Bookmark and Share

« more RISD stories

Bright Lights, Bold Collaboration


Pendant lights at Churchill bar in San Francisco (image courtesy Melissa Love Photography)

As two designer entrepreneurs living in the San Francisco Bay Area, bothJess Wainer 04 GL and Lauren Geremia 04 PT had each found success in their own right in recent years. Geremia is a prolific, go-to designer of restaurants and private homes, while Wainer makes luminous hand-blown glass vessels sold in museum shops and via her glass wedding gift business, Jess Wainer Glass.

Despite graduating in the same year and living in the same area, the two alums didn’t know each other. Then earlier this year, they both started hearing the same suggestion from mutual friend and Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia 05 ID/GD, which went something like this: You guys should really join forces and work together.

The result is a series of bold lighting designs for Geremia’s growing roster of clients, including custom lighting for an office space, a private residence in Noe Valley and a 1940s-inspired throwback cocktail bar called Churchill in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood. The bar, which opened in June, features six free-hand blown clear pendants with undulating, semi-metallic black glass rims. Made without the use of molds or other reproduction aids, they are all unique in form and size.

“I think Joe recognized that we both have a comparable level of passion and excitement and rigor with our studio practices,” says Wainer, whose work has been featured in Southern Weddings and the online design store Supermarket. “Lauren is constantly thinking about new ways to think about design; she’s always driving to the finish line. And I’m constantly thinking about new work, too, in lots of different media. Lauren’s work also has a very different look and feeling from mine, so I think he thought we would be able to riff off of each other and make something new that would be exciting.”

When she and Geremia first began collaborating, “it was a very art-school process of, ‘Hey, come to my studio, let’s make a bunch of drawings,’” she says. “Now it’s a much more traditional business dynamic where Lauren sends me her design with specs for the glass and I produce it. The plan is to continue working together to solve design problems and create one-of-a-kind hand-blown glass lighting.”

Love affair with glass
Though she works in a wide range of media, Wainer says no other medium is as compelling, surprising or satisfying to her creatively as glass.

“Glass has this fascinating dichotomy. On the one hand, you have to be really strong, and there’s just this brute force and down and dirty process that is required,” Wainer says. “But then the outcome is something that is so delicate and refined and kind of perfect. Even though I’ve been blowing glass for 11 years, I’m still surprised. It’s a constantly evolving and challenging practice for me.”

That passion for glass really blossomed at RISD. “I had actually done some glassblowing in high school and I came to RISD saying, ‘There is no way I’m doing glass,’” says Wainer. “Like a lot of RISD students, I was accustomed to being the best in all the art classes I had ever taken, and with glass, it’s so challenging and there is a lot of failure at the beginning. But being reintroduced to glass in a RISD environment completely reignited my love affair with it as a medium. Now, looking back on it, I would never have traded my experience in the Glass Department for anything else.”

related links:
Jess Wainer Glass

Geremia Design

RISD Glass Department 

tags: alumni, entrepreneurship, Glass, interdisciplinary, partnerships + collaborations, Painting

RISD has a long history of offering Saturday and after-school classes for children and teens, as this photo from c. 1910 confirms.