A dining room table isn’t purely a space for plates and cups, just like a couch’s sole purpose isn’t only for seating. A chair with cracked and supple leather can become more precious than something upholstered in today’s favorite pattern, while the shine of a metal can appear both raw and refined when supporting a sleek coffee table. Furnishings and objects don’t just exist in a space, they enliven it and are selected for their ability to make an area feel complete and soulful. These are the ideas that John Sorensen-Jolink works with when approaching his furniture craft for his company Coil + Drift. John lives in Brooklyn and works in a creative hub of a loft among metal workers, set builders, and other modern craftsmen. His background in choreography gives him a unique perspective on how the body reacts to the furniture it inhabits, while his culturally inclined research has him exploring what the home means to different people. These aspects come together to make Coil + Drift a lifestyle brand that achieves more than just a beautifully crafted piece, it provides an elegant way to connect to those otherwise unnoticed items at home. Coming off of a successful New York Design Week, John sat down to give us some insight into Coil + Drift.
Describe your studio and how it is set up
Our studio is located in Ridgewood, Queens just on the border of Bushwick, Brooklyn. We inhabit part of a large single-story building that, until recently, was a cabinet-making factory. We share a large wood/metal working shop with five other companies who do everything from large-scale metal sculpture to set-building, which makes daily life at the shop always interesting. The neighborhood is in that wonderful period when artists and makers can still afford space, the largely Dominican and Puerto Rican residents aren’t getting pushed out, and it’s not known as a ‘cool’ place yet. We’ll see how long that lasts, but for now it’s a really fun mix.
How did you get into handcrafted work?
After dancing and choreographing for ten years I craved something more lasting than an evening’s performance so I went and took a woodworking class and the rest is history.
What about the city inspires your work or where do you get your inspiration?
I think that my obsession with material-driven design comes from living in Brooklyn. For example, I don’t use paint on any of my work. I want the material that is used to be featured in the design. For a while I was having some of my bases for my Dusk Coffee Table made in steel and the plated in brass, and recently I changed that so they are now made of solid brass. It’s important to me that the raw material (literally) shines and it makes all the difference. Living in Brooklyn for the past 10 years has made me appreciate that raw natural beauty. There’s so much beauty here, whether you’re discovering the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens or walking the streets of the industrial neighborhoods. We do things fast and to the point here. I think to me Brooklyn is about raw simplicity. That is what I love about it.
You create items that cover all parts of life, from brass spoons to coffee tables. How have you turned Coil + Drift into a lifestyle company?
I definitely see Coil + Drift as a lifestyle company and I envision introducing more ways for people to engage with us and learn about our ideas in the near future. I think I have a unique perspective and draw on a wide range of experience to craft Coil+ Drift’s modern, nature-driven aesthetic. I grew up in Portland, Oregon (before it was cool), spent my summers working on a horse ranch, performed for ten years as a dancer and choreographer before self-studying design. My mother speaks French and Russian fluently and my partner is French and works for an international aid organization. I have always been interested in other cultures and am fascinated by the many different ways we define home. Throughout my life, a strong sense of home has always been very important and I created Coil + Drift to express my ideas of what home can be.
Where would we find you on the weekend?
When I’m in Brooklyn I like to stay local. I live in Fort Greene, a diverse neighborhood of brownstones close to the East River. You could probably find me at the farmer’s market in the morning, Walter’s for lunch, Jill Lindsey for coffee and some shopping, Fort Greene Park for an afternoon picnic, and then Lulu & Po for the best dinner in NYC (I’m not kidding, the food is beyond delicious). I also am a member and huge fan of BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), which is a two minute walk from my house. I’m there often catching a movie or seeing dance, theater, or music.
You’ve been featured everywhere, from Martha Stewart to Vogue (congratulations!), how has your work developed since then?
I think the new collection that just debuted in April is much more legitimate and serious than anything I’ve made before it. The design of each piece and fabrication methods are more complex and have a minimal and elegant feel. We introduced our first case good, the Rex Sideboard, which I love and was a lot of fun to create (drawers and doors, oh my!). I also introduced my first chair, the Soren Chair, which was terrifying and exhilarating. Many people say chairs can make or break your career so I was scared what people would think, but I also knew inside me that the design was strong and we just needed to make it well. Chairs are different than most furniture because people really use them. I think my background in dance and choreography helped me create a chair that is more comfortable than it looks and gives off a feeling of movement. I’m really proud of it and am excited about the reception it’s getting.
Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
As part of NY Design Week, which began on May 15 we we had our new collection on view as part of an installation called Blackbody CO-OP in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood. Blackbody is a French lighting company that makes beautiful modern pieces and our work will be curated throughout their two-story showroom.