Q+A with Sean Woolsey

Designer, Artist and Surfer, Sean Woolsey sat down with us at Vissla to discuss his furniture design and copper series.

Name, age, place of residence, occupation?
Sean Woolsey. Costa Mesa. Designer + Artist.

How were you introduced into furniture building and design?
It came very naturally and organically over time. I grew up making things with my hands, whether it was skate ramps, clothing, or artwork. I then designed clothing, and over time became farther and farther removed from the physicality of the products, and craved working with my two hands again. I began by making some simple tables, and it snowballed from there. The first couple of years I took a couple of furniture classes, and apprenticed for a while under a master woodworker. I still have one of the first tables I made in fact, and laugh at it now, but it is a good reminder of humble beginnings and nice to see how I have evolved.

Was your Copper work a stem from furniture design?
The copper series evolved off of the sheet metal series that I did. My father actually worked with brass and copper, making his own castings for lamp bases. I remember growing up and he would make all of his own patinas, and kept them all in a journal that he would share with no one. I started working on sheet metal about 5 years ago, and all of those pieces were inspired by the land. The copper series in entirely inspired by the sea, with notes of the oceans colors, patterns and textures throughout it.

Who are some of your favorite designers?
There are so many designers, artists and craftsman that I look up to. Sam Maloof, Nakashima, Dieter Rams, Wharton Esherick, Alvar Aalto, Jens Risom, Robert Rauschenburg, William Copperthwaite and Jean Prouve are a few.

How important is Process in your work?
Very, for me it is as important as the outcome. If I don't enjoy the process then I should not be doing it. Process, and loving the process, is the largest ingredient to a great product. It shows so much in the end result. I don't want to buy a surfboard, or a piece of pottery from someone that does not love their process. It shows through in the end product. The best hand made goods, always derive from passion, which fuels your process.

Is learning and knowing a skilled trade important to you?
Yes for sure. Furniture as a business grew purely out of passion, as did art. I never got into the furniture business to make money, it evolved as did my curiosity for it and desire to learn more. I am constantly learning and evolving, both in knowledge and in style.

Did you study design and art in college?
No, I have a background in apparel actually, and went to college for business, but never got a degree.

I notice a organic, naturally flow in your Copper Series. Is this a meditative process for you?
Very meditative and very calming. I zone out when I am doing art, where as when I am making furniture I am very aware and my senses are fully engaged. Art though comes from the heart and mind, and pours out. it is free flowing and natural.

Do you work with a team to make your work come alive? I work with one or two others in the shop depending on the work load that we have. It keeps me sane.

Why did you choose to stay and work in OC instead of LA?
I love the ocean. That is what comes to mind first. I have so many friends in LA now, and go up there often, but I like the quality of life down here more. Having my home and studio 5 minutes from the beach is crucial to me. I can literally smell the ocean in the afternoon at the studio.

Do you feel that you are content in your carer or are you always looking for more?
Always looking for more. Always redesigning. Always learning. Always searching. Always hungry. Always failing. Always getting back up.

What is next for you?
Hopefully a larger space as well as a showroom/store. Currently I am building a pizza oven in my yard, which has been a blast. Lots of new designs are in the works, as well as a entirely new and fresh series of art. Oh, and hopefully get to shape another surfboard or two when I have some time....

Instagram / @thewoolsey.

Interview by Kenny Hurtado