Design Debut brings the very latest new products to the Show. These entrepreneurs come from the dynamic start up culture and often establish their companies with Kickstarter support. Others are successful artists entering the home goods market.
Thing Thing, a manufacturing studio in Detroit established by four designers in 2012, works intuitively with materials and methods usually reserved for industrial production. They also make the machines used to make their pieces and organize workshops and design performances where they incorporate an audience into the act of making. Not art, not architecture, not furniture…just a lot of things! We are speaking today with Simon Anton, a co-founder and designer with Thing Thing.
How did your group start?
We met while attending architecture school at the University of Michigan: Rachel, Eiji, and I were students and Thom was a fellow and assistant professor. After graduating, we started working with plastic for a project at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Instead of following the typical path and getting jobs in big architecture firms we decided to set up our own design practice in Detroit. While we were trained in the discipline of architecture, and are inspired by ideas of space and habitation, our practice is much more hands on and multidisciplinary. The scale of our work ranges from jewelry and tabletop objects to “domestic monuments” and large architectural installations. We like to consider our practice as somewhere between architecture and a party.
Where do you find your inspirations?
Ettore Sottsass, Enzo Mari, Memphis, Joe Colombo, Bruno Munari – we are inspired by a lot of radical Italian design of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Verner Panton and Wendell Castle are trail blazers in the world of plastic. We are inspired by contemporary experimental practices like Chen Chen and Kai Williams, Misha Kahn, and Jerszy Seymour. Games, jokes, and a light-hearted approach to design are key to our practice.
How did you choose the name for your company?
This came out of a playful brainstorming session we had over a round of drinks in an Ann Arbor bar. We all contributed names to a list, with the rule that we couldn’t include the words Studio, Atelier, Office, or any pretentious acronyms. Thing Thing arose organically from our interest in, well….things! It conveys our message with a light, whimsical ring to it, which is very important to us. Another perk is that in Japanese culture, words are often repeated to create an aura of cuteness – thus Thing Thing!
Tell about how you create the items.
All the work is manufactured by hand in our hometown of Detroit, Michigan. The pieces we are sharing are the results of years of experimentation working with hand-recycled plastic containers. We use cutting edge technology in off-the-beaten path ways. By building our own machines and processes we are able to explore material qualities that are completely unique. For example, in our tabletop object series, we start by mixing different colors of plastic and melting them into large blocks. From there we use CNC bed mills to cut into the blocks, sculpting them and producing incredibly smooth, patterned surfaces. While most plastic objects are identical in shape and color, each of our objects is a unique, handmade piece with its own personal character.
What’s it like to be in a creative business in Detroit?
Detroit is a fantastic home! It has a rich history of art and design and also diverse networks of people, skills and infrastructure. The Motor City’s auto industry provides vast potential for creating work. We have been lucky to build relationships with many local plastic manufacturers who have been instrumental in our many experiments. And it is important to us to support our local economy. Right now we are selling our products at Nora Modern in Detroit, Room 68 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit’s gift shop, through our website and to a number of private collectors.
What are your hopes for your appearance in the Design Debut at our Show?
We will premier a line of handmade tabletop objects and a larger, multi-function stool. It is our hope to use this launch as an opportunity to build relationships with creative buyers who are inspired by our work. We are passionate about what we do and are looking for relationships that can grow and develop with our practice. While our work has been shown at art and design institutions around the world, this is our first time bringing our work to a wholesale trade environment. We are incredibly excited to share our work with a larger audience!
Thank you, Simon, for giving us a preview of what you will present at your display in the Design Debut. We wish you a successful Debut!
To learn more about Thing Thing, see www.thingthing.us
The Discover Design Expo hosts established design brands such as Alessi and JosephJoseph and introduces rising newcomers in Design Debut, the Show’s incubator for budding companies. Housewares buyers seeking the very latest in creative directions will discover these selected 11 exhibitors from California, Texas, New York, Detroit, Chicago and Germany at their mini-displays set in N8724.