How Dancer John Sorenson-Jolink Became One of Brooklyn's Most Exciting New Furniture Designers
Choreographer-turned-furniture designer isn't necessarily an obvious career path, but for John Sorenson-Jolink, founder of the Brooklyn-based furniture company Coil + Drift, it was a natural transition. Sorenson-Jolink moved to New York City at 17 to study dance at NYU's Tisch School for the Arts, but after eight years of performing at places like the American Repertory Ballet, Pascal Rioult Dance Theater, and Doug Elkin + Friends, he realized he wanted to broaden his professional horizons: "I wanted to create and explore a craft that was more tangible than a performance, to make something I could touch that would last a lifetime," he said in an email. Over the years he cultivated a sophisticated design aesthetic—thanks to time spent touring in Europe, where he grew to appreciate antique and heirloom furniture, as well as his life in New York, where the tiny apartments in which he lived inspired a forced minimalism—and furniture seemed like the perfect way to marry his desire for functional pieces with the grace of dance. "Because I have a specific fascination with how we all create a sense of 'home,' I gravitated toward making furniture," he said. "I love creating things that are functional and usable, and I wanted to move further away from dance than visual art or sculpture would be. I wanted to create things that people use and appreciate every day—things that serve a purpose in one's life every single day."
Sorenson-Jolink began studying woodworking in 2012 and founded Coil + Drift just a year later. All of his pieces are manufactured in Brooklyn, and Sorenson-Jolink draws on a variety of places for inspiration. "I am consistently inspired by Scandinavian and minimal, mid-century design," he said. "My designs are also very material-driven. I don't like to mask something to make it look like something else. I'd rather let the true material be the focus and explore how it relates to another substance." The clean lines and innovative mixing of materials, such as a dramatic black marble and steel coffee table and a hand-cut porcelain and brass Dome lamp, showcase not only his way with raw wood, marble and metal, but also his incredible sense of space: each piece is designed with small apartments in mind, but they would work equally well in larger areas. In the last two years, Coil + Drift has transformed from a one-man Etsy shop to a five-person operation, and in 2014 the company was a finalist in Martha Stewart's American-Made Awards. In the coming months, Sorenson-Jolink is excited to introduce new material options (like walnut) of the Soren Chair, Rex Sideboard, and Ren Table, as well as a new dining table and a midcentury-inspired daybed. But he's not stopping there. "My goal is for Coil + Drift to become a diverse lifestyle brand, offering furniture as well as other items like jewelry, lighting, kitchenware, and maybe even shoes," he said. "Within five years I'd like to open a showroom in New York City designed as a loft-style apartment. It would serve as a space to experience our items, but also as a gathering space replete with a coffee shop and library of rare books–a space where people will want to come and stay a while."