meet the makers | Apr 20, 2023 |
How this professional dancer launched a contemporary lighting studio

Good design can feel like a choreographic triumph, where every detail is orchestrated for an emotional effect—and few understand that dynamic as intimately as John Sorensen-Jolink, founder and principal of contemporary lighting studio Coil + Drift, nestled in New York’s Catskill Mountains.

How this professional dancer launched a contemporary lighting studio
John Sorensen-JolinkZach Hyman

Before launching his design practice in 2016, Sorensen-Jolink spent 12 years as a professional dancer, performing alongside New York’s most esteemed dancers, from Lucinda Childs and Robert Wilson to Twyla Tharp. But surveying the scene from the pinnacle of the city’s top dance troupes, Sorensen-Jolink was curious about other media.

“I remember looking around our dressing room one evening, and I knew that this was the top of the career and I wasn’t satisfied,” he tells Business of Home. “I wanted a different kind of creative outlet. Dance is very ethereal—you rehearse for months, have a performance and it’s over, which is really magical, but I was craving a practice that was more tangible.”

Sorensen-Jolink began taking woodworking classes at Brooklyn-based workshop Makeville Studio. Under the tutelage of its founder Robyn Mierzwa, he began designing increasingly sophisticated pieces of furniture, incorporating myriad joinery techniques into case goods. Five or six designs later, Sorensen-Jolink was encouraged to submit the pieces to the 2014 edition of Brooklyn Designs, a former trade show that served as a launchpad for young designers and artists—including Sorensen-Jolink.

“I got some confidence from [Brooklyn Designs],” he says. “I got projects, people asking me to design and build things for them. I built [around] 30 desks for a startup over a summer, and I was then able to rent bench space in a workshop.” Flash forward two years, and the beginnings of Coil + Drift as a fully fledged Brooklyn-based business began to take shape, so named because both words both allude to movement as well as tangible objects, like a coiled rope or driftwood.

Since its founding, Coil + Drift has evolved into a definitive lighting studio. Additionally, in 2021 Sorensen-Jolink made the decision to move the business upstate, a choice that brought all of Coil + Drift’s production in-house. In turn, operations have been significantly streamlined, and the studio has greater control over its lead times. “I have a better understanding of where each component is because it all happens in one building,” says Sorensen-Jolink. “We have systems in place where I can check the status of a part, where it is, how it’s looking. Before, that would have taken an email, maybe a follow-up phone call, and then they would send us an image from our lighting production team. It feels a lot smoother [now].”

Left: The Yama floor lamp is styled here with the June mirror Courtesy of Coil + Drift | Right: The Atlas double sconce Courtesy of Coil + Drift

Coil + Drift’s lighting designs shine with the delicacy of jewelry, but they’re hardly just accessories. Each piece possesses a sculptural drama that nods to Sorensen-Jolink’s career as a dancer—statement fixtures that take a measured yet dynamic approach to mixing materials. Take the Yama lamp series, where the lampshades err on the extreme side of shallow with a jaunty linen design; or the Atlas double sconce, with two parabolic brass shades playfully offset.

And while Coil + Drift’s repertoire has skewed in the direction of lighting, there are a few signature designs—the Soren Chair, the June Mirror and the Hover shelving system—that are firmly rooted in the studio’s ethos, and that are here to stay. “We’ve gotten a lot of recognition for the Soren dining chair,” says Sorensen-Jolink. “It has this curved-arc backrest that’s actually the profile of a full half-circle, so in the process of designing the chair I was thinking a lot about negative space, which is a concept that we in the dance world think about all the time.”

Looking ahead, Coil + Drift will be launching two new collections this year, the first major drops since the pandemic, along with an exciting activation planned for New York Design Week. Amid all the activity, Sorensen-Jolink’s thoughtful, artful approach to design weaves throughout his work, with that common thread of dance to connect each piece. “My creative impulse is definitely from dance,” he adds. “I design things as a choreographer would arrange things in space. That’s who I am.”

If you want to learn more about John Sorensen-Jolink, visit Coil + Drift’s website or Instagram.

Homepage image: Inside Coil + Drift’s studio and showroom in the Catskill Mountains | Zach Hyman

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