Disappointed with Seattle’s industrial design scene, Jamie Iacoli was ready to pack it up and move to New York City — until she met fellow designer Brian McAllister.
“We started talking about how obsessed we were with furniture and design, and neither of us had met anyone else as obsessed,” Jamie says. “We began designing together, and it all started very organically — there was no plan.”
The design studio, Iacoli & McAllister, was born shortly thereafter and the rest, as they say, is history.
Brian, a Seattle native, studied industrial design at the University of Washington, and had experience welding architectural metalwork. Meanwhile, Jamie held a degree in philosophy and had completed coursework in interior and industrial design. Working for henrybuilt in Seattle as a junior designer, Jamie felt she was ready to break out on her own.
“I needed to do my own thing,” she says. “I wasn’t fitting into the mold of designing for other people.”
First up for the newly formed design duo: a show at The Future Perfect, and, as Jamie explains, “From there it went like wildfire.”
The pair’s combination of experience and shared aesthetic proved to be the perfect recipe for the studio’s success. “Our skill set really complements each other,” Jamie says. “I could not be doing what I am doing at the capacity we are doing it without [Brian] and vice versa. And that shows up in our design process.”
A process that is pure and simple collaboration.
“We come up with an idea together and we talk about it, sketch it out, talk with our hands,” Jamie explains. “Brian puts it into a 3-D program and I make a quarter-scale model.”
Brian then fabricates the projects while Jamie uses her skills in marketing to promote their studio and work.
Celebrated for a geometric and industrial collection that includes lighting, furniture, jewelry and objects, the design team begins with a simple concept that shapes into a piece of art. “We’re inspired by the principles of design,” Jamie says. “We’re interested in basic line, shape, proportion and texture, and by the beauty of how materials come together.”
A happy mix of materials shines throughout their work, including powder coated steel, Corian and natural elements such as oak and brass.
Not willing to expand their business past their capability to produce a quality product, the entire Iacoli & McAllister collection is made by hand and assembled in studio.
“We’re not interested in fabricating anything overseas,” Jamie says. “We design for our capabilities and we design for Iacoli & McAllister. And right now Iacoli & McAllister can weld really well.”
Adding to techniques like laser cutting and etching, the pair introduced embroidery threading to their collection with the debut of the painstakingly thread-wrapped Spica light ($1,500).
“I recently inherited embroidery floss from my mom and grandma and started wrapping these lights,” Jamie says. “They are a little more decorative than our other work.”
The Iacoli & McAllister powder-coated Frame light is their most popular piece. Featuring a bright light floating within a structured, symmetrical steel frame, the lights are UL-listed and available in three sizes ($345, $375, $395). Other bestsellers include the mini pedestals ($120-$150). Composed of powder-coated vintage brass candlesticks with hand-polished Corian tops, the pedestals are one-of-a-kind and typically sell out in a matter of days.
Building on their collaborative spirit and healthy obsession with design, Jamie and Brian formed Join: Design Seattle, a cooperative of local designers. Featuring Seattle design heavyweights such as Ladies and Gentlemen Studio and Urbancase, Join was started to bring together industrial designers and hold group shows to help promote their work.
“It’s a great group of like-minded designers working in Seattle in a similar aesthetic with similar ethics trying to get our work recognized,” Jamie explains.
Additionally, Iacoli & McAllister is “massively developing our internship program,” she says. “Our mantra for 2011 is: ‘Army of Interns!”
The studio’s internship program lasts for three months and is intended for students pursuing degrees in industrial design, graphic design, communications or marketing. Interns work on all aspects of the business, with their work equally split between “fun and boring,” says Jamie.
In August, Iacoli & McAllister is slated to launch a furniture and lighting line with Urban Outfitters. Inspired by an island lifestyle, it will feature a “beachy feel,” Jamie says, “with washed-out colors and lots of color washes and geometric bases.”
What else to expect from this dynamic duo? “We’re currently obsessed with brass and sandblasted and color-washed oak,” shares Jamie. “We want to continue to develop our in-house line and we want to [create] a lot more jewelry.”
Beyond this, the design team hopes to collaborate with other designers and explore more combinations of materials. Simply put, and a fact that’s been true for this duo since the beginning: “Making things with other people makes us really happy.”
The Iacoli & McAllister collection is available for purchase online at iacolimcallister.com. Visits to their design studio can be made by appointment.