a god of all knowledge of storytelling. I heard these stories as I was growing up and I wanted to bring my personal heritage into the foundation of my design practice.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Ever given?

The best career advice given to me was from someone I met very early in my design education. I was concerned with so many aspects of the business and industry side of design and the response was, “If you want to be a good designer, focus on doing great work. The rest you will figure out as you move along.”

My best advice would be to take the time and apply the patience needed to finding your own voice. This can be an extremely challenging, intimidating and extensive process but once found you will have a sense of self and clarity to thrive in all the noise.

Meet CB2 Product Designer Evan Jerry of Studio AnansiMeet CB2 Product Designer Evan Jerry of Studio Anansi

QUICK FIRE

  • Soundtrack of your life: A Seat at the Table by Solange
  • Style icon: Phoebe Philo. What she did for Celine is just breathtaking.
  • Favorite designer: At the moment, Kelly Wearstler and Joseph Dirand for interiors, Faye Toogood and Francesco Balzano for furniture
  • You’ll never get sick of: My dog Steve
  • Your current state of mind: Reflective
  • Where you’d most like to live: Portugal
  • Favorite museum: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark
  • Last thing you binge-watched: I May Destroy You
  • Your greatest extravagance: Wandering around the city. Time is the greatest luxury of all.
  • Most treasured possession: My values
  • Your most overused word or phrase: YAS!
  • Zodiac sign: Pisces
  • Tea or coffee: Tea
  • City or country: Country
  • Vintage or new: New with hits of vintage

This interview has been edited and condensed. Select photos courtesy Studio Anansi/Evan Jerry.

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