Focus On: Craftsmanship

Craftsmanship is what makes innovative ideas for authentic designs a reality. The skill of an artisan or a meticulously refined mechanical process incorporate the attention to detail and standard of excellence necessary to create objects that become a part of our lives and deepen our relationship with our environments. Fraudulent products, with their shoddy make and low-grade materials, fail to capture our imaginations with their rough approximation of the aesthetics and functions that make authentic products a success. Craftsmanship is the difference between objects that inspire, and ones that just take up space.

Designers of integrity know that their intended concepts for a new product or solution can only be articulated through the highest standards of materials and manufacture.  This month, we’re featuring some of our members who shared with us their stories of unique manufacturing techniques, material uses, and design practices that showcase the lasting value of authentic design.



SKRAM Collage

Skram Furniture Company emphasizes sustainable practices, authentic materials, and extraordinary workmanship. Their craftsmen utilize a mix of traditional techniques and cutting-edge fabrication processes to meet the highest standards of precision and durability.


Flavor Paper


Brooklyn-based wallpaper company Flavor Paper has mastered the art of large-format hand silk screening. Their diverse portfolio of expertly silk screened and digitally printed designs offer unparalleled customization and creativity to designers.



CERNO collage

Vertically-integrated Cerno makes all of their lighting designs at their own facility in Southern California.Founders Nick Sheridan and Daniel Wacholder are involded in each step of production, which includes both handiwork and modern technology.



NANI Colalge

nanimarquina brings manual production and contemporary design together by researching tools, looms, and craft heritage to achieve harmony between the design concept and finished product. In addition, nanimarquina produces their designs in developing countries to boost local economies and help build a brighter future for those involved in the rug-making process.



EMECO Collage


The iconic Emeco Navy Chair is crafted through a detailed, 77-step process. Recently, the Be Original Americas Summer Fellows visited their facilities in Pennsylvania to get a hands-on look at the famous production – read more at Interior Design.


As our members show, when objects are created with the intention of improving the lives of the end user – and not just cashing in on stolen profit – the manufacturing process features a commitment to sustainable, responsible practices and a high standard for quality control and materials that create true value. Follow us @beoriginalusa for more stories of craftsmanship and inspiration.

Summer Fellowship: Mid-Point Update


Left to Right: Sandy Chilewich, Fellow Karina Campos and Fellow Sarah Ahart at Chilewich in NYC.

We caught up with the Be Original Americas Fellows to hear about their experiences and discoveries halfway through the inaugural Summer Fellowship Program.  Below, they share what it’s like to go behind the scenes at our member companies and dive into hands-on learning that can’t be reproduced in the classroom.

What has been the most surprising thing about your experience so far?

Sarah: The most surprising thing to me so far is how much human touch goes into the manufacturing and assembly of furniture.  I had always assumed that machines are doing a majority of the work, but after viewing some manufacturing facilities, I have learned that is not the case.

Karina: The most surprising thing so far has been the number of times my career path has changed. I’ve started keeping count and I think I am up to 32. Touring these incredible companies has fluctuated my design thinking and opened up design career possibilities I never knew existed!

What have you learned by being on site that you couldn’t have in the classroom?

Sarah: Being on site has showed me how many different people actually work on one product in order to bring it to market. In school there is not usually more than three people working on a team, where in the office each product goes through a bunch of different teams before it is ready to go to production.

Karina:  At school, our projects have an end date, once we turn in that PDF or a final mock of a product – that’s it, you’re done! And seeing real world design professionals working on projects and the communicating between departments shows that it goes beyond just designing, you have to work and collaborate with people who don’t necessarily speak the same “design” language. Projects are ongoing and there is a lot of push and pull among different people.

Has your perception of the day-to-day at a design company changed? If so, how?

Sarah: My perception of design companies has been solidified rather than changed.  I had always assumed that design companies were collaborative, but it was awesome to see first-hand how collaborative they really are. Throughout the entire design process, multiple teams are working hand-in-hand to make sure that the product is successful.

