A self described object-based designer and commercial artist, Eric Trine, is in his own category. There are no hard and fast rules of form over function, or fun over form: his work exudes all simultaneously. There is a strong sense of California that feels baked into every piece – We can’t get enough of it. We talked to Eric in his studio in Long Beach.
How did you get into designing and building the objects you do? Was there a particular event, or a progression from one discipline to another?
It all fits under one large umbrella of “making things”. Over the course of my life there have been a few distinct manifestations. In high school, I quit sports and joined an after school arts program working on set design. I remember just wanting to make stuff all the time and I would see these guys using power tools on campus the whole afternoon – I just wanted to do it. I did 3 years of that in High School – and when I look back on it, that really laid the foundation for what I do now. After High School, I took every single art class at my local city college, then transferred to finish my BFA. When I finished undergrad I really thought of myself as an artist and continued to make paintings as well as sculptures, that were more abstract and conceptually driven.
It wasn’t until my wife and I got married and moved in together, that I turned my attention to furniture and making stuff for our house. The DIY’s led to advance DIY’s, then making stuff for friends and friends of friends. The direct and pragmatic application of making functional work really grabbed me. I just love making stuff that gets used, or sat on, or sat around – rather than just looked at. I decided to go back to graduate school to develop my design and craftsmanship skills. I used school as an incubator to launch my current practice – a brand and design studio focused on simple furniture and home accessories.
Did you have a mentor? How did you learn and practice?
I’ve had many professors, employers and friends who have supported me along the way. It’s really the people who have taken the extra 5 minutes to give me feedback on a project, teach me how to use a new tool or give me a book that I should have read 5 years ago. My graduate program was in Portland, Oregon – that was a major catalyst for my development – not the program itself, but all the other designers, design studios, craftsmen and entrepreneurs who make up that city. Ben Klebba of Phloem Studio, Matt Pierce of Wood&Faulk and Robert and Jocelyn Rahm from Beam & Anchor were instrumental – they were very generous in sharing their time and wisdom with me.
Have you had to take any risks to get to the level you’re at now?
The feeling of risk has been diminished a bit because it’s been such a slow organic process. I still run a cash flow business, so I haven’t had to take any major financial risks. I do feel like the next jump I’ll need to make will have to be much more strategic and potentially risky – but I’m just not there yet.
When thinking about the future of your work, what are you most excited about?
I get really excited about the possibility of hiring a team to work with and incorporating a broader approach to what a creative studio does. I’ve been getting excited about staking a larger claim in Long Beach – where I live and work – I’d like to have more of a direct impact on my city. It’s something that I watched happen in Portland and I’d love to see that down here.