In 2014, Canadian designer Jamie Wolfond founded Good Thing with the intention of bringing affordable, well-designed objects to the masses. The brand’s playful array of home accessories achieved cult status among the design-savvy, and business took off. But operating Good Thing took a toll on Wolfond, who felt stymied by the logistical complexities of running a small-scale company with big-business ambitions.
So last month, Wolfond announced that West Elm would become Good Thing’s exclusive retailer. He’ll continue to act as creative director of a scaled-back version of the brand, but West Elm will handle all aspects of manufacturing, including marketing, sales, and distribution. It’s far from the end of Good Thing, though, and according to Wolfond, the partnership makes perfect sense. “We’ll benefit from the excellent manufacturing and distribution infrastructures that West Elm has built,” enabling his staff of three to focus exclusively on design.
Wolfond’s announcement brought about a fair amount of controversy—the design press immediately questioned the longevity of independent design brands in a volatile marketplace that tends to favor economies of scale. Some noted a trend of global furniture conglomerates gobbling up independent design brands. (Herman Miller acquired HAY, Knoll acquired Muuto, and Haworth acquired Poltrona Frau Group in the last five years.) Others scrutinized the North American market’s lack of appreciation for design when e-commerce giants such as Amazon let consumers purchase dirt-cheap knock-offs. Whatever the case may be, Wolfond wants to avoid finger-pointing. Unless, of course, that finger points toward the future. So here we are.
Once the West Elm partnership was squared away, Wolfond concentrated on launching Jamie Wolfond Studio. His initial batch of prototypes, which debuts at Stockholm Furniture Fair tomorrow, consists of brand-new designs and projects that have been percolating for some time. “I amassed quite a few designs that did not suit Good Thing or its customers,” says Wolfond, referring to a mug, vase, shelving system, pendant light, floor lamp, side table, chair, bench, and dining table. “In this collection, and in this studio as a whole, I have a new outlet to see these ideas realized.”
He seems to be relishing the freedom afforded by his departure from Good Thing’s tried-and-true formula: using singular materials and simple manufacturing techniques to create streamlined yet playful pieces. These prototypes, on the other hand, are inherently more varied, adventurous, and experimental. “After years of making products by the thousand, being able to make just one or two of something is a real luxury and gives me the ability to try things that may not work,” he says. Take the Owl Lamp, which is one of the most intricate assemblies of components Wolfond has devised. Originating from an obsession with bendy straws, it uses a flexible hose to transmit rotary motion to its shade, letting it orbit 360 degrees around the bulb simply by rotating any part of the lamp’s stem.
Wolfond also remains loyal to the approach that made Good Thing so popular. This can be seen in the Frog Vase, which he CNC-machined solely from aluminum. It fulfills two distinct functions with one gesture: The sharp spikes support stems, in the vein of a traditional ikebana frog, while the shallow dish contains water. “When these two uses intersect, they make patterns and shapes more beautiful than either part on its own,” he says.
His main goal at the fair aside from showcase new ideas? License his prototypes with manufacturers internationally. He believes the Scandinavian audience may be more receptive to his aesthetic due to the region’s widespread, deeply rooted appreciation for design. And once Stockholm wraps, he knows exactly what he wants: “I’m just excited to keep designing.”