Makers in conversation: Opportunities & challenges facing SF designers

Hosted by DZINE, an event entitled: “MAKERS IN CONVERSATION: Opportunities & Challenges Facing SF Designers,” posed a bold question: “What does it take to be a maker in San Francisco and get recognized around the world?”

To answer, a panel of four distinguished guests from four distinct creative pursuits were brought to the table. The conversation which ensued highlighted similarities in experience which far outweighed the differences in approach and materiality of their individual artistic pursuits.


Derek Chen – Council Design, furniture design 

Tina Frey – Tina Frey Designs, accessory design 

Annie Kantor – Modern Metal, metal fabrication 

Larissa Sand – Sand Studios, lighting design

Moderated by Austin Forbord of DZINE


Overall, the discussion provided a maker’s-eye-view into geographic and cultural factors unique to the Bay Area ecosystem—highlighting three unsung advantages that this city has come to represent for makers of all kinds: 

1.Science + Math + Creativity = a Huge Advantage.

All four panelists’ careers started off in industries far from the traditional “creative realm,” with respective beginnings in accounting, biochemistry, science, and electrical engineering. As each panelist shared the pivotal moment in which they answered the call to become a “maker” and changed the trajectory of their professional lives, the flexible attitude that San Francisco cultivates surrounding career development played a key role in supporting their transitions. Meanwhile the skills that each had developed in the financial or scientific realm have turned out to be some of their greatest strengths in developing unique and profitable creative businesses. 


Table and chair by Derek ChenCouncil Design


2.San Francisco as a Valuable Outpost and Collaborative Haven:

The cultural ethos of San Francisco which paved way for the tech boom—manifested in attributes such as voracity, free expression, and rapid iteration—was also credited by panelists as an environmental factor that bolstered much of their early success. It was this same ethos which drew artists to the city in droves around the turn of the 21st century. When the now infamous Silicon Valley icons were gathering in garages to create the world’s first social networks and operating systems—makers in San Francisco were gathering in the upcrop of artist lofts and warehouses, spaces which allowed them to share the costs, materials, and labor necessary for the realization of their dream projects. 

Spring ‘19 Accessories (left) by Tina Frey Tina Frey Designs


3.A Symbiotic Relationship with Silicon Valley

For decades cities such as New York, London, and Paris have enjoyed near uncontested status as the geographic leaders of the art world—but in recent history the art landscape has slowly started to shift. Panelists discussed that this shift is in part attributable to the rise of technology and globalization, which has granted San Francisco artists and makers with a more established “seat at the table.”  Tangibly, heightened access to innovation in fabrication has provided makers in the Bay Area with a strategic advantage over the commercial world within the realm of production and distribution. Perceptually, panelists expressed their ability to leverage the cities disruptive reputation when positioning their work as truly avant-garde or cutting edge.


Architecture and lighting by Larissa Sand – Sand Studios

Morgan Ovens, a Project Manager and Designer for Concept at DZINE, shared that the company currently holds two or more similar gatherings each month—with plans to increase that regularity in the future. All events are currently hosted in DZINE’s San Francisco showroom, which feels more like an interior designer’s dream mansion than a traditional event space (just one of many reasons to keep an eye on their calendar of upcoming events and activities). 

DZINE’s San Francisco Showroom, Image credit: California Home + Design

More about DZINE events:
“The company creates a unique opportunity for communication and creative exchange by bridging these worlds through its showroom events that include lectures and exhibitions, making the cutting edge of design accessible to everyone. DZINE seeks to inspire through its ability to stay abreast of current trends while offering products that are truly timeless.”


Author — Kelsy Postlethwait
Creative Strategist IxD at Britelite Immersive


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