Here in RI | Design Catalysts

A 2020 Providence Design Catalyst winner, Rue Sakayama 06 FAV

DESIGNxRI, a Providence-based design advocacy nonprofit, is helping to advance 11 more design businesses this year via the Providence Design Catalyst program it launched in 2015. Seven of the entrepreneurs who have earned funding and mentorship opportunities for 2020 are RISD alums and/or faculty members.

During the five-month program, awardees receive grants of $10,000–20,000, participate in business training workshops and work one-on-one with mentors who help them set and meet business goals.

Hydroponic soilless gardening system by Westen Johnson 19 ID and Julie Joo 19 ID
The hydroponic Soilless gardening system uses 90% less water than traditional growing methods.

The youngest members of this year’s cohort are Westen Johnson 19 ID and Julie Joo 19 ID, who just graduated last spring. The two Industrial Design majors launched Soilless LLC during their senior year at RISD, offering an affordable, vertically oriented indoor gardening system that uses hydroponics to allow vegetables to grow quickly with little water.

The goal, say the environmental self-starters, is to “empower users to grow fresh, healthy food right in their own homes.”

Savannah Barkley MFA 17 DM sewing
Savannah Barkley MFA 17 DM offers handmade and upcycled goods through Sir Milky Quartz.

Entrepreneurs Savannah Barkley MFA 17 DM, Margaret Hinge 11 JM and Rue Sakayama 06 FAV are also looking forward to building their business skills in support of their creative endeavors.

Barkley’s venture—Sir Milky Quartz—offers a wonderfully quirky collection of handmade, upcycled and vintage accessories and home goods that are sustainably and thoughtfully procured.

Ring by Margaret Hinge 11 JM
Jewelry maker Margaret Hinge 11 JM is inspired by the natural world.

As a jewelry maker, Hinge draws inspiration from nature, creating one-of-a-kind pieces made of stones, feathers and metal. “I took a glass-carving class at RISD and realized that I could use the same techniques with stone,” she says.

Working primarily in the realm of the visual arts is photographer, textiles artist and clothing designer Rue Sakayama, who “translates vision to image across materials and practice, always recognizing beauty and ready to create in response.”

Kids play with Cardkits, by Anther Kiley MFA 13 GD
The elaborate paper cities Anther Kiley MFA 13 GD built as a child inspired him to create Cardkits.

Current and former Graphic Design faculty members Anther Kiley MFA 13 GD and Lara Henderson were also selected for the 2020 program, Kiley for his build-it-yourself Cardkits paper toys and Henderson in support of her aptly named bookmaking business Make Books.

Kiley made a splash last fall at the RISD Craft sales exhibition, where he earned the Emerging Artist Award and found a great response to his new product.

Tables filled with Anther Kiley MFA 13 GD's build-it-yourself Cardkits paper toys

“The quality of design businesses in our city is impressive,” says DESIGNxRI Executive Director Lisa Carnevale. “We are excited to work with this group of designers to advance their business growth and impact.”

Simone Solondz

January 27, 2020