Karina:  Yes! Definitely! After seeing the environments of differently sized companies, there is an overarching theme that there is no theme, not every workspace is the same. Each company outlines its work in a different way that caters to their specific needs and tasks. Some are more rigid and some are loose but what I have observed is that everyone loves their job regardless of the structure because it’s what works best for them.


Fellow Sarah Ahart looks through textile samples at Carnegie.

Fellow Sarah Ahart looks through textile samples at Carnegie.


Based on your experiences so far, how do you think original products stand out from the rest?

Sarah: Original products stand out from replicas in the way that they are manufactured.  There is such a high level of craft and care that goes in to creating every aspect of the original product that is definitely not seen in a fake.  This ensures outstanding quality as well as a product that will last longer and serve its purpose better.

Karina:  As one of my design idols, Charles Eames, stated, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” Original designs stand out with their details. An overall silhouette may present itself with the same visual language, but the details are what set original designs apart. These companies design with integrity, passion and have the goal of the user in mind to deliver satisfying experiences. All things are considered, from joinery techniques to material choices, all to produce a product that is long lasting, beautiful and comfortable.

What are you most excited for next?

Sarah: I am looking forward to continuing to broaden my knowledge of the design world. Every new place I visit, I am exposed to new areas of design that I didn’t even know existed. I am excited to have a larger understanding of all of the directions that this career path can take me.

Karina: A few more weeks of traveling! I’m excited to see new places and design companies that will continue to change my design philosophy. I thought I had a pretty good definition of what it means to be a designer, but every moment on this trip has challenged that pre-established definition–and I like it. There is more room for a re-definition and reconstruction of my design process and goals.


Keep up with the Be Original Americas Fellows week by week on Interior Design to learn more about their experiences at some of the design industry’s most innovative, esteemed, and original companies. You can also follow along @beoriginalusa for updates behind the scenes!

The Originals: Nani Marquina



What does “original” mean to you?

For me, original is something unique. It can be a piece, a product, or a work of art that offers an idea, a new concept that changes what we are accustomed to experiencing.


Has being an entrepreneur encouraged you to take risks in your designs?

In a way, I think that designers have an entrepreneurial essence, as their contributions are novel and contain large doses of imagination, vision and daring. These are just some of the necessary elements it takes to build a business. I was always clear that my goal was to surprise people with my products and to achieve this it has been necessary to take risks and break the mold.


How does authentic design support ethical business and social responsibility?

Design is unquestionably a factor in social transformation. One of the primary goals is to improve the lives of people; I believe that design is increasingly sensitized to ethical and social responsibility. In our case, our products are 100% emotional design that presents an additional intangible value. We are committed to surprising and captivating our clients, passionate about improving the living conditions of the workers involved in the manufacturing process of each rug, paying the utmost attention to the care and maintenance of the environment around us.


True to her design roots, Nani Marquina launched her namesake brand in 1987, a time in which contemporary rugs were non-existent in Spain. After studying industrial design at the Escuela Massana of Barcelona, Nani launched nanimarquina, a brand dedicated to the design, creation, and distribution of rugs and textile products for the home, based on values such as observation, innovation, and enthusiasm, with the goal to use traditional craftsmanship and techniques to create contemporary pieces. In 1993, Nani Marquina  moved manufacturing facilities to the north of India. to further incorporate o craftsmanship and tradition as a new design concept and consolidate the brand. Throughout the years, the brand has garnered numerous awards such as the National Design Award and the Premi Cambra a la Gestió Empresarial (Chamber Award for Design Management) in 2005, as well as several nominations for the Príncipe Felipe Award for Company Excellence. Nani Marquina has also recently received the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Award from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, a personal achievement that led to the 2007 FIDEM Award for Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year. She has enjoyed tenure as the Chairwoman of ADP (Professional Design Association), and of Red (Reunión Empresas de Diseño). Starting in 2014, Nani Marquina is the President of the FAD, (Foment de les Arts i Disseny), in Barcelona.

Breaking News: U.S. Customs & Border Protection

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Be Original Americas Meets with U.S. Customs & Border Protection and U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Protecting Original Design

On June 15, 2016, two representatives from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office and a special agent from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security gave a 60 minute in-depth presentation to Be Original Americas board members in Chicago, during NeoCon, one of the most recognized trade shows for commercial design and business trends.

