Frank Talks

Lin Elkins – Furniture Designer & Craftswoman

Lin Elkins - Furniture Designer & Craftswoman
Lin Elkins - Furniture Designer & Craftswoman

Lin is a furniture designer and craftswoman currently living in Grand Marias, MN. Her work explores purposeful functionality, playfulness, and art, often taking a modern twist on traditional craft techniques. Lin strives to create socially and environmentally conscious goods that foster healthy, sustainable, and enriched lives. By creating opportunities for sensory exploration, users experience moments of comfort, wonder, and curiosity. 

Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?

Funnily enough, I really began my design focus through my high school newspaper. I joined it thinking I would like the writing and could potentially develop it into a viable career, but I really fell in love with layout design and creating infographics. What really enticed me about design is the form and function duality. But, I also really struggled with the two-dimensional form graphic design had. A couple months prior to college application season my brother sent me a link to an industrial design company saying, “this made me think of you”. After scrolling through for just a few minutes I knew it’s what I wanted to pursue. 

Industrial design is a problem-solving process that drives innovation that aims to create a better quality of life through products, systems, services, and experiences. More often than not, industrial designers today often focus on the research, development, and prototyping steps in the process and rarely have a hand in the physical fabrication. This reality really only became apparent to me while I was already attending college. I was very fortunate that the furniture concentration at my school was very hands-on and put a heavy emphasis on fine craftsmanship. Overall, the program really gave me the skills to be able to move forward as both a designer and a craftswoman.

Where are you from and what is the arts community like there? How has your upbringing shaped what you do in the arts today?

I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and moved to the greater metropolitan area of DC during high school. I honestly can not comment much on the arts community in either of these locations, as I did not make an effort to be a part of it. Most of my creative ventures were fostered by my grandfather Popi, who used to teach me to draw everyday after school till he passed away when I was nine. He left a heavy imprint on me from a young age and I carry the love and support he provided me with everyday. 

For most of my formative years, I was the black sheep of the family. I think I always tried to fit in to the more analytical nature the rest of my family possessed, but it never really stuck. I was much more content when I was in theatre class or choir, where I felt like I had an effective outlet to express myself. I think my last attempt to fit into this specific mold was when I decided to go to school for industrial design, one of the most lucrative creative jobs you can have. I’m extremely grateful for it too. The process and knowledge I acquired when in design school is really important to me and my practice. Sure, I was always creatively inclined, but I love to problem solve and find ways to alter the world we live in. Design offers me the best of both worlds and allows me to create very technical and sensory pieces. 

How did you begin working in craft and design? What have been the most rewarding and challenging aspects over the last couple years? 

I’ve had many different jobs within the creative field as many makers likely do when they are starting out. I think the most informative and influencing experience was my fellowship at UNCA STEAM Studio. During my time there, I was able to dabble in studio technician skills, teaching opportunities, community engagement projects, and self-directed projects. Teaching quickly became one of my favorite duties. I find it extremely rewarding to be able to pass on knowledge and skills to another individual which helps them physically manifest their own personal creativity. It is also very humbling, and more often than not, it helps inspire me in my own personal practice too. 

Where I have struggled most is being respected and feeling a sense of belonging as a craftswoman. My main craft medium is woodworking and misogyny is still a very prevalent reality. My connection to organizations like A Workshop of Our Own has been instrumental in my growing comfort and confidence within my field. I hope one day the need for a female and non-binary woodworking class becomes obsolete. 

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world? 

Do not compromise the integrity of your work or vision for someone else – even if they have a big checkbook. This may mean it’s not your full time career and you don’t get to spend all your time dedicated to it, but I believe the relationship between a creator and their work is sacred. The second you compromise on it is the second you lose the passion and unique voice that would make you notable in the first place.

What are you most excited for this year in your practice or in the art world as a whole? 

I’m looking forward to further combining the new fiber and textile art skills I’ve learned in the past year with my woodworking skills. I’ve been dabbling in this combination for a while–especially in the last year–but I am excited to elevate it to my furniture practice. 

How do you think the art world can become more transparent? 

I think the sharing of knowledge in general. I feel as creatives we can get wrapped up in our artistic individuality, which leads to the gatekeeping of resources and knowledge. I hope to see more sharing of techniques, personal successful business practices, literature – anything that may help a fellow creative thrive. 

If you could own work by 5 different artists/craftspeople, who would be in your collection? 

This question is nearly impossible to answer, so I will narrow my list down to mentor’s and artist’s I have had the privilege of conversing or working with in my short time as a creator – Amber Jensen, Aspen Golann, Casey Johnson, Stephanie Metz, and Tommy Simpson.

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