The Chronicle

Meet the Maker: Sophie Lou Jacobsen

When we asked Sophie Lou Jacobsen to design a vaporizer stand for Tetra, it was because we love her use of shape and color — her signature glassware is characterized by wavy forms and pastel hues, but she keeps things sophisticated and subtle by using delicate lines and a minimalist approach. We also knew that, if we asked her to create an object for holding and displaying vapes, she’d make something both functional and beautiful.

Like the rest of Jacobson's work, the acrylic and steel Valet stand for Tetra ($88) has both avant-garde vibes and an approachable simplicity. Not only does it store vapes at an ideal angle — with a wavy shape that keeps them from rolling off — it’s also perfect for holding your phone or iPad while you’re on a video call (or cooking!), charging those devices at night, keeping your TV remotes organized, holding your glasses, or even displaying the novel you’re currently reading on your bedside table.

Scroll down to read an interview with Jacobson and see photos of her at work, then:

SHOP THE VALET HERE

When did you know you wanted to do something creative, and how did you get started in your current practice?

I was always interested in doing something creative, but this was solidified when I moved to France for my senior year of high school. The academic system there was so much more rigid than what I was accustomed to, and I wasn't interested in continuing in a classic university setting within that system. It was a sort of blessing in disguise; I decided to go to art school instead, and there I met a professor who introduced me to the discipline of industrial design.
I discovered I had always been drawn to ID without knowing it — as a child I loved going to the Bang & Olufsen showroom in downtown Seattle to look at the sleek telephones, and thrifting for vintage Bauhaus furniture pieces with my parents.

I would flip through the pages of Dwell at the same age as I was reading teen magazines. They used to do a campaign with Bombay Sapphire Gin where designers would submit designs for martini glasses, and the winning design would be featured on the back cover of the magazine. I had these pages taped up on my wall alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Freddie Prinze Jr.!

How would you summarize your approach to your work and your materials?

Because I'm trained as an industrial designer rather than a craftsperson, I don’t have any formal training with a specific material. Rather, I was taught how to use design to communicate with craftspeople and technicians. So with that in mind, I approach design from a purely formal point of view first. Often, I’ll reach out to a manufacturer with an initial drawing or concept, without any real idea of whether or not it’s possible. But that’s kind of the beauty of it, because we'll both push back at each other, and — when it’s successful — arrive at a place that is surprising or new for everyone involved.

What’s the hardest thing about working with your hands, and what’s the most gratifying?

Working with your hands is meditative, rewarding, and frustrating all at the same time. Either you need to concentrate very hard, which relieves your brain of thinking about a million things at once, or—if it’s a repetitive task or motion that you have mastered—you can let your mind wander and dream while your body is performing the movements.

No one will be able to make something the way you do; the maker's hand is always present in the final object, always unique, like a handwriting or a signature. It’s always beautiful and rewarding. But of course, if you’re not able to do what you’re trying to do, it can be super frustrating too.

I only work with my hands in a limited capacity, to make models, or experiment, or have fun. I decided long ago that I wasn’t interested in doing my own production, because various crafts or materials take a lifetime to master. And because I like to work with different materials, I’d rather leave the handwork to the master.

What’s been inspiring you lately?

Nature (cliche but true), early turn of the century modernism, and '70s-era thriller movies.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I’d love to say it’s an even balance of designing, researching, and working on production, but actually running a small business has proven that 90% of my time is doing operational tasks: answering emails, putting out fires, dealing with customers, working on spreadsheets. The past year has been more of a crash course in business than flexing design muscles, which is interesting, but I’m hoping to soon get to a place where I can spend a lot more time working on design.

What’s your studio like itself? Any favorite objects in the studio?

My studio is half office space, half storage space, and half showroom — all within a 18-by-20-foot box. I share it with my partner who is a graphic/web designer, and it's a constant work in progress. We got it in the height of lockdown because we needed to get out of our apartment, and have been slowly working on it bit by bit. We recently had a good friend of ours build us some beautiful custom wood shelving, which is my favorite part of the studio. There's an area where the light from the skylight hits a crack between two shelves and produces the most beautiful radiant shadows, which complement the glassware sitting atop them so wonderfully.

Tell us what you love about the Valet you’ve designed for Tetra.

I love the simplicity of the piece, and the fact that its intended use is not immediately obvious. A simple meeting of two forms, it could be interpreted in many ways, or used for a multitude of purposes — even as a simple decorative object on its own.