Maker Monday: An ASPIRE Exclusive Interview With Rachel Dacks

When becoming a first-time parent, there’s so much research one could do to find the best choice of furniture for your children. Thanks to Rachel Dacks, the Head of Product Development & Design at Storkcraft, we are able to purchase incredible, handcrafted pieces that will last for more than one kiddo. She believes that, at its core, all furniture (not just childrens’) should strive to be sustainable, durable, and aesthetically pleasing. Storkcraft has been featured in major publications such as Homes and Gardens and Furniture Today, and you can find them in major retailers such as Target and Kohl’s. Introducing this week’s Maker Monday, Rachel Dacks of Storkcraft.

Andrew Joseph: Describe your design style as if you were explaining it to someone who cannot see.
Rachel Dacks: I’d summarize my design style as “modernist, influenced by historical profiles and details,” so, basically, classical modernism. I was educated as a furniture designer in the atelier style, so I have training in—and appreciation for—the traditional aspects of furniture design. But the type of work that is representative of my taste is clean, functionally driven, and influenced by human interaction – with scales and proportions based on comfort. When I design, I think primarily about long-term, functional use of the product – will this have a long-lasting appearance in the home? Is it something that the owner will be proud of? Does it contain overtones of history, architectural details, and elements that reference craftsmanship of the “handmade” style?

Andrew: What is something you hope to see trending in design in the future?
Rachel: Design should not be disposable – products should not be designed for one-time use, but rather to live a long and useful life. With my own design style and mentality, it’s all about long-term use, and the harmony of function, style, historical craftsmanship, and architectural details.

Andrew: If you weren’t a designer, you’d be a ….?
Rachel: When I received the results from my high school aptitude test, I scored completely in the middle of the left and right brain. Every career recommendation that arose from the test was completely contradictory. So, according to the test, I was well-suited to be both a floral designer and military servicewomen. Being a designer allows me to utilize my talents on both ends of the spectrum – not only a focus on the creative, but also on adhering to the appropriate costing and materials to bring my creations to life.

Andrew: What’s one thing people don’t know about you?
Rachel: My first job was a carnival barker. Between the ages of 16 and 20, I ran games and exhibitions at the Canadian National Exhibition. Whac-A-Mole, derby games, pitching against the cans – I did it all, and learned the tricks behind each derby game.

Andrew: How would you define your work in three words?
Rachel: Considered. Contextual. Human-centered. See how I utilized the hyphen on the last one?

Andrew: What’s inspiring you in life (in the industry) right now?
Rachel: The entire “work from home” trend that has emerged from the pandemic has given me a new perspective on the balance of life. Working from home has given me the opportunity to set boundaries, forced me to understand balance, and challenge me to consider what’s important in life. Right now, everybody is living in their home environment in a different way. I think people are understanding balance better – and understanding that “work life” should not overtake “home life”. We should be melding the two in a way that’s healthy – having a healthy place to work from, getting up and moving around, and having the freedom of choice for how to spend your workday. In fact, the lessons I’m gleaning from the “work from home” shift are not only inspiring my life, but also my work. As a designer within the nursery and children’s furniture sector, I’m considering design aspects that ask the questions, “Where is mom able to put her baby down safely?” and “How is mom able to accomplish everything while at home, and dealing with an infant at the same time?” When picking up my pencil to design, I ask myself, “How can we support mom to get moments of self-care, and a level of safety and security?” I think this pandemic will have a lasting effect on all furniture designers, and force us to think more about long-term use and functionality of pieces in the home.

About The Maker | Hard work has never phased Rachel Dacks. It’s in her bones–whether she’s raising her children, designing, woodworking, or throwing down at the crossfit gym. She’s never shied away from a little sweat, blood, or tears. (And there’s a lot of all of them!) That’s why she is a pioneer in the Craft Woodworking space – a rare female voice in the children’s furniture industry.

Rachel was one of the early female graduates of the School for American Crafts at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), earning her BFA in Woodworking & Furniture Design. She then went on to earn her MFA in Furniture Design from Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), one of the most prestigious design schools in the world. With an extensive career in the juvenile furniture industry, she has led projects for major brands at Target, Summer Infant, Good Baby, Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, and Walmart.

Andrew Joseph is a regular contributing editor for ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine. See more of his work here.

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