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Coil + Drift

John Sorensen-Jolink, Designer & Founder
Interview by Anna-Giulia Caradeuc
Home Photography by John Sorensen-Jolink Jennings
Hotel Photography by Coil + Drift
Assemblage Photography by Sean Davidson
Unconscious Forms Photography by Charlie Schuck

Originally published in Issue No. 6

After over a decade spent traveling the world as a professional modern dancer, working with the likes of Bob Wilson, Twyla Tharp and Lucinda Childs, John Sorensen-Jolink turned to furniture design. In 2016 he introduced Coil + Drift’s first collection of instant classic lighting, furniture and home accessories and gained immediate acclaim, making a name for himself in the design world.

From design to showcase, John uses the unique spatial awareness of a dancer to create considered objects, spaces and experiences, all of which are grounded in human connection. The evident one between people, but also the conversation that exists between humans and objects, particularly in the environment of a lived-in home.

Just like us humans aspire to better ourselves through experience, a central part of John’s creative exploration lies in allowing his pieces to grow and evolve through time. The result of this proactive reflection is the constant deepening of his practice and the expanding of his design language. From the Brooklyn apartment he shares with his husband, John unveiled Hone, a new collection of reinterpreted designs from his existing body of work, in an effort to make them better.

Anna-Giulia Caradeuc (AGC) — Yours is quite an unusual path: you started Coil + Drift after twelve years of dancing, touring the world and collaborating with some of the most prestigious names in the theater and dance worlds. Why was such a drastic switch a natural next step? What in designing objects was particularly appealing to you?

John Sorensen-Jolink (JSJ) — I‘ve always been a curious person and had my hands in many things from a young age. Dance requires serious commitment from the moment you begin to study so I learned early how to have a strong focus. As a dancer I was used to learning things quickly and asking questions so when I decided to begin designing, I asked everyone I met for help and guidance. My career is thanks to my willingness to ask for help and the willingness of a lot of designers in NYC to help me.

AGC — As a self-taught designer, what was the most significant learning curve or ta-da moment since starting the studio?

JSJ — The biggest turning point came when I truly understood Coil + Drift’s mission and that I am designed for that mission. I am not just designing whatever I want and throwing it out under the Coil + Drift brand, I need to listen to the culture of our studio and create for what it wants and needs. Coil + Drift is about designing objects grounded in human connection. We value trust and intuition. And we honor the earth. Once I realized that and plugged into it, my design practice became much clearer.

AGC — How does your experience as a dancer inform your design practice? Are you able to draw parallels between both worlds?

JSJ — Both disciplines deal with manipulating and arranging objects in space. I think one of my strengths is that I think like a dancer when I’m designing. Because of this I think that my work has an unusual feeling of three dimensionality and a unique form. Practically, this means that I literally try to feel the object in my mind’s eye as I’m drawing it and that is easier because that is what dancers do every day. In dance we call it muscle memory.

AGC — There is a direct sensual connection to the pieces you create that instantly drew me – and your many admirers and supporters – into your work. This connection translates into a desire to touch the pieces and feel how they interact with the body, which doesn’t surprise given your dance background. Is this something you are aware of when designing new pieces? Can you talk a little bit about your creative approach?

JSJ— I try to draw a lot of ideas and just put them out without judgement. Then I allow myself to judge them and edit and trash what doesn’t feel right. In my relatively short career I’ve found that each time I create something new the process is different and that’s ok. That is my practice. As long as I give myself the time and space to create it will happen, or at least it has so far. The place I feel most creative is on airplanes. I’ve drawn over half the collection on a plane. It’s the feeling of moving forward while also feeling like you’re suspended in time and space. It’s magical. My mother was a purser for Pan Am in the 70’s and I grew up with a passion for flying. I still love being on a plane even though it’s much less luxurious than it was in the Pan Am era.

AGC — I have read a few times that you like to live with the pieces you create for quite some time before deciding to “officially” add them to your collections. Is this particular thinking the premise for your brand new collection, Hone?

JSJ — The experience of living with items from Coil + Drift is what inspired the concept of Hone. I find that it takes time to really know what a piece needs, how it wants to change. For a while, when I’m living with a piece, I become slightly annoyed by it.

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