For a slip of a woman, Carol Catalano’s life is writ large. She founded Catalano Design in 1987 and since has produced award-winning work for a variety of clients in a range of industries, from professional knives to car and home electronics to the Capelli stool (pictured above) for Herman Miller, which won silver in both The International Furniture Design Competition Asahikawa in 1999 in Japan and the IDEA award in 2002. While she loves learning about the industries she designs for, “now the first thing I think about in any project is how I can simplify and enrich people’s lives.”
Her own life may not be simple, but it is certainly rich and active. She windsurfs and skate-skis (who knew?), and practices lyengar yoga. She loves cooking and good food and is about to send her 18-year-old twins off to college in the fall.
Here are 7 questions for Carol Catalano:
1. What are you working on right now?
I just finished a line of knives for people with arthritis. The knives are manufactured in Massachusetts by Dexter Russell. Before starting the design process we conducted extensive research with arthritis sufferers, which helped us really understand their needs. Currently I am working on a display for Zildjian, the cymbal manufacturer, a metronome for D’Addario and a chair for Geiger International.
I’ve also been collaborating with my husband, who is an architect, on a LEED for Homes addition to our house on Cape Cod. This has involved lots of research on sustainable technologies, processes, and materials. The project will include passive solar, photovoltaic panels for electricity, a solar hot water collector, a rainwater collection system for irrigation, and eventually a vertical axis wind turbine that will mount on our roof.
2. Which of your products are you most proud of?
I am very proud of the Capelli stool for Herman Miller. It came about during a time when I was working on a long, tedious, engineering focused project. By contrast the Capelli stool provided an outlet where I could focus on something creative and much more free of constraints.
3. What inspires you? Where do you go for inspiration?
For me, inspiration comes when I can be completely in the moment, and I’m able to let everything else go. For instance, I am an avid windsurfer, which can require complete concentration, and frequently this is when ideas for projects that I am working on will come to me. Observing the way nature solves problems is another source of inspiration that I draw on. I love exploring new processes and materials, and experimenting with ideas that grow from that exposure. I’m always looking for ways to cross-pollinate ideas from one industry to another.
4. What work do you most admire by another designer or artist?
I am fascinated with the work of sculptor Anish Kapoor. His experimentation with surface tension and positive and negative space forces me to think differently about our three-dimensional world. I especially enjoyed his installation “Memory” at the Guggenheim in NYC.
5. What would be your dream projects?
My dream project would involve designing a product or system that supports and improves one’s health and well being, makes true advances in sustainability, is beautiful to look at and be around, and is something people would want in their lives.
6. What place in the world would you most like to visit?
Rapa Nui (one of the Easter Islands). Basically, I am interested in traveling anywhere that I can experience indigenous culture and food.
7. What one thing do you want to accomplish before you die?
To have a farm by the ocean where I could grow vegetables and raise chickens, cows and pigs. The farm would have a brick oven for making bread and pizza and a cheese cave where I could make and age my own cheese. Most importantly, it would be a place where people would gather to talk, design, share, and connect with others all while eating delicious local food.