Ini Archibong on Culture
Living between the US, Singapore and Switzerland, designer Ini Archibong discussed with TLmag how glass, colour and culture have become essential to his work.
“Being a creator has always been a process of distilling my perception of the world around me into creations that can be understood by as many people as possible regardless of their background, point of view or position in life,” designer Ini Archibong told TLmag in an interview about his diverse cultural and professional background. Archibong holds degrees in Environmental Design from the Art Center College of Design, where he was both an Edwards Endowed Scholar and an Outreach Grant recipient, and a Masters in Luxury Design and Craftsmanship from ÉCAL. Along with his buoyant Milan Design Week debut in 2016, he has consulted for brands including La Montre Hermès, de Sede, Ruinart, Christofle, Bernhardt Design, Herman Miller, L’oreal and Chrysler. From Switzerland, he discussed with TLmag how glass, colour and culture have become essential to his work.
TLmag: With Nigerian roots, and living between the US, Singapore and Switzerland, how does your rich cultural heritage manifest in your work?
Ini Archibong: My Nigerian roots and growing up in Southern California definitely comes through in my work, especially in my colour and material choices. I also really feel that travel and engaging with different cultures, including my own, is key to who I am as a designer. Traveling and living abroad have only expanded my spheres of influence, and being able to spend time in different cities, to absorb the culture and experience their history, is something that keeps me continually inspired.
Being a creator has always been a process of distilling my perception of the world around me into creations that can be understood by as many people as possible regardless of their background, point of view or position in life. Endeavouring to tap into universal truths and/or qualities of beauty requires a lot of inner searching, as well as much engagement with others who are as vastly different from me as possible.
How did the collaboration with actor Terry Cruise come about, and can we expect more work?
Terry and I actually met many years ago in Pasadena, when I was preparing my application and portfolio for the Art Center College of Design in 2006. He was a customer at a retail store where I worked, and we used to chat about art and design. I told him about my dream to one day become an international designer, and he remembered our conversation nearly 10 years later. He contacted me in 2015 while I was finishing my studies at ECAL, came to visit me in Switzerland and offered to sponsor a creative endeavour of my choosing. After a few months of talking we decided that a collection for Salone Satellite would be the perfect project for collaboration, and the Secret Garden was born. At this stage we have discussed working on more together, but with both of our crazy schedules it is tough to say when that will happen.
Your recent Formentera collection, as with your Secret Garden collection last year, displays a particular affinity for glass. What is it about this material?
No matter what I am crafting, it starts with an image in my head that I must translate into the medium at hand. So the materiality is very much dependent on the concept and the emotion behind what I am trying to convey or express. Prior to the two mentioned projects, I had never worked with glass. I found myself immediately drawn to the material and its ability to express feelings and encapsulate concepts through its perceived fragility and its actual inherent strength. The ability to work with the material in its various stages from liquid to plastic malleability to solid cold working, allows for a wider range of possibilities to create the fantasy that I endeavour to create through my products. I feel that glass has a magical presence that cannot be replicated by any other material.
You seem to be developing a signature use of colour. How do you use colour in your process?
When it comes to describing my aesthetic, I find that words are the most difficult medium! I do my best to tap into feelings and create themes based on inspiration from ‘beyond’. I feel that everything around us has a dimension that has an intangible quality, an essence. This definitely plays into my use of colour, especially in glass products. I try my best to connect to the emotional spectrum of colours when defining the palette of a project. I like to think about how the colour makes one feel, or what it represents culturally even, when I decide to use it. Looking at how colours manifest themselves in nature and investigating how people react to these natural occurrences informs a lot of my work as well.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a few projects right now and am excited to have the opportunity to explore new materials and to design at many different scales (not just furniture and lighting). Also, images of my project with Wallpaper* Handmade that showcased in Milan this year will be available in an upcoming issue, and there are a number of exciting projects in the pipeline for 2017 and 2018.