Asher Dunn is one of those people we’re always happy to find at ICFF every year, partly to see his smiling face but also to see what beautiful work he’s conjured up over the last year. He’s the talented designer and founder of Studio DUNN, a design studio located in Rhode Island that creates contemporary designs with a mid-century modern feel. Each product is handcrafted using sustainable practices with the utmost respect for the materials used turning each piece of furniture and lighting into a classic heirloom that can be passed down through the generations. Along the way, Dunn has been awarded many honors, including ‘Best New Designer’ at his very first ICFF in 2010, Vogue’s ‘Ten Contemporary Designers to Collect Today’, and Forbes ’30 under 30.’ Along with being inducted into the Rhode Island Design Hall of Fame by RI x Design, he also instructs courses in design and entrepreneurship at RISD and the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. In this week’s Friday Five, he shares favorite pastimes, hobbies, and even a must-have writing utensil.
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1. Uni-Ball Pens
I used to fear permanence and would accumulate sketchbooks, mostly gifts, that I was afraid to use. Instead I would sketch on sticky notes and place them in a sketchbook. I did this until midway through college. I look back and think how lame – what was I afraid of? It wasn’t until I started to explore my design process that I realized holding an idea in my head was clogging my ‘idea faucet’ and quickly getting ideas down on paper cleared the space in my mind for new ideas to flow forth. For about a decade now it’s been a full 180 from where I began, exclusively using pen and my pen of choice is Uni-Ball. I keep one on me pretty much always and go through a new sketchbook nearly every month.
2. Kitchen Therapy
The kitchen is my happy place. We have a small kitchen and a little square island with just enough room for me to spread out. Cooking and baking is my way of taking a break from the go-go-go. I find it therapeutic – a time when I can relax and reenergize. My current cookbook of choice is The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2018.
3. Workshop Visits
For as long as I can remember I have loved workshop visits. I’m like a kid in a candy store and it makes me giddy to see the behind-the-scenes workings of how things are made and the people and equipment that make it possible. One of my favorite museums, don’t laugh, is the American Precision Museum in Windsor, VT: “The Museum preserves the heritage of the mechanical arts, celebrates the ingenuity of our mechanical forebears, and explores the effects of their work on our everyday lives. The American Precision Museum, housed in the original Robbins & Lawrence Armory, now holds the largest collection of historically significant machine tools in the nation.” A most inspiring place for me.
When my hobby became my career I set out to find some new interests that I could call hobbies again. At the moment plants are my jam. I started with the basics just trying to keep a few plants alive, then growing my own from seeds, and now I’m dabbling in propagating from leaves and cuttings. Mixed results so far – I thought I’d get propagation right away but getting a cutting to form roots and appropriately regulating its water absorption until it can do so itself, has produced new challenges and I have a lot to learn.
5. Road Trips
I’m always up for a good ol’ fashion road trip. I often like the drive more than the place we’re headed because we frequently make stops to explore interesting attractions advertised on the side of the road. I find myself most inspired when I physically leave my day-to-day routine and I’m open to the unexpected. Some of my favorite unplanned stops have included a taxidermy museum, a dandelion winery, a working marble query, and of course the above mentioned American Precision Museum.