Late last summer I put together a glittery, holy-hell-I-want-everything-on-there bridal registry for Rent the Runway and – in the process of researching stuff for the list (it’s a tough job) – stumbled on a precious gem of a company called Rab Labs. That’s their “Kiva Platter” down below at #12:
I’d never seen anything like it, and I could not WAIT to serve up artisanal cheeses and fig spread on that glistening piece of quartz that’s been polished to perfection and tipped in 14K gold. WHAT.
It also peaked my interest about who in the name of Sam Hill had crafted those beauties… Did Mother Earth have a glam cousin I didn’t know about?? Uh, close. Enter Anna Rabinowicz - the designer behind Rab Labs. She creates *the* most exquisite pieces for the home from natural, luxurious materials like agate and crystal… but they always have a little edge. And even a little bling (!) which we love. Let’s play Q&A, shall we?
CL: You have a long history of looking to nature for inspiration. How did you make the connection of loving nature, and then coming up with the idea of putting nature into these gorgeous products?
Anna: I’ve always been fascinated by the materiality of nature – the textures and structures, and forms – and also by the behaviors of organisms. This fascination dovetailed with an observation: as our daily experience becomes more dependent on using devices and technology, I believe that we are yearning, consciously or subconsciously, for nature in our lives. By creating objects for the home that are imbued with natural qualities, I am responding to this desire, while incorporating my own inspiration from nature.
CL: You used to design objects like prosthetic knees and devices for cardiac surgery. How did you take the leap from designing these types of devices to what you design now?
Anna: As a product designer, the process of creation is what is essential to me. After that, the object itself is, in essence, immaterial. I have a strong desire to try to do good in the world, and the legacy of a physician father who loved what he did. For me, working on medical devices marries those two together – it’s an homage to my dad, and simultaneously a way to create pieces that are essential to people’s health and wellbeing. I’m still involved in working on orthopedic medical devices.
CL: What was missing in interiors that made you think nature had a place in them?
Anna: I love contemporary design and clean lines in interiors, but I’ve long felt a certain sterility in those kinds of spaces. I believe that natural pieces can be an antidote to this “relentless modernity” – and can provide warmth to interiors. The idea is that the natural pieces bring modern lines into sharp relief, humanizing and highlighting the existing interior space. Natural designs work in a bit of a different way in more traditional interiors; they are less of an antidote, and more of a complement to existing pieces. It is very interesting that the way that RabLabs’ designs are perceived depends completely upon their context: in more traditional settings, the natural pieces provide the missing modernity; in more modern settings, the natural pieces provide a more traditional touch.
CL: Having worked in a very different area before, what advice would you give to someone who is interested in branching out from their current career and pursuing a passion?
Anna: I feel that I spend so many of my hours working – when that work is fueled by passion, it takes on meaning and brings enjoyment. Every time that I’ve tried something new, or put energy into a new effort, or put myself out there by giving a talk or launching a new design, it has invariably resulted in opening up new pathways and possibilities. The transitional period was scary, but I was very glad at the end that I migrated from studying literature (my first degree) to studying design.
CL: Anna, you have two little ones – Izzy and Talia… how do they inspire your work?
Anna: My children are very involved in my designs – they open boxes of prototypes from all over the world, check and measure samples with my calipers, examine my drawings and make comments. Their excitement about certain designs is contagious – and their questions are very telling as well. Often they sit near me and draw their own “designs” while I am working on mine. This blurring of home and work life is an essential part of being a working mother; I want them to see that their mom loves what she does, and for them to feel the excitement that I do in my work.
CL: Where do you hope to see RabLabs in the next 5 years?
Anna: I hope that RabLabs will continue its steady growth, continuing to expand product offerings, and to move into new markets. I’d like our next step to be working with European and Asian markets in a deeper fashion; as the company becomes larger, we are more and more equipped with the knowledge of how to properly do that. Investigating the needs and desires of other cultures in order to design products for them has always been an area of interest of mine.
CL: You’re an entrepreneur, a professor, AND a mom. How do you balance it all??
Anna: I was very fortunate to find a profession that I adore – I am super passionate about being a product designer, and a professor of design. The deeper I get into my career, and the longer that I’ve been a mom (my kids are now 4 and 6), the more that I’m certain that when I am happy and fulfilled in my work, I’m a better mother to my children. I’ve always tried to set up my studio close to home, so that my kids can drop in and examine new prototypes, and spend time with me. I often try out new teaching techniques on them; it’s amazing how much crossover there is between the techniques of teaching young children, and teaching college students!
CL: 5 Things You Cannot Live Without. Go.
1. Delicious cappuccino in the morning – the Lavazza concession at Eataly near Madison Square Park in New York is my favorite
2. The Pilot Razor Point II and the Pentel Sign Pen, both in black – these are the only pens I draw with
3. The softness of my kids’ cheeks when I kiss them (note: this photo isn’t one of Anna’s children, but it *was* the cutest set of cheeks Google had to offer! Could you die???)
4. Knee socks
5. My Mitutoyo digital calipers – a present from my father; indispensable tool for product designers
CL: The Holidays are right around the corner. What’s your favorite family/holiday tradition?
Anna: We celebrate Chanukkah, and always throw a huge party – it’s our 15th year doing it! We cook all of the traditional foods of our grandparents – potato latkes, kugel, sufganiyot (tiny jelly doughnuts) and invite our friends from all backgrounds to celebrate with us. We sing songs, light the candles, spin the dreidel – it brings a lot of happiness to our home.
CL: Thanks, Anna! And listen, Campers. We’ve done our share of gift guides, but if you’re still on the hunt for a truly unique and gorgeous gift, look no further. We rounded up a few of our favorites from Rab Labs, and they are nothing short of stunning.
1. Lia Bottle Stoppers: For the Hostess // 2. Espera Photo Frames in Gold: For Mom // 3. Cielo Amethyst Lamp: For the New Homeowner // 4. Ita Large Plate: For me, pretty please Santa? // 5. Quadrado Serving Set: For the Newlyweds // 6. Adorado Boxes: For the Bestie
Happy Shopping! And a huge thanks again to Anna & the Rab Labs Team for chatting with us!