“I feel like I’m painting with everything,” says Aviva Stanoff as we walked through her San Diego atelier several weeks ago. “My paintbrushes include rocks, textiles, natural elements and, of course, paintbrushes.” Every corner of the studio is a revelation as the different inspiration vignettes Aviva has created come into view: handmade Japanese paper platters that trick the eye into believing they are carved from stone morph to oversized wall-hangings and soulful pieces of architectural salvage that have been transformed into graceful altars.
The spiritual aspects of these draw a memory she shares of growing up surrounded by the minimalist beauty of her grandfather’s Buddhist temple in Japan. Her ability to connect intention with every act she undertakes began early when she was tasked with sweeping the gravel between the stepping stones leading to the temple. As she is telling me the story, I spy a sign that says, “Don’t stop until you’re proud” and I intuitively feel she headed those words then and has done so ever since.
This post kicks off a new Design Diary series titled “Les Ateliers,” based upon visits to designer and artisan studios around the world. I chose to start with Aviva because the authenticity with which she and her husband Victor, whom she so coyly calls her CF-No, have infused the brand is as strong as I’ve seen for a company of any size. The authenticity stems from Aviva’s creative point of view, of course, her verve evident in every vignette she creates to use as design inspiration.
“Those people who tried to bury you didn’t know you were a seed,” says a placard tacked to one of her inspiration boards. “In my defense, the moon was full and I was left unsupervised,” says another. While one angle brings sparkle, others exude patina so hard-won the pieces in it are like pledges to a by-gone time that bring greater honor to the earth now than when they were new.
I was given a peek at the products that will be debuting during High Point Market next week, but I am sworn to secrecy. Let’s just say you should definitely take the time to visit their permanent showroom in IHFC (IH606, Commerce, Floor 1). You’ll be wowed by the mix of gorgeousness they will have on view. “We come from a long line of makers,” says Aviva of her creative drive. She’s not kidding: her ancestors were making swords in Japan long before our country was a twinkle in George Washington’s eye.
It’s evident that her background is in textiles, focused initially on runway fashion, as she continues to evolve through an exploration of materials that is both inventive and playful. This makes it so fitting that her Japanese name is “Beni,” a poetic word that means scarlet or crimson, the characters that represent the letters mean “threads that connect.” I must say it was such a pleasure to visit with this seriously actualized product designer and to experience an atelier that celebrates connections between cultures, the different threads interweaving to form this company’s very DNA. The experience was just like their offerings—rich and elementally intriguing.