Balancing Act

Dancer turned designer Colin King plays with magic and meaning with Interconnect, his bold candle holder for MENU.

Professionally trained as a dancer, Colin King found himself at the intersection between a dancer’s awareness of space and a stylist’s impulse to bring it to life before foraying into the realm of product design. Currently based in Tribeca, New York City, he finds himself in a balance between being on set, styling and designing from his studio. Colin has styled for major publications such as Architectural Digest and T Magazine and hosts a myriad clientele within the genres of product and interior design. He is continuously inspired by life’s everyday rituals, gestures and imperfections – made beautiful by their ever-evolving presence within a given space. We spoke with the multi-talent about his interest in design and the year-long process to create Interconnect, MENU’s latest candle holder design.

 

When did you first develop an interest in design?

“I don’t know there ever was a fixed beginning, but the one thing that has been consistent is the use of a camera to capture a way of seeing. With a camera it takes constant practice to find the feeling or arrangement of objects and translate them into a two-dimensional image. This is the endless practice I have grown from; taking something you experience and arranging and rearranging it until it’s translated into an image that binds a feeling.”


And how have you come to work with design?

“Technically, I have no proper design education. It has just been self-taught through hours at museums and galleries and time spent flipping through books. The way I approach design is so much looser than the industry ‘standard.’ Styling and photography have shaped my design process, so I often feel like a hybrid creative. Above being a designer, I am first and foremost a student: the more I learn, the less I feel I can box myself into one singular title.”


What has shaped your design principles and philosophy?

“Growing up in rural Ohio, I’ve always had an appreciation of nature and grew up feeling a close connection to it. Beyond that, being a dancer taught me discipline and gave me a vocabulary beyond speech; it taught me spatial awareness and the ability to translate one sense into another. I learned to quickly pick up on visual nuance because when you train, you’re expected to learn combinations almost immediately.


There’s a connection between loving nature and learning to dance. So often I find myself somewhere in between the two: completing a line, a gesture, an intent or an emotion.”


Who or what has been most influential to your creativity?

“We’re all so shaped by our experiences and the many people who enter our lives over the course of time. From dance teachers to college professors, those who saw in me that which I couldn’t see in myself. These characters in my life encouraged me to pursue a career I never thought I could have. And mentors have a unique relationship with borrowed confidence. This is their gift to us during the times we need it to grow.”


What constitutes good design?

“Good design happens when you have a room that just feels like if you moved or took anything away it would be incomplete. A good edit – a calculated sense of restraint – shows us when to leave an idea just as it is. [Good design] also lives in the contrast of materials. Within the mix of unlikely companions and newly formed perspectives is when you see an ensemble in a new light and think, “I love that,” even when you were about to leave it behind. I think that’s where the best kind of design comes from.”


Tell us about how you approach your work as a designer.

“It usually begins with a visual reference – a jumping off point. Combing through archives of saved imagery in a vast collection of books. Each time I flip through them with a different project in mind I see something I haven't seen before – or I see it in a new light. The next step is to save some space. I try not to over plan. There has to be room to build and let a project breathe to leave room for a surprise encounter or a happy accident. And when it all comes together, there’s a new sense of self-trust. The next time risk or chance comes your way, it’s always a bit easier to let it in.”


What is your signature design philosophy?

“Nature humbles me and reminds me to abandon perfection. There’s a lot of beauty to be found in unexpected places. Scale reminds me of this, too. If I can play with exaggerations without losing practicality, then I know I’m chasing a necessary balance. There’s always a middle ground between control and le tting go – and nothing should feel too modern or too classic. We are visited by lessons on balance throughout life, so it’s only natural to let that influence any philosophy behind creating.”


What’s the best part of your job?

“The best part of any job is working alongside other creatives. People are always at the heart of the projects I love most. But I can’t deny that, being a stylist, it is always amazing to be in really well-designed homes. And the moment you step back and see the work of your hands, the result of a team, the photos from a shoot, it’s like a bookmark to another chapter.”


Which artists and designers have been most influential to your work?

“Vilhelm Hammershøi and Johannes Vermeer have played a very influential role in my work. Within these pieces there’s a sense of light and atmosphere that feels intimate and there’s something about it that draws you in – the darkness of it. I also love works by Giorgio Morandi, Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Calder. Within these pieces there’s a playful use of movement and geometry that inspires a sense of balance.”


And are there other creative fields that inform your work?

“Photography, art, film... I’m always amazed by the ‘makers’ – people who create with their hands. Those who take the mundane and make it beautiful. Those who have the confidence to express themselves and who are fearless with who they are. Music is also an informer. It can take you to a different place and time, or help you to stay grounded in the present.”

 


What inspired you to create Interconnect?

“As a stylist, I love the idea of a candle holder, but it always fell short through the lens of the camera. I started off with scale and knew I wanted to create something with a real presence. Something with expanse that can live on its own or with other objects. The idea of it being able to be used as a sculpture that looks as good with or without a candle being lit was important. I wanted to create something that would have a life of its own beyond its intended use.”


How long did it take to develop?

“Almost a year. And it’s a totally different experience for me. As a stylist, part of my job is to be decisive and to be the one who says, “yes this looks good.” It’s not only a part of my job, but also is literally what people pay me for. So to have to dwell in a place of decision-making for a year is a big leap. It’s a commitment that requires trust in the initial idea and to see it through. But I genuinely mean it when I say it’s been an amazing experience. To hold hands with these early concepts and then see them come to life has been very humbling and rewarding.”


What influenced the style of it?

“Geometry and dramatic proportions. In my eyes, there are faultless, basic principles of geometry. The shapes that represent this well are a sphere, an angle and a line. Simple forms become exaggerated and what emerges is an object with a simplicity that speaks volumes.”


What considerations did you have when designing it?

“The shape, of course, was a main focus. It was important to get the proportion of the base right with the slenderness of the stem. The angles of where pieces meet and then depart play a huge role, too. Materiality was a total learning curve and was a really amazing experience to work through with the MENU Team. There is a total consideration for sustainability and not creating too much waste when producing these candle holders. How can moulds be used without excess. But there’s also a consideration of longevity. I needed to create a piece that could travel and not be too precious. To have enough strength to be used. To grow and grow with. This is a sculptural piece that has weight and grows in beauty with every nick or scratch or remaining piece of wax from a candle that’s been lit.“


How do you see it being used?

“I do feel this is an object with multiple uses overall. Whether as a sculpture alone or with a candle, keep it fun –the most exciting part about designing a product is to see how people use it in ways I never could have imagined. I see it being used on the floor, bedside, dining, mantle shelving, coffee table. It’s a li ttle specific, but opening up a book and placing it underneath, with the spill of the evening light... There's a lot of magic to be played with and I can’t wait to see how people imagine its place in their homes. Beyond its intended use, Interconnect carries time, nature, the way we used to see by a candle’s flame, into a new sense of meaning where light – or even the absence of it – is upheld with simple purity and shaped encounters.”

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Today, MENU’s designs can be found around the globe. To make sure our portfolio continues to anticipate needs and offer useful, beautiful solutions, we partner with contemporary talents in our native Scandinavia and around the world. At the same time, our collection is growing to include more legacy designers: masters whose work has stood the test of time and serves as a reminder of what it means to be a modern classic.

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