DMTV Milkshake: Creating “Brutally Handmade” Work With The Long Confidence

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Rafi Ajl makes beautiful objects through laborious methods: Just get a look at the mold he uses to craft stunning glass vessels. “I knew that I wanted to have this way of working a little bit more freely,” says Ajl, the owner of design brand The Long Confidence in Berkeley, California, and the star of this week’s Milkshake. “We had always worked with glass with our kind of tabletop collection, which are mold blown glass pieces, but I wanted to kind of deconstruct that idea – so I took a traditional wooden mold, and made it so there’s chaos and chance possible every time we use the mold.”

Watch this week’s Milkshake video, and you’ll see the mold itself – the very definition of a chaotic agent and not at all what might come to mind with the idea of a static mold, meant to achieve the same results over time. “[The molds] are kind of beautiful objects in their own right,” he says. “Every time you use the mold, even if you’re blowing [glass] into the mold over and over again, because it’s not a rigid structure and also because it’s wood and it tends to burn away, the results are going to be different, and kind of chaotic, each time.”

This is what Ajl means by “brutally handmade” when he uses the phrase to describe his work, which continues to evolve from its current iteration of, as he puts it, primarily “a lot of wooden furniture, tables, chairs – a lot of seating and things like that.” The restrictions with that brief are self-evident, he says: “That [sort of work] demands a very focused approach – it’s very meticulous,” he says. “When you’re dealing with wood and joinery, the tolerances are very, very small, and it’s not a material – wood – that lends itself to being particularly gestural or plastic.” So he’s increasingly turning to other materials, like glass or ceramic, as he moves to more sculptural ambitions – “Things that you can really kind of use your body to impact and manipulate.” With that change in materials has come an evolution in how he considers his work: still focused on form, but maybe less preoccupied with function. “I knew that I wanted to have this way of working a little bit more freely,” he says. To see the fruits of that investigation, tune in!

Diana Ostrom, who has written for Wallpaper, Interior Design, ID, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets, is also the author of Faraway Places, a newsletter about travel.

Milkshake, DMTV (Design Milk TV)’s first regular series, shakes up the traditional interview format by asking designers, creatives, educators and industry professionals to select interview questions at random from their favorite bowl or vessel. During their candid discussions, you’ll not only gain a peek into their personal homeware collections, but also valuable insights into their work, life and passions.

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