Library Salon Series: Q&A with Ali Sandifer

Library Salon Series: Q&A with Ali Sandifer

Ali Sandifer Edith 2010

Ali Sandifer, Edith, 2010

Courtesy of Ali Sandifer Studio

A good piece of furniture can be visually stunning, but it must also adhere to principles of design that allow for consistent (often heavy) use, and it must be ergonomic enough to provide comfort and maintain the desire to use. As a furniture-user – not a furniture-maker – that seems like a very delicate balance to maintain.

Abir Ali and Andre Sandifer have made this balance their mantra from the start, when they first opened Ali Sandifer Studio in Detroit, Michigan, in 2004. We’re excited to host this dynamic duo – also a 2017 ACC Rare Craft Fellowship Award finalist – as our second Library Salon Series talk this fall. Join us on October 18 at the ACC Library for a conversation about inspiration and process. We connected with Abir and Andre before their trip to Minneapolis to get a sense of what they’ll be covering.

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
We are a mom-and-pop team who have worked together designing and crafting furniture for more than a decade. We graduated with professional degrees in architecture and immediately applied our design sensibility and enthusiasm to furniture. Andre is the shop's sole craftsman, handling the production of each piece from start to finish; while Abir is the creative director, focusing on the portfolio of work over time and the story around each piece and the collection. Both designers, the work emerges from a collaborative design and prototyping process.

Andre Sandifer and Abir Ali

Andre Sandifer and Abir Ali

Courtesy of Ali Sandifer

What are your design influences? Who and what do you look to for inspiration?
We are influenced by the everyday. We enjoy observing and thinking about the way that people live and work. Often influenced by disciplines other than furniture and architecture, we are curious to how other worlds’ problem-solve, design, and craft. We are particularly drawn to food and emerging chefs because we see interesting parallels between the furniture and restaurant industries.

What is your typical process when designing and building a piece? How do you work together?
We talk. We research. We question. We sketch. We prototype. We work at full-scale through multiple iterations until we are happy. Sometimes that process is fluid with both of us in alignment from the start; other times it's challenging with strong, contrasting opinions. Regardless, it's always productive and genuine. And we always arrive at a final product that we are proud of. We both are heavily involved in the prototyping process. Since we started, we have regarded Ali Sandifer as a laboratory for experimentation and refinement. We operate in an integrated way that allows us to move fluidly between studio and workshop – and design and craft.

What does it mean for you and your studio to be a Rare Craft Fellowship Award finalist?
It’s an honor. Sometimes it's easy to feel alone in our commitment and passion to the work – it is both a source of pride and pain at times. The national recognition of being a Rare Craft finalist is a reminder and a source of encouragement to follow our hearts and our hands.