Exclusive: They’ve Cornered the Market on Global Economics-Themed Jewelry

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It’s design fair time: the New York International Gift Fair settled down like a tchotchke fog over the Javits Center this week. If you missed the chaos — or were too overwhelmed to pay attention — two local acts stole the show.

The American Design Club was showing off jewelry by Kiel Mead and Annie Lenon (beautiful re-castings of unexpected objects, like fish hooks and snake ribs), spare, playful furniture by Rich, Brilliant, Willing and Henry Julier, and a big ‘ol silver fish wall ornament by Simon Arizpe, like a blinged-out Big Mouth Bass. (Stay tuned this spring for an AmDC-curated show of up-and-coming talent from around the country. We’ll bring you updates.)

Holding court in front of a wall of gumball- and rock candy-filled teacups was Design Glut, aka Liz Kinnmark and Kegan Fisher, aka the Salt-n-Pepa to AmDC’s Wu Tang Clan. Founded just two years ago, Design Glut has already carved out an empire with awesome global economics-themed jewelry (we know, right?) and a kick-ass blog second only to this one. In between bubbles, we asked the girls a few questions. Read the interview after the jump.

Flavorwire: You guys are known for your jewelry made out of tiny barrels stamped with the price of oil. How does sustainability fit into your work?

Liz: We should be at a point where sustainability’s not a selling point anymore. I don’t think it should be OK to say, “I’m a sustainable company — I use bamboo from China.” I think everybody should be over that. We’re entrepreneurs. It’s not possible to use all sustainable materials if you want to get a business going. But we’re really interested in being socially conscious and building community, things that go beyond general greenwashing.

Kegan: The sad thing is that it works on most people. They say, “oh, ply-boo, it must be sustainable.” But we do things like having our tables flat-pack, which makes them easier to transport. Or having everything made locally in New York.

FW: So does that mean you consider yourselves “Brooklyn Designers?”

Liz and Kegan: No! Not Brooklyn designers!

Kegan: That definition is really limiting. It means, “I’m all about craft, it’s handmade in small runs, with expensive prices,” and we aren’t those things.

Liz: But on the whole, New York as a community is really interesting. And what we’re doing with our blog is interviewing a lot of really cool people in New York and realizing that they all feed on each other.

Kegan: Everybody’s talking about this New York design movement, or American design, and what that means. It’s this label that gets thrown around and nobody has the exact definition of it. And that’s what’s so cool about the Web site. We’re meeting these people and figuring out the connections.

FW: What’s the common thread that connects all the people you interview?

Liz: I think the common thread, which is why we keep doing it, is nobody really knew what they were doing when they started. And that’s what’s so inspiring to me: It’s not like anyone had it all figured out.

FW: How did you guys get started?

Liz: We met at Pratt, but we didn’t know each other or work together at school. We just wanted to do a show together at ICFF [the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, the Gift Fair’s cooler older brother].

Kegan: She had already designed the Egg Pants [a little stand for your breakfast eggs] and we needed more products. We thought, “We can’t just show the Egg Pants. We have this GIANT four foot table…”

Liz: At the time it was huge.

Kegan: So on weekends we started designing things. And that’s when oil was getting really expensive, and people we talking about that, so just walking down the street we thought of the jewelry. And then, the night before the show we had a meeting and Liz came over and I was like, “I have this crazy idea, we should go make rapid prototypes.” And we spent the whole night at Pratt sanding and making prototypes of the Hookmaker for the show the next day [that’s the half-teacup wall hook/container], which was dumb because we couldn’t actually sell it and we were taking orders but had no idea how to produce it.

Liz: We were so naïve, but it worked.

Kegan: But you have to be. And there are definitely huge stumbling blocks, and that’s what’s so great about it. You learn.

FW: When did it hit you that you’re designers?

Liz: Like two days ago when I had a panic attack wondering what if we take orders beyond what we can do! It happens constantly. We’re in this tunnel, feeling around in the dark, and every once in a while you’ll see a little bit farther, and it’ll hit you, “this is terrifying!”

Kegan: And at this point we’re too far in to stop or go back. We can’t see the back, we just have to keep going blindly forward.

Liz: And hope you don’t see too much, or the pressure will destroy us.

Kegan: We have those moments all the time.

Liz: Like here at the gift fair, I was screwing the Hookmakers into the wall, and we already have one of these in our living room. And putting this up here, I was thinking, “This is insane! This isn’t in my house anymore, this isn’t in my little comfort zone, I’m showing this to the world.” And it’s terrifying and it’s also wonderful.