Eric Trine is a commercial artist and designer in Long Beach, CA who makes really, really good-looking furniture, among many other things. Intrigued by his studio, extensive collection of plants, and personality — which is nothing short of charismatic, even on the Internet (see: #FridayFancyDance) — we had to know more about the artist and his work.
How did you get into furniture design?
Informally, my transition into making furniture was a DIY process after my wife and I got married, and I started making furniture for our house. Formally, my interest in furniture continued to develop and I decided to go back to school to pursue a masters degree in design. I completed that degree in 2013 and launched my studio.
How would you describe the aesthetic of your work?
I like to use the least amount of material to make a piece, and develop the easiest way to manufacture – so simplicity and minimalism are a huge driver for me. And then I just add color! The forms are usually a bit more dynamic, but there isn’t any decorative excess. Simple yet dynamic, casual yet sophisticated.
What is your process like when designing new pieces and collections?
I don’t design collections – and I’ve technically only made products for 1 year. Most of the stuff on my site is less than 6 months old. I have a lot of materials just sitting in my studio, and sometimes I just stare at things and then zap them together with my welder. Welding is like a hot glue gun – it’s very fast – so I can think of something and make it within minutes. I’ve never drawn a design before I made it. The making and designing happen simultaneously. If I draw something it kills it for me. It takes the energy out of the piece. I need to draw by making.
Do you prefer collaborations or solo work?
Both. It really depends on the context of the project. I like collaborations for non-paying work, like art. For design projects, collaborations can get a bit tedious.
Your work has clear structural and textural elements — what influences these types of decisions when you’re creating vignettes/visual studies?
I work with what is immediately at hand, physically. My studio is packed with poster board, pool noodles, old blankets, swatches of wallpaper, collections of random objects from thrift stores, bowling balls, and tons and tons of plants. What informs me are the things that “in-form” in front of me. It’s immediate. Improvisation.
What else is influencing your current work?
Facades of industrial warehouses. Long Beach is a port city – the biggest port on the West Coast – and there is a lot of shipping and warehousing around here. I’ve become fascinated by these streamline warehouses that have subtle reliefs or motifs in the concrete siding. I’m working on a photo series. It’s as if they are only allowed a very constrained amount of decoration. I find it interesting.
What artists are you sweating right now?
How has social media changed the landscape for how people interact with art, artists and designers?
Most people find my work through Instagram, but the best thing about social media is the power it has to connect people in real life. The cool is thing is when people reach through their screens and then come to my studio sales, or exhibitions, or come up to me on the street (even though it can be awkward for a moment).
Where was the last place you traveled? If we were going there, what would be your list of recommendations?
Oh gee whiz – I only travel for work and end up doing just work stuff! I went to Toronto for the first time in January and I loved that city. All I remember is going to the store called Mjolk – one of the most exquisite design stores I’ve ever been in. And a place called Dynasty which was a beautiful plant store.
What songs are carrying you through the summer?
“Let is Happen” Tame Impala. “Smooth Sailin” Leon Bridges
You’ve got an open weekend ahead of you in Long Beach. What’s on your agenda?
Laying around in the backyard. Going to the bay in the morning to play in the sand with our toddler, Evie. In the afternoon, walking through the gardens at Rancho Los Alamitos (my favorite thing to do). Dinner at Lola’s (our favorite mexican food place) – we go their so often that our daughter just assumes all restaurants are called “Lolas”. Ha!
From the Proust Questionnaire:
What is your motto? Do less, better.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Humility
What is your current state of mind? Excited
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Meanness (that’s the opposite of kindness, right?)
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Inefficiency
What is your most marked characteristic? Charisma
Which word or phrases do you most overuse? “Like” – California born and raised! Gotta get it out of my system!
When and where were you the happiest? The day my daughter was born was pretty huge.
Photo of Eric Trine: Kristian Puntuere. All additional photos taken by Eric Trine.