Celebrating Queer Voices in Collectible Design in Light of Pride Month 2023

Amidst the rising political efforts to limit the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community and the inflamed hatred both online and offline that we are witnessing on a global level, millions of people are celebrating Pride Month this year. We want to take this occasion to highlight outstanding voices in the LGBTQIA+ community that are openly proud of their sexual orientation and do not shy away from addressing their queerness in their work. From Brooklyn-based sculptor and artist, Nicholas Devlin, to the craftsperson and artist working in Hamtramck, United States, Forrest Hudes, and the Brooklyn-based interior design studio, Studio SII, founded by Erica Sellers and Jeremy Silberberg, these creatives are making their audience question the status quo within the world of collectible design through a thoughtful and complex mediation of queerness.

“Queerness is an underlying reality that informs everything we make – because it’s who we are,” state Sellers and Silberberg. With their salt and pepper mills, they defy labels as it is up to the user to decide which container should be designated for which spice. This sentiment pervades their design ethos as they create outside the binary. “Our work subverts traditional categorization by challenging the boundaries of utilitarianism,” the founders explain. “By integrating science fiction, astronomy, queerness, and the anthropology of art, our work conjures a cinematic uncanniness.” 

“Functionality and stereotypical beauty are increasingly undermined by provocative ideas. This challenges people to confront their expectations, which invites a more complex understanding of our world. It’s time we reconsider our relationship to objects, spaces, and each other.”

– Erica Sellers and Jeremy Silberberg, founders of Studio SII

This profound deconstruction of design is an attitude or rather world view also shared by Devlin. He celebrates design that is bold, colourful and evokes a sense of joy – queer joy – and he does so intentionally. “Sometimes I feel this joy is mistaken for naiveness, a willful ignorance, or having an escapist quality but I think that’s reductive. Queer joy is so important to display, to embody, to make real,” the designer points out. As a result, Devlin builds a universe of vibrant colours and organic shapes that manifest in otherworldly creations that stipulate a new way of looking at the concept of “domesticity”, tight to himself indentifying as queer male. “[…] I feel like to be queer in one’s everyday life comes with this inherent outsider analysis of the world and it’s just an incredibly valuable perspective because it can make you curious about everything, nothing is given, and it just opens up a world of possibility,” Devlin reflects.

“I think it is important to look outside of what is easily accessible or comfortable for us and seek out artists and designers who are really trying to say something.”

– Nicholas Devlin

In a similar vein, Hudes reisits any predefined notion of gender, rather he actively challenges the idea of the gendered body, influenced by his own sexuality. “I see wood as representing the potentials of the body – as genderd material it comes with a set of expectations and norms, and by working wood I choose to undermine, expand, or reverse those expectations – much as I do with my own gendered body,” Hudes explains. This is most evident in his “Peacock Chair” where he juxtaposes the extravagance of the overly large fanned back with the more modern ethic of minimalism – “[j]ust as queer extravagance stands in opposition to the necessity to conform to hetereo-norms,” the designer states.

What comes apparent throughout the work by Studio SII, Nicholas Devlin and Forrest Hudes, is the act of embracing who they are – to put it into simple terms – and to let their desire for uncomformity inspire their designs. When asked about what the world of design could improve on in terms of LGBTQIA+ rights, they again shared a similar sentiment. “A great first step for the design world is to acknowledge and celebrate queer members of the industry,” the founders of Studio SII state. Devlin adds onto this: “I would love to see even more queer joy and celebration […]. In think there’s is a breadth of ideas, methods, and craft out there that are being overlooked.” And, Hudes sums it up perfectly: “I would love to see more unbashedly queer and anti-normative woodworking going on, because wood is just begging to be liberated from the tyranny of the square!”

Related Articles

We use cookies to give you the best experience as described in our Privacy Policy.


Subscribe and get 5% off
your first purchase