Taidgh O’Neill is a Los Angeles-based artist and designer. His design practice is heavily informed by his art education, in particular the critical theory of minimalism and postmodernism and the work of Donald Judd and Robert Smithson.
What are your favorite sources for design inspiration?
Since I started making furniture, the strongest influence on my work has been the cityscape of Los Angeles. In the beginning, I was looking at the ad-hoc nature of non-permitted building projects for inspiring forms and gestures. Lately, I’ve been looking at a lot of utilitarian concrete structures propping up roads, highways, bridges, and waterways. I love the happenstance aesthetics of these wonderful form-following-function monoliths. Similarly, I’ve been looking at brutalist architecture and I have a newfound love for Tony Smith sculptures.
What designers/artists are on your radar right now?
I’ve been a longtime fan of Max Lamb, Doshi and Levien, Patricia Urquiola, Christian Dorn, Fernando Mastrangelo, Lrnce and Atelier de Troupe.
What do you love about living in Los Angeles? How does the design scene compare to other cities?
Everything except traffic and my increasing shop rent! I love that it’s truly a contemporary city. Unlike the other big American cities, there’s not a lot of nostalgia or romance for eras past — it’s a city that is all about the present. Its identity is still being created and it seems to be coming into its own as an internationally important city of culture. I’ve lived in several other cities but can’t speak with authority on their design scenes; I’ve only worked in this capacity here in Los Angeles. I will say this city has a phenomenal community of supportive designers and makers. We are blessed with a thriving network of skilled crafts people in all mediums. I love that an undergrad student can very easily go to a foundry and have a sculpture cast in metal. And I really enjoy the fact that there’s enthusiasm when meeting other people working in the same arena — it doesn’t feel like there’s nasty competitiveness. It’s easy to find people to applaud hard effort and who embrace collaboration. It’s exciting here.
What are some of your favorite emerging design/art trends?
I’m enjoying seeing the reintroduction of retro materials: terrazzo, linoleum, plastic laminates. I also really like when ceramics are used as integral components of furniture.
What is your personal approach to furniture making?
I’m very hands-on. I don’t do many sketches before diving into production. If an idea comes to mind, I’ll sit for a while with my eyes closed and go over all the important connection details and cement them in my mind. Then I’ll do a quick, and very rough sketch of the shape of a piece, write out notes for the critical details, and then hit my shop as quickly as my schedule permits to get into the physical material while the ideas are still fresh. Lots of problem solving occurs in the production. I rarely make prototypes out of cheap material, favoring instead to go for broke right away.
How has your artistic style evolved?
My background was in fine art, and I built furniture like I made art — very gestural and fussy. A couple of years ago, I made the E2 line of furniture pieces (named after my two sons, Eamonn and Enzo) that for me marked a transition from artist to designer. The work is now much more efficient in terms of production, paired down in terms of details, and quieter, visually speaking. The furniture I’m making looks a little less sculptural and is able to complement different interiors more easily. I still think the work is funky, but it’s a bit more staid.
Which is your most favorite piece in your portfolio and why?
I love the Figueroa armchair as a marker of my gestural work. And I love the Perico dining chair for its efficiency. It looks like a distilled version of my early work. I think it shows a maturation of material use. It’s also surprisingly comfortable. I like putting surprises in my designs.
What is your most valued possession as far as art/ furniture?
I have a gorgeous pair of beaded African chairs in red, white, and black. I have several amazing paintings by my friend Brittan Tolliver. And a light piece by the artist Adam Belt. Aside from being joys to look at, I love the pieces for the fact that they all came into my possession through barter or trade.