Highlights from the presentation include:

  • Designs may be legally protected through U.S. federally registered trademarks, copyrights, and/or patents.
  • Trademarks and copyrights registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or U.S. Copyright Office can be recorded with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to maximize their protection at the border.
  • CBP is authorized to detain and/or seize imported merchandise that infringes recorded rights.
  • Recordation is effective for the term of registration or remaining period up to ten years. Right holders may electronically file IPR recordation applications at

Since the meeting, U.S. Customs has been in contact with many Be Original Americas members.  This August, U.S. Customs officers in the New York metro area will meet with 7 member companies to learn more about their original designs and help stem the stream of counterfeit furnishings into the United States.

“This marks an important step in Be Original Americas’ short history. Meeting with U.S. Customs and Border Protection recognizes the strength of our organization and gives our members the tools for legally protecting their authentic designs and brand integrity,” said Sam Grawe, President of Be Original Americas and Global Brand Director for Herman Miller. “We encourage our members to register their trademarks and copyrights so that their designs can be protected.”

Stay tuned for more news on this in the future.


Pictured: Be Original Americas board members Federico Materazzi (Poltrona Frau Group), Antoine Roset (Ligne Roset), Cliff Goldman (Carnegie Fabrics), and John Edelman (Design Within Reach)

Meet the 2016 Fellows

The Be Original America’s Summer Fellowship Program begins this week, as 3rd-year students Sarah Ahart of Virginia Tech and Karina Campos of Syracuse University arrive in New York City for the first leg of their 7-week experience in all it takes to make, distribute, and sell authentic design. We spoke with the two Fellows about their backgrounds in design, their expectations for the program, what they’re most excited to learn.

The Fellows


Sarah Ahart is an accomplished, top-ranking student in Virginia Tech’s industrial design program. She currently has a product on the market through Swiss toy company Naef, and recently participated as a finalist in the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge 2016 with her in-home workout station for the elderly. While pursuing her desgree, she also works as lead designer at start-up Park and Diamond Incorporated, where she is creating an ultra-portable bicycle helmet for college commuters.


Karina Campos is an award-winning industrial and interaction design student from Syracuse University. Campos has a background in service design, having worked with the Syracuse community’s Connective Corridor to create public billboards highlighting local people, organizations, and programs that have a positive impact on the city. More recently, she worked with Welch-Allyn to design possible solutions to promote workplace wellbeing for health professionals.

The Questions

What drew you to apply for the Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship? 

Sarah: I loved the idea that I would get to be exposed to every aspect of the design, manufacturing, and marketing processes, as well as work with several prominent companies.  I saw it as a great opportunity to gain a variety of experiences in order to help me figure out what career path I want to follow.

Karina: I am enthralled yet lost in world of design; there is just so much to it, my interests go in many directions! When I came to know about the Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship, one look at the description and I was hooked. I knew the opportunity to get an up close and personal look at different facets of design was right up my alley.  As a young designer, my thought process is constantly evolving and this immersive program will allow me to explore areas of design I haven’t seen or done before.

What does “original” mean to you? 

Sarah:  To me, original means that something is unlike anything that has come before it.  It has to have some feature or aspect that is novel and sparks interest.

Karina: For me originality is a concept that goes beyond “innovative” and “new”, where it core values lie in the reinterpretation of concepts and forms already in existence; an allusion to pre-established archetypes. Originality finds its voice based on visual observations, human intuitions, needs and struggles and pushes the boundaries of what is in existence but nevertheless has its roots in familiarity.

What are you most looking forward to learning about during the 7-week program?

Sarah Ahart: I am most looking forward to learning about design and manufacturing processes and seeing it first hand.  I am also looking forward to visiting some of the big name companies that I have learned about in school, such as Emeco and Herman Miller.

Karina: I am so excited to uncover the hidden nuances and insights in the design industry as well as observe, learn and connect with design professionals that will challenge my own design thinking and re-define what it means to be a designer.


