A dreamy Oasis from the hustle of cold New York city days, Farrah Sit’s studio is outfitted with an array of beautiful planters, lighting fixtures, and the coolest breezy hammock chair we wanted to nest in for a long Winter’s nap. We sat and chatted with the industrial designer about her fascination with neuroscience, math and the creative journey that lead to finding her craft. Plus, we can’t wait to check out her hidden gem…. Read on!
Nativen: Do you think growing up in upstate New York influenced your choice to start doing design at all?
Farrah: If anything, it wasn't a supportive background for that because I grew up in a small town. I was creative and into science, math, and music. I play the violin ‑‑ I was always drawing since I was little ‑‑ I didn't know how to merge the two.
Even the teachers and guidance counselors had no idea how you can merge art. Being creative with math and science. I had to find my own way and did Summer classes at FIT to look into fashion and see if I wanted to do that, or a Summer class at the University of Miami to study architecture.
This was all during high school, to see if I wanted to go into architecture and I was like, "Oh my god." Fashion is just too whimsical. It's not…not academic enough, and then architecture was like, everyone was miserable...
I had to just jump and guess, because I didn't have another Summer to guess.
Then I was like, "Maybe industrial design (ID), sounds like somewhere in between."
Nativen: It was like a process of elimination basically.
Nativen: Was there a specific AHA moment that you had in your search, that made you realize, "Oh yeah. This is the right thing. This is what I want to be doing."?
Farrah: Not until I got into ID second year, because the first year is all foundation. I guess you’re just scared and questioning everything all the time. I remember my freshman year I had such a hard drawing teacher... We we’re all just thrown into whatever.
He made me cry every Monday night. I was bawling every night… "I shouldn't be here." That's what I thought. "I should be an art conservationist, and go into the science." No. I think you’re just trying to feel it out all the way through.
Nativen: Yeah. Absolutely. What do you love most about Brooklyn, and do you think that's integral to your work in any way?
Farrah: Yeah. There's so much creativity here. Everyone's full of energy and passionate; about their own music, their own art, their own...whatever. Being around that energy is really inspiring. You do find a lot of people willing to help each other.
Nativen: There seems like a really strong sense of community here. When you're in a space like this, where you have a shared space, and you're able to bounce ideas off with people and share resources and things like that, it’s great!
These are just a couple of rapid-fire questions, but in Brooklyn, what's your favorite restaurant?
Farrah: I guess it still is, Alameda.
It's good. It was designed by the Home Brothers. They’ve got really good drinks, and like, advanced pub food.
Nativen: You need that in life sometimes.
Do you have a favorite Home Goods Store in Brooklyn?
Farrah: Homecoming, where I got this coffee. [laughs] Do you know Homecoming? They have a plant shop in the back and a coffee shop in the front. It's right here on Franklin between Milton and Greenpoint. They actually carry a lot of ceramic artists from all around Brooklyn.
What I love about it is that Vanessa, who owns it and curates the ceramic section, she describes the work, the ceramic, as art, like local art. That's how she conceived buying planters and different things, which is unlike other plant stores that carry planters or whatever.
Vanessa is out there trying to get people to understand this is art. These home goods pieces are art. To appreciate it, and that it's made by someone around you.
Nativen: Another form of community and supporting artists. That's fantastic. Do you have a favorite clothing store in Brooklyn?
Farrah: I buy all my clothes from Oak. I’m like 90% Oak.
I think the richer, older version of me would buy a lot of stuff from Beautiful Dreamers, but I'm not rich enough yet.
Nativen: That's the next level? Farrah 2.0. will shop there. [laughter]
Do you have a favorite park or outdoor space in Brooklyn?
Farrah: I've been lucky enough to always have a roof deck where I have a crazy veggie garden in the Summers. I like the privacy of that, growing your own thing, and hanging out there, where no one’s watching you. I feel like there are a lot of people watching in parks.
Nativen: Yeah, but now you get to watch everyone else without being watched in return.
Is there a hidden gem in Brooklyn that you have?
Farrah: Locally, it would be Troost as a cafe. Then… We stumbled upon a Korean hot pot place called Sik Gaek, S‑I‑K G‑A‑E‑K. Totally randomly stumbled upon it, it's crazy, and you feel like you're in a foreign country.
Nativen: Oh, that's awesome. That's actually the great thing about Brooklyn because it's so expansive, and there's so many different neighborhoods. There are lots of little restaurants and cafe's and things like that, that you can go to that you feel totally transported. You're in a completely different place.
What do you think is the greatest resource to your work in Brooklyn?
Farrah: The people, the wonderful people for sure.
