London-born, New York City-based designer Anna Karlin is first to admit she is doing exactly what she was meant to be doing. “It is my happy place,” she says. Anna, a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, has no limits. She designs across multiple mediums, including furniture and lighting, jewelry, digital and print, and interiors and set design. Anna moved to New York City in 2010 and shortly after started Anna Karlin Furniture + Fine Objects. Then in 2018 she opened Anna Karlin Gallery + Studio, which showcases furniture, fine objects, jewelry, design, and art direction pieces.
Anna has worked with many clients, including designing boutique artist’s agency Supervision’s roster look-book, a sculpture gallery-style office space for Baltic Sales Gallery, a design lab and retail space for Lululemon, a lounge space for Adidas, and a deco-inspired identity and typeface for cinema art house Metrograph.
Anna took a few minutes out of her hectic schedule to chat with Sixtysix about her creative process and her day-to-day life in design.
Have you always known you have wanted to work in design?
It 100% has always been about designing and making. It has always been everything, and that is why I still do it. This is my sphere. It is literally what feeds every fiber of my being. It makes me happy. There is no justification; it just does. When I am sitting there sketching that is my happy place. The fact that I get to do this for my life’s work—I feel very very lucky.
Why do you practice across all mediums? Do you find this challenging at times?
I don’t find it challenging at all. It is exactly the same thought process but with the end product being different. Whether it is a piece of jewelry, or sculpture, or a digital piece it is still communicating something, a feeling, a thought, an emotion. It doesn’t matter what the end product is, the design process is the same, it just might be a different production process and end result.
“If your mind is open, inspiration is everywhere.”
What is your creative process?
Honestly, I always have a sketchbook in my bag. I am always sketching. It might stay there for a while, and then I might look at it again and take it out of that sketchbook and put it into an edited sketchbook, and then add it to a file on my computer that is a huge messy artboard. If I decide to share it with my team, it might go into another a process. I might sit on something for six months but once I share it with my team it becomes more real.
How do you come up with new designs and ideas?
I come up with new ideas everywhere. If your mind is open, inspiration is everywhere. That is the most joyous part of my job. It means I really pay attention in so many different places. I don’t have to be somewhere quote-un-quote beautiful or serene or calm, it is everywhere. If you open your mind to that you live in a much happier place.
What has been one of your favorite projects to work on? How did you create it?
The dimple light is one of my favorite pieces. It is so evocative to me as a piece of sculpture, I just love it.
I started toying with a shape and it just evolved into this piece. I make as I go along. Quite often, I make physical objects and interact with them and then the project feeds itself. I stop and add another layer, and another layer until I am done. It is an organic process. Other times, I will think how I want something to look and sketch it and then make it.
What is a typical day like for you?
There isn’t one and that is what makes it really fun. I might have a studio visit where I will run through pieces. If I am doing an install, I might go on site and get covered in dust and come back, get changed, and meet with a client. I might work late into the night on a project. It is so varied and I love it. I would get bored if every day was the same.
How do you balance the business side of things and the creative work?
Balance is a dream word. There is none. It is one of the trickiest things. I think it is for any designer. I wish there was a time when I was just able to work on business and a time when it was all design. It is a constant project of juggling and everyone is trying to achieve a balance, whatever that looks like. It is a constant back and forth, back and forth.