Q&A with Stephanie Forsythe

Stephanie Forsythe, the 2012 Women in Design Keystone Speaker, is the co-founder of molo studio, a collaborative design and production studio in Vancouver, Canada. Writer Sarah Goldblatt caught up with Stephanie to ask her a few questions about her creative process prior to the event. Take a look and don’t miss the opportunity to hear Stephanie speak to her career in person on September 26th.

Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen. Photo: Martin Tessler.

Describe the meaning of your firm’s name molo and how it describes the range of work that you do.

The name molo is an acronym for “middle ones little ones.” My partner Todd and I are architects and when we first formed molo, to put some of the furniture and smaller functional items we design into production, we recognized that many of the design concepts and considerations for our smaller scaled work are the same as our work at an architectural scale. For example when designing a tea set we were thinking of how the quality of light from the candle forms a space, and along with the warmth, scent and beautiful ritual of steeping and sharing tea, it becomes a center for people to gather around. And so the name molo derives from this idea of space making with smaller tactile objects as well as a more traditional “architectural scale.”

A nice coincidence is that in Spanish and Japanese “molo” is a sort of slang word meaning “cool little things.”

Nebuta House.

How do you manage the varied scale of projects from large buildings to small utilitarian products?

Conceptually the different scales inspire one another in very natural ways but they also require two very different business models for bringing them into the world.

When we graduated from Architecture school, Todd and I had no education or experience in any kind “business model” but being an entrepreneur is at heart creative and we found that we really enjoy designing the business as well as the physical things we make.

Hobo Lantern.

Do you have clients for your projects? Or are you generating new ideas independent of clients?  What inspires your designs?

Primarily, we design things for ourselves, following our intuition and when we feel we have something good, we offer it to the rest of the world. We really like working this way, it allows us to take as long as we need to refine something or to work on very open ended material research and experiments or to completely change directions if the process of working a material leads to something unexpected and inspiring.

In the beginning we could only afford to fund our own, research, development and production this way at the small scale of utilitarian objects and furniture. But we also have a great love for architecture and we have been organically growing our ability to fund our own research and work at a larger scale. Currently we are working on a modest sized off grid house, the first one is for us but we think this will lead to something that we can offer to others.

We are inspired by the physical sensory world around us and we seek to enhance delight in everyday rituals. With people spending so much time at computers, it is important to reconnect with our physical environment.

Urchin Softlights.

Describe your creative process.

We love to merge the poetic and the pragmatic. We often start by exploring the poetry and beauty in a simple elemental material and then think ‘what does this want to be?’

The process of making is very much part of our design process and so it is important for us to be involved in the manufacturing and crafting of the things we design. In learning from what we make, inspiration found in the process can lead to unexpected directions and brings us to a deeper understanding of what we are working with.

We use design as a way to learn about the world around us. Design is a form of active observation.

Cloud Softlight.

What is it about the qualities of paper and textiles that intrigue you?

Finding great strength in something delicate.

Cork Pegs.

What are you currently working on?

We like to work on three or more projects at once as a way of looking at the same issue or same material from different perspectives.

The starting point for a number of projects we are working on in Cedar, as it is a beautiful local wood that has been traditionally used by the native people of the North West Coast for everything from medicines, to buildings, bowls, boats, baskets and clothing. Their intimate understanding of this living material and the ingenuity of techniques for harvesting and working with all parts of the tree serve as a profound inspiration.

So far, this project is leading to bath oils and soaps, a small off grid house and some furniture scaled work.

In a  somewhat related but separate project we working on a paper pulp research and development project with a group of scientists, developing new materials and manufacturing techniques with foamed paper, paper string and origami.

Softwall softblock modular system made of brown kraft paper.

What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work?

To learn about the world and give back something positive.


Photos courtesy of molo. For more information on molo studio take a look at their website. And for more information on the Women in Design event with Stephanie Forsythe as the 2012 Keystone Speaker take a look at the Women in Design website.

Dikeou Collection Pop-up Space
1321 Bannock Street
September 26, 2012
Reception: 5:30
Presentation: 7:00

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