Nativen: That's awesome. [laughs] This is like the asking you to pick your favorite child question, but do you have a piece or a product or something that you've made thus far, that is either your favorite, or maybe it was your greatest accomplishment?
Farrah: It might be the "Flatware," because I made that fully myself. I started it in the Haystack. Do you know Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine?
Nativen: Oh no, I don't.
Farrah: It's a two-week retreat. You take a class, and they have sessions in the summer. Then all you do is your art and eat wonderful organic food. It's on an island off of Maine, so you're right there in the water.
Anyway, I didn't enjoy the scenery as much as other people do, because I was so passionate about staying in the studio 24‑7. As much as people don't get the scenery when they're at home, I don't get the chance to work on one thing 24‑7 uninterrupted...
So, for me that's such a crazy gem of an environment. And you're surrounded with creative people. So yeah, it would be the forged flatware that...you just hammer it out of a solid piece of silver.
Nativen: What a cool process. And that's such a gift to be able to have that time to just go in the zone and focus on it.
What part of the process of designing and developing brings you the most joy?
Farrah: Oh, jeez. I have no idea. I don't want to say seeing it in the end. I think the fine finishing stuff. If it's metal to finally file and sand the forms, or in ceramics the fine finishing, where you're sanding out the lines and creating things, like getting it to a fine level. But not making the form, not the beginning stages, but almost towards the end.
Nativen: Yeah, I would imagine that step would be really rewarding, because you see the real potential of the thing that you're creating.
What part of your process do you think is the greatest struggle?
Farrah: The beginning, where you're coming up with ideas and working through the voices in your head that are like, "This is not good enough. This is bad. What are you doing?" Like that little person on your shoulder.
Nativen: Exactly, saying, "This isn't going to work."
Farrah: Yeah. I think that's most difficult. Or just finding what is right and believing in it.
Nativen: Getting to the place where you're actually ready to then pursue your design. I think that's the case for a lot of designers. That's the hardest part, because it's a leap of faith, a lot of the time. You just have to make a decision and move forward to produce a product. So sometimes there are those moments of "We're going to give it a go and see how it all comes together."
Farrah: I think that's maybe why I like the forged flatware the best, because the concept was really quick but the form and everything comes to you only during the process. It only starts really coming together then. Instead of intellectually deciding upon something, the material shows itself, the form comes up through your hands.
Nativen: Right.. It reveals itself to you.
Nativen: What an elemental process of design, to go in and be like, "All right, I have an idea but how is this material going to present itself to me?"
Farrah: Yeah, and some people have used that always in their art, like ‑‑ I'm totally generalizing ‑‑ painters or potters who can just be like, "Let's see what this form is." But to me, those mediums, like painting, drawing, clay, it's too physically easy for your hand to go and then there's a mark.
For me, I need it to be hyper‑difficult and slow. Every blow of the hammer was only a hundredth‑millimeter on the way to the form forming. Your decision‑making can be way slower, rather than like painting, you're just like, "OK."
Nativen: Yeah, it sounds like your process is more calculated, and engineered, and that's the design for you. Correct me if I'm wrong here. I'm just fascinated because I love people's process and their concept to design. Because for a lot of people, like you're saying, who work with pottery or paint or things like that, there's more of an, I guess, maybe organic approach of "This is how the material works and we're just going to see what comes out of that."
Farrah: Yeah, that's true.
Nativen: And you're a little more methodical in your approach of "How can I make these materials, knowing what I know about them organically and knowing what I want to create, how can I make these materials create the thing that I need and want it to be"?
Farrah: Right. That's really cool that you said that, because it is also not just any generic sign, but the use ‑‑ make useful objects. That's a level maybe that I don't see myself. Yeah, I don't see myself as an artist. I'm just creating to make something visual.
A part of me is...I don't know. And maybe this is a self‑conscious thing. It has to be validated on another level, rather than just visual like I said somehow. Yeah, like work and fit in our society somehow [laughs] . I don't know.
Nativen: It's amazing to see how people's creativity manifests and I think that's cool that your creativity has this worker bee aspect of "I want it to be beautiful, but also be functional, and serve a purpose." That's awesome.
What's one thing you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet?
Farrah: Oh. I've always wanted to try glassblowing. But then I pulled away from that, just because I was around my friend who was making the lights for me, the glass lights, and realizing how hot it is. He looked at me after half a day. He's like, "You're allergic to heat" [laughs] because I was blotching out all over.
So he's like, "No, you could do this. You just need to wear protective gear."
That's something I would love to try though.
Nativen: If you weren't a designer, what do you think you'd be?
Farrah: I have no idea… I know at the points that I questioned it.
