When I’m being creative I want to stay as untethered to Earth as possible,” said Ini Archibong, the American artist living in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, where he spends mornings appreciating dramatic mountain views. “I like to keep my head in the clouds.”
Born in Pasadena, California to Nigerian parents, Ini’s interest in mysticism and mythology runs deep. He grew up fascinated by hip-hop, math, and the artifacts he encountered inside his childhood home. Yoruba beliefs, like the concept of destiny and trust in a higher power, have guided him along creative paths and still inform his craft today. “I try to ensure whatever passes through me from the spiritual realm to exist is imbued with the same energy it came to me with,” Ini said.
On this day the multidisciplinary artist, furniture designer, and musician woke around dawn as usual. Ini is a man of routine, though his morning ritual depends on his schedule, including anything from pilates to smoothies or spiritual readings.
Ini has experimented with many distinct materials (think glass, brass, or leather) in the past. “Want to see something cool?” he asked. Before I could respond he’d already returned with a shiny slab of pyrite, motioning toward the camera as if showing off a prize. Ini is often recognized for his elegant craftsmanship, or, more specifically, how he combines modern and ancient techniques cohesively.
In his sacred work space (no one is allowed in, but he will happily describe it), Ini has two computers, five synthesizers, three drum machines, two mixing boards, and one turntable. “Occasionally the music leads me to the object, and sometimes the object leads me to the music,” he said.
Ini is a lover of learning; besides music, he also studied architecture and business before graduating with a degree in environmental design. He left the US to work for Eight Inc in Singapore, then received his master’s in Lausanne. In 2019 he acquired his current residence, where he operates Design By Ini. Over the years clients have included Hermès, Vacheron Constantin, and Sé Collection, to name a few.
“Hierophany,” Ini’s recent solo show at Friedman Benda Gallery in New York, is a testament to this fact. Translated from Greek, the term refers to the “physical manifestation of the divine,” or Ini’s attempts to make sense of ideas as they appear. “I ask myself, why is this so powerful?” he said. “At the end of the day everything I create is a connection to something sublime.”
Glass, steel, and marble made up most of the materials across four major collections in the show. Hung throughout the gallery, colorful fixtures filled the white space with warmth. “I try to expound universal truths in my work, so I hope my audience saw something that impacted them,” he said.
Back in Ini’s apartment, light reflected off the art collection in his dining room—bright yellow ceramic lemons, a glass-blown red mushroom from Italy, pieces by LA graffiti artist OG Slick. His own creations balanced gracefully on shelves, crowded around tables, or dangled above.
As a Black designer in a predominantly white field, maintaining an ancestral dialogue is important to him. At the London Design Biennale last June, Ini unveiled The Pavilion of the African Diaspora, a project celebrating African identity and its influence on the creative industry. Referencing ships from the transatlantic slave route, his rippling, sail-like sculpture is aptly titled “The Sail,” reclaiming this rich history through a critical, contemporary lens.
In the upcoming year, Ini plans to bring the project to Art Basel Miami, then New York City. With each destination he’ll add a new sculpture to the pavilion, comprising three in total: “The Sail,” “The Shell,” and “The Wave.” When and where exactly will these mysterious installations pop up after? It’s a secret, one Ini guarded with a sly smile. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
In the meantime, Ini will be bonding with his daughter, making music, and following his creative inclinations. Maybe his next spark of genius will materialize as a piece of futuristic furniture, or a different medium entirely, challenging our perception of his artistry altogether. Who knows, anything is possible.
A version of this article originally appeared in Sixtysix Issue 07 with the headline “Ini Archibong, Home Studio.” Subscribe today.