The Chronicle

Studio Visit: Ladies & Gentlemen Studio

Since 2010, Jean Lee and Dylan Davis of Ladies & Gentlemen Studio have specialized in what Lee calls "simple, thoughtful, and playful" furniture and objects, many inspired by "the simple magic of optical illusions"— an approach that has cemented their status as rising stars on the contemporary design scene, and one that mirrors Tetra's mission to elevate the mind-expanding experience of smoking. And so when we commissioned the mostly Brooklyn-based (by way of Seattle) duo to create an object for the shop, the result was every bit as ingenious and perspective-altering as their whimsically spare lighting and furniture.

The Tilt Ashtray was born, Lee explains, by way of their usual process: getting hands-on. The duo began experimenting with spare parts lying around the studio—hemispheres that had been repurposed as plant pots (pictured below), metal tubing—and the result is as versatile as it is elegant. "Not only can it be used as an ashtray, it can be used as an incense- or sage-burning platform, and for non-smokers, simply for holding small objects," Lee says.

Here, a tour of the pair's Red Hook studio, and a look at what makes them tick creatively.


How did the two of you come to work together?

We met in 2003 ​during college studying industrial design at the University of Washington, and we always dreamed of having our own studio. What first prompted us to design something together was because of Jamie Iacoli (of Iacoli & McAllister) started a design collective in Seattle called Join Design. Around that time, whether due to economic reasons or not, there was a resurgence of people starting their own design studios, which I believe have paved the way for the current design and maker scene in America today.    

How has your aesthetic evolved over time?

Our mission to explore and play has stayed the same since day one. At the beginning it was much more literal, but now we have a better understanding on how to apply our simple, thoughtful and playful designs and elevate it in ways that feels unexpected.   

 

You moved most of your operations from Seattle to Brooklyn a year ago. How do the two cities influence your work?

In Seattle, we have a lot of personal quiet space to think, and most importantly develop our own voice that's true to ourselves without outside influences. Now being in New York, there's so much to see and so much going on, which is exciting and inspiring and all, but it means there's a lot more filtering we have to do without losing ourselves. We still dream about living somewhere abroad (perhaps Europe or Japan) for a little bit, but who knows, we might even end up back on the west coast. 

What’s your new life in Brooklyn like?

We live in Carroll Gardens and have a studio in Red Hook. Our typical day can be anything from being on the computer answering lots of emails to running around picking up materials or visiting vendors. We love going by the water near Fairway and Valentino Park in Red Hook. Especially on a nice day, we like to rally other Red Hook friends to do impromptu picnics or happy hours.  

What do you listen to in the studio?

We listen to just about everything, but lately, we've been listening to a lot of Future Brown, King Krule, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, and Benjamin Clementine. 

What's been inspiring you lately?

We've been playing with the effects of glass for the past couple of years exploring the possibility of layers, textures and colors such as the Mirage series and Kazimir chandelier. Lately we've been exploring the possibility of optical illusions on a deeper level but in a more mysterious way.  

What other new projects are in the pipeline?

We'll be launching lots of new exciting things for New York Design Week! We got a new collab project with Norwegian studio Vera & Kyte​, an exhibit curated by Sight Unseen. We're putting together a Shaker-inspired design exhibit called Furnishing Utopia with a group of designers such as Studio Gorm, Jonah Takagi, Norm Architects, Charlie Schuck, Chris Speece, Urbancase, Zoe Mowat, and more. Both shows will launch at Sight Unseen OFFSITE.  Then we're launching a new modular lighting collection at The Future Perfect. Part of the collection will be in collaboration with our good friend, glass designer John Hogan.  

What's your smoking ritual?​ 

Occasional ​social settings. 

Studio photographs by Robin Stein for say hi to_; still-life by Charlie Schuck.