We’re always on the lookout for the next great design. Of course, great designs don’t create themselves. Learning to craft something beautiful takes patience, time, and willingness to learn. We’re proud of all the dedicated folks out there committed to learning to do what they love. That’s part of the reason we started our UncommonGoods Scholarship program last spring.
This time around, our scholarship team was wowed by the beauty of winner Hannah Giancola‘s furniture design. We loved the Mid-century modern-inspired look of the table she entered and her story tugged at our heart strings. Hannah, who created the table with her grandmother’s house in mind, received $1,000 to use toward continuing her education at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, where she’s currently enrolled as an industrial design major.
We asked Hannah to share a little more about her career aspirations, her love of design, and how her grandma’s glass table inspired the piece that earned her this award. Check out our Q&A with Hannah below to learn more.
Describe your background for us a bit. How do you think your surroundings and early life experiences helped shape your interest in industrial design?
I grew up and have spent most of my life in upstate NY. I have a huge extended family and am lucky enough to live near most of them. We are Italian and Israeli–all different religions and cultures that have come together to make one diverse and extremely eclectic bunch. We value food, warmth, creativity, and there is never a lack of support. Everyone is there to cheer you on, always!
When I graduated high school I went on a gap year to Israel where I traveled, volunteered and studied topics revolving around the Middle Eastern culture and politics. While I was there I had very little clue about what I wanted to study. I had always loved math and science in school but had a passion for art. I was surrounded with creativity and inspiration through the diverse family I grew up around and the places which I was lucky enough to travel to.
“With design, we can do anything. We can repair the world, influence change, connect, diversify and share ideas both big and small. Whatever the challenge may be, we can design a way to solve it.” -Scholarship Winner & Industrial Design Student Hannah Giancola
When did you first learn about industrial design, and how did you decide to major in it?
When I was younger, my first job was at a Sunday school. I loved working with the kids and their creativity was always inspiring to me. There is no filter on their ideas and thoughts the way that adults weed out inspiration before it has a chance to develop. One class we had a show and tell of different objects that were important to each child’s family around the holidays. One of the students talked about this beautiful menorah that his dad made. Surprised by his answer we asked him, “Your dad made it?” He said yes, his dad was an industrial designer. There it was. The first time I had heard the term. I immediately was curious. It was the first time I had heard an analytical word like industrial coupled with an artistic word like design. Was it possible? Could the two work together?
When I got older and started considering college majors I was looking to study packaging science in an attempt to go into one of the more creative engineering fields. While in the office of the engineering building, I realized that I would always be jealous of the people who got to think about the creative parts of the products and that I had to go check out the art school.
Now in my third year of school, I am lucky enough to be in an industrial design program, the head of which is the same dad of that student I had when I was younger, Josh Owen.
Do you have a favorite artist or designer whose work has influenced your own?
My inspiration has come from a mix of many people and places. Some more historical artists, like Van Gogh, who I look to for his use of color; Isamu Noguchi, for his forms and balance. More recently, I have been inspired by the work of Adam Rogers, for the clean storytelling aspect. My other inspiration comes from the people I am closest to, including my sister Briell Giancola who does instillation art and painting.
How about a favorite object?
If I could pick one object that I love to have around it would be my sketchbook. I keep a list of unmatched feelings in it that inspire me time and time again.
Describe the creation of this piece. How did you decide what materials to use? Were there any particularly trying moments in the process?
The inspiration for this table came from my grandmother’s house. She has the best style of anyone I know and also holds the warmest heart. The environment she creates around her is one of embracing and love. When I started to sketch my table, I tried to capture that feeling. I drew from the balance created in one of my favorite pieces of furniture in her house that was inspired by Noguchi. Once I had decided on the form, a thin but embracing shape, I picked a wood that had a warm tone to it, cherry. I liked that with age, the wood gets to be a darker and warmer color. When exposed to the sun, it only gets richer. As in the life of my grandma, the material too gains depth and memory.
During the process I came across some dilemmas, one of which was whether or not to make a wooden top for the piece or to expose the process with the glass panel I chose. Another thing I struggled to design were the transition points between the stretchers and the legs, how abrupt they should be and what that suggested about the design. Overall, it was more of a learning process than anything, and all the hiccups were opportunities for a lesson in craftsmanship and even more so… patience.
Do you believe that art and design can be a force for good in the world? If so, how?
I believe that with all the incredible diversity in the world, it needs to be expressed and embraced. As an artist and designer it is not only my passion–but my responsibility–to share myself as well as the history and culture of my family through my work. With design, we can do anything. We can repair the world, influence change, connect, diversify and share ideas both big and small. Whatever the challenge may be, we can design a way to solve it.
Look into your crystal ball… as best you can, anyway. Where do you see yourself after graduation?
After graduation… that’s a tough one. If I had the choice I would work in a small studio, really get to know the people I work around and be part of a creative team that can bounce ideas off of each other. I hope to be working in either textiles or furniture, or both. While I don’t know a lot about exactly where I want to be after graduation, I do know that whatever I design I want to be closely connected to the manufacturing process. I want there to be a clear understanding between how the design could be made before the concept comes to fruition. My goal is to be a mindful designer, no corners will be cut, no shortcuts taken.