You’ll be travelling to New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Michigan – which location are you most looking forward to and why?  

Sarah: I am most looking forward to New York.  I have never lived in a big city before, and I am looking forward to experiencing city life!

Karina: Honestly? All of them! This program will really expand my knowledge of design, each state we will be visiting offers different perspectives of design and ways of interpreting the design process. I am looking forward to those mind bending moments!

When you are not studying – orapplying for fellowships- what do you do for fun?

Sarah:  In my free time I enjoying doing ceramics and woodworking.  I also love to be outside and go hiking or boating.  I have always been very sporty and stay occupied with a variety of intramural sports with my school throughout the year. In addition, I am an assistant coach for a youth soccer team.

Karina: Besides my passion for all design, I am an avid cook and a reader. You can always find me on food blogs looking at recipes, experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen or on the couch curled up with a good book.

Follow along with us here on the blog and @beoriginalusa on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date on Sarah and Karina’s experiences during the 7-week program. They’ll share exclusive images from site visits to Bernhardt Design, Carnegie, Chilewich, Designtex, Design Within Reach, Emeco, Flavor Paper, Herman Miller, Ligne Roset, and Vitra, and be checking in on about all they’re learning along the way.

The Originals: Jon Sherman

Jon Sherman Headshot 2016


What does “original” mean to you?

Something new and fresh.

Where do you see the line drawn between inspiration and imitation?

It’s a fine line sometimes, but as long as there is an individual’s obvious twist to an inspirational piece that renders it into a different realm than the original it is not an imitation. An imitation only rearranges aspects to make something differ enough to be classified as new, but the object or idea does not have its own life and inspire a different reaction than that of the original.

What makes a designer or artist a good collaborator for Flavor Paper?

Someone who thinks about engagement via walls from a different perspective than others and creates an atmosphere of beauty, humor, fun, transcendence or awe.


Check out Be Original America’s member Jon Sherman and Flavor Paper’s latest award-winning designs ShweShwe and Waynetopia from NYCxDesign and ICFF.


With an entrepreneurial MBA from Tulane University, Jon Sherman began his business journey in real estate development when he heard of a unique wallpaper company in Oregon going out of business. The West Coast producer offered Sherman the large silk screens and equipment–if he promised to remove them within 24 hours. Sherman’s initial overnight investment has grown into a profitable, print-to-order business that produces as many as 1000 rolls of custom paper a month, mitigating waste and optimizing resources, including time. Always looking to “push the envelope” in design, Flavor Paper goes beyond the traditional way architects, designers and end users think and use wallpaper. Flavor Paper can be seen in a wide variety of projects by the who’s who of the creative community, including Tibi fashion house, Kravitz Design, Milton Glaser, and Mike D from the Beastie Boys, and clients such as the IAC Building by Gehry in New York, Nike, Steve Madden, the international W Hotels and more. Recently, Flavor Paper entered into an exclusive, worldwide agreement with the Andy Warhol Foundation. Sherman’s Fishnet wallpaper is in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum, where he has recently been named to the Board of Advisors, and Flavor Paper is also part of the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and The Louvre Museum in Paris.

Be Original Americas Celebrates NYCxDesign


Be Original Americas members are celebrating authentic designs all over the Big Apple with and exciting lineup of events during NYCxDESIGN. Check out the full roundup of member events below, and set your calendar reminders accordingly. We hope to see you there!


  • Carl Hansen & Son: Preview of Newest Launches
    9 AM-5 PM, Thursday, May 12
    Carl Hansen & Son New York Showroom
    304 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, Suite #305
    RSVP to


  • Chilewich: Edges by Sandy Chilewich
    11 AM-7 PM, Friday, May 13-Thursday, May 19
    Chilewich Store, 23 E. 20th Street

Edges by Sandy Chilewich is the latest material concept from Chilewich. The design, which combines fluorescent acrylics with Chilewich’s trademark woven textiles in a striking optical pattern will be celebrated in this special exhibition during NYCxDESIGN.