In high school I was going to go study at a college of neuroscience. It was a toss‑up, because I got accepted to a school to do that, and then I also received it, so I was really going to go down there, but I don't know what I would do with it.
Then, at the end of college I really got into HCI, human computer interface, which was new then, but now it's all over the place. All kind of interactive art, and things like that, getting into computers and programming. So, I think if I was a little younger I would've went there, if resources would've been there.
Nativen: It's a good sign that you're doing the right thing that you had such a long pause about what direction you want to go. If it's not something that comes to you, it's probably a really strong sign that you're on the right track.
Farrah: [laughs] That's true.
Nativen: What destination do you want to travel to next, and do you think that would inspire or alter your work in any way?
Farrah: I would love to go to Australia or New Zealand. That would be rad, and experience all the wildlife and all the flora. That would be really cool.
Nativen: Yeah, especially Australia, is so expansive, and there's so much different kind of wildlife and nature than there is here. That'd be amazing.
It seems like you listen to music when you work. Is there a song or anything like that that you have on heavy rotation right now?
Farrah: There's a song, I forget what it's called. It's from Andrew Bird's song, it's off "Desperation Breeds." but that's a good one to get me in the zone. What else? We definitely listen to Beyonce in here… "Love on Top" is a good one to just like…
Nativen: …Pump it up?
Farrah: [laughs] Yeah, like let's do this, let's work.
Nativen: What are three words that sum up your work?
Farrah: Simple, neutral... I want to say geometric, but it's form‑driven.
I try to do things that are kind of timeless, and I'm all about celebrating the material that it is.
Nativen: I love breaking that down, hearing what people's work means to them, how it expresses.
What's the most helpful advice you've received?
Farrah: The last boss I had, she said to me... Something like, "Don’t ever accept failure, you just have to keep going. If you don't make it an option, then it won't be an option." She said it way more eloquently, but it was something to that fact, if you just don't accept that as even a possibility...And of course, it's a possibility for all of us. Not just all of us, everything's a possibility. If you don't accept it… That’s where your mindset has to be. You just keep going. Even if you fail, you just keep going.
Nativen: That's a great way of looking at it, because I know in the context of developing anything, types of failures are inevitable. And it's amazing, because you learn from them, but if you're coaching your brain in this way of: failure as an end to your means, is never an option, then there's always a push‑through, which is so important.
It also takes a lot of weight away from the idea of failure; which is so cool, because it's not the end, it just means I'm working through to something else.
Farrah: Yeah, I then took it onto my own life and felt that I don't have failure anymore in my life.
Failure's not even a concept in my life, because everything's a learning process. Everything's like, this thing did this thing, which could be seen as failure, but that's actually the catalyst to this change. So, you're constantly turning this energy into a catalyst for change.
Nativen: A positive outcome. That's a great way of looking at it, that's very...freeing...
Do you have a hero, or maybe someone who's helped influence your work greatly?
Farrah: My grandma, she’s amazing! She was so creative and resourceful. She was a source of love and light, and compassion. She was also super‑creative.
She would even go to Filene's in the Mall, or whatever, where there was a 70 percent off rack and she would buy ‑‑ she was this little old lady ‑‑ she would buy a really large size pair of pants; a size 14 pair of pants that's marked down to seven bucks or something. She would take it home and cut it all up and make a two‑piece suit.
She was so little. I mean, anyone could buy bolts of fabric, but [laughs] she was able to take something so much cheaper but higher quality because it's already a nice pant material or whatever, and was mathematical enough to break it down into...
Nativen: And totally transform it, yeah.
Farrah: Yeah, a two‑piece suit. It was crazy.
Nativen: Amazing. What a cool concept.
What are three objects you can't live without?
Farrah: Three objects. What does that mean? Like, if you're on a desert island kind of thing?
Nativen: Yeah, maybe.
Farrah: [sighs] I don't know. I don't want it to sound corny, like...You know those dating apps? [laughs] Like, my pen and my moleskin!
But outside of my pen and my sketchbook… Articles of clothing with pockets.
Nativen: Ooh, that's good.
Farrah: With really accessible pockets. Jean pockets don't count. Like, huge...Here's my iPhone, wallet, and then some.
Nativen: That's a really good answer. I like that! [laughs]
Farrah: I think that’s it. Forget the moleskin pen, that's dating level.
Nativen: That's the superficial at the bottom of, some way to be able to express my ideas. But basically, it all boils down to clothing with big pockets.
Farrah: Yeah, because I literally don't leave the house without some article of clothing with big pockets.
See more of Farrah's work here.
Interview and Photos By: Lily Hetzler
This interview has been condensed & edited
all images copywright of Nativen