  • FLOS and ABC Home Celebrate the Story of the String Lights with designer Michael Anastassiades
    5:30-7 PM; 6 PM Conversation, Friday, May 13
    ABC Home, 888 Broadway
    RSVP by May 11 to to

FLOS USA and ABC Home invite you to celebrate ‘The Story of the String Lights’ with designer Michael Anastassiades. See the design evolve from conception with original drawings, renderings and unique installation.


  • Artemide Cocktail Party
    6-9 PM Saturday, May 14
    Artemide Flagship Showroom
    46 Greene Street

The re-opening of Artemide’s renovated showroom features the debut of new designs by Ross Lovegrove, Jean Nouvel, David Chipperfield, Wilmotte & Associates, Herzog & de Meuron, as well as new Artemide Outdoor and Rezek fixtures.


  • Cappellini: Collection Launch and New Cappellini Book Signing
    7-9 PM, Saturday, May 14
    145 Wooster Street


  • Ligne Roset Presents Marie Christine Dorner for NYCxDESIGN
    6-8 PM, Saturday, May 14
    Ligne Roset SoHo Showroom, 155 Wooster Street
    RSVP to

Ligne Roset presents Marie Christine Dorner for NYCxDesign. Dorner will introduce highlights from her collection including MCD seating design debuting in the US. Bubbles & hors d’oeuvres will be served.


  • nanimarquina: Cocktail Event to Celebrate 2016 Introductions
    6-8 PM, Saturday, May 14
    nanimarquina New York Showroom, 588 Broadway, Suite 607
    RSVP here.

nanimarquina will host evening cocktails with Nani Marquina in the New York showroom while displaying new designs by the Bouroullec brothers, Neri & Hu and Nani Marquina.


  • FLOS SoHo Night
    6-8 PM, Saturday, May 14
    FLOS Showroom, 152 Greene Street
    RSVP here.

 You’re invited to an evening of cocktails celebrating Michael Anastassiades and FLOS’ newest collections with an exclusive curated lighting exhibition curated by Anastassiades.


  • Fritz Hansen Celebrates Pluralis & Oxford
    6-8 PM, Sunday, May 15
    Republic of Fritz Hansen, 22 Wooster Street
    RSVP here.

 Republic of Fritz Hansen invites you to celebrate Pluralis™ a modern working table designed by Danish designer Kasper Salto and a new fresh take on an old Classic, the Oxford™ chair, designed by Arne Jacobsen.


  • Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec’s New Designs
    7-9 PM, Sunday, May 15
    Vitra Showroom, 29 9th Avenue
    RSVP here.

The latest designs by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra, Artek, nanimarquina, and Axor will be on display with a special design installation on three levels. Ronan Bouroullec will be present to celebrate these new designs.


  • Alessi Mutants Event
    6-8 PM, Monday, May 16
    Alessi SoHo, 130 Greene Street
    RSVP here.

Highlights from the Alessi Mutants exhibition at WantedDesign will be shown in the SoHo showroom, featuring the futuristic ideas of students from the Institute of Architecture at the University of Applied Arts Vienna & RMIT University.

Be Original Americas Design Auction

Bidding has begun in the Be Original Americas Design Auction to support our inaugural Summer Fellowship Program! More than 30 authentic designs including furniture, lighting, tabletop, accessories, and unique experiences are available, all generously donated by members and friends of Be Original Americas. Winning bids will help to fund two students in the first-ever Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship as they travel throughout North America to learn from the best and most innovative brands producing authentic design today.


Rare prototypes like an Alessi Bandung teapot by Richard Sapper and special edition designs like Emeco’s Navy Chair collaboration with Coca-Cola are among the line-up of exceptional items. Design icons, like a Vitra Grand Repos lounge chair signed by its designer Antonio Citterio, a Le Corbusier LC1 Chair for Cassina and a FLOS Snoopy lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni appear beside new masterpieces such as Lara Knutson’s Nebula necklace to complete a varied and accessible range of items. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to take home the best in design while supporting the future of creativity. Explore the auction in full:


Fostering the Future of Creativity

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Aiming to empower tomorrow’s design leaders to effect positive change in the fight for original design, Be Original Americas has developed a unique fellowship opportunity for two students to gain hands-on experience in all it takes to make, distribute, and market great design from leading companies across the United States. As Be Original Americas President and Global Brand Director for Herman Miller Sam Grawe says, “The Fellowship is an investment in the future of design through education, and one that celebrates innovation and original design thinking through the work of industry leaders.”

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Many students learn in their courses that good design is driven by ethical problem solving – the understanding of a need or problem, and the development of creative solutions that address that issue in the most elegant way possible. By inviting fellows to see this process in action at Herman Miller, Emeco, Ligne Roset, Vitra, Design Within Reach, Chilewich, Carnegie, and Bernhardt Design, Be Original America’s hopes to make clear that thoughtless copies can never contribute to communities, support craftsmanship, or deepen our understanding of our environment like authentic products do. Over the course of 7 weeks, these two fellows will also develop relationships that will help them contribute to the industry in earnest after graduation, whether through the design process, marketing, or distribution.

As Jan Vingerhoets, CEO of FLOS told DWR in an interview, “We feel an educated public is the best offense and defense against the proliferation of copies. That’s the approach Be Original Americas is taking – to educate, to inform and to influence consumers, designers, retailers and students on what original design means.”

Three of the groups Vingerhoets mentions – consumers, designers, and retailers – make up the design community of the present, but it’s the students currently pursuing degrees in industrial or interior design, architecture, and other applied arts who represent the future of the industry. If the movement to reverse the current trend of knockoffs is to succeed, the design industry’s next generation must be one that is fundamentally original. Reaching these young creatives in and out of the classroom, and instilling in them a commitment to integrity is essential to building a better future for creativity. Similarly, young people studying the business side of design must understand how their choices in marketing and development will affect the design marketplace. In this way, students become professionals and leaders who serve as ambassadors of authenticity to the trade and public over the entirety of their careers.

The Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship will be supported by an online auction featuring one-of-a-kind designs and experiences from Be Original America’s members and friends of the organization. Check in here on the blog for more on how to participate, or become a member to stay up-to-date on this developing story.

The Originals: Joe Doucet

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What does “original” mean to you?
Original design, by definition, is a work which begins with a process and not another design as a reference.


In what ways do knockoffs affect the power of original and good design to improve our lives?
The creation of good and original design requires a substantial investment of time, resources and money from both the designer and company producing the work. When a company or designer chooses to simply copy an original design, it is intact stealing. Not just the “creative theft” often cited, but a material and substantial theft of time and money. If the hard work and financial support required to develop original design is systematically stolen by competitive companies, there is little incentive for companies to pursue original design. This would lead to a great reduction in original work, which would then lead to the same existing work self-perpetuating ad infinitum. A sad thought indeed.


 You design for such diverse companies. How do you insure your design is not compromised?
The fact that we design for such diverse companies and industries greatly increases the exposure to the risk of our work being copied. We are particularly vulnerable to copying as we are idea-led and less focused on a particular style. The truth is that legally there is very little protection for a new way of thinking about an object. We are reliant on companies to respect the intense work which necessitates original design, and begin their own process rather than begin with another design as a reference.


Don’t miss Joe’s takeover of the Be Original America’s Instagram during Salone del Mobile 2016.


President and Chief Creative Officer at Joe Doucet x Partners, Joe Doucet’s ability to fluidly cross the different disciplines of design have made him one of the most sought-after creative talents working in America. As a designer, inventor, and creative director, his work deftly hybridizes function and visual appeal while conveying layers of meaning and message.  His portfolio encompasses furniture, consumer electronics, corporate identity, jewelry, fashion, technology, children’s toys, environments and architecture delivering innovation for a variety of clients such as Bernhardt, BMW, Braun, Hugo Boss, Lexon, Moët & Chandon and Target. His work has been exhibited numerous places internationally, including the London Design Museum and awards include two Good Design Awards in 2012 and 2008. Surface Magazine named him the only ever AvantGuardian for Design, and he currently holds more that 50 patents for his designs and inventions.