Nature Takes Its Course in Rosie Li’s Designs
Rosie Li’s studio, located along an industrial corridor below the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, might be likened to an unconventional modern-day greenhouse, where botanical forms—a hand-pleated copper fan palm, brushed brass laurel leaves, and gingko blossoms—come to life in sculptural lighting pieces. Here, she experiments with modern materials and industrial machinery to explore the relationship between humans and the natural world.
Li’s interest in design and sculpture took root at Rhode Island School of Design, from which she received her BFA in Furniture Design in 2011. While in school, her senior thesis, Stella, a sconce collection—inspired by and named for Frank Stella’s geometric compositions—was picked up by Jason Miller’s lighting company Roll & Hill. Shortly after graduating from RISD, Li landed her first job with Miller. Two years later, she moved onto David Stark Design where she dipped into “experiential design,” a term for large-scale event installations, that gave her the tools to better conceptualize space on a large scale.
In 2015, she officially launched her eponymous design practice Rosie Li. Since then, she has released eight unique collections, encompassing table lamps, wall sconces, chandeliers, pendants, and floor lamps—most of which dance somewhere between design and sculpture. Standouts include Laurel, a tribute to the ancient Roman symbol often worn by emperors, and Blossom, a collection of hanging light fixtures reminiscent of the flowering tree branches so common in Spring. Li’s exploration of different geometric forms is most evident in Hesse, which took inspiration from artist Eva Hesse’s structural rope installations, and laid the groundwork for the series Bubbly, an ongoing investigation of cluster formations in nature.
What is next for Rosie? “LED, maybe,” she says. But one thing is for sure, she’ll continue taking a cue from the natural world. “Nature is the best engineer,” she said over the humming of machinery. “We have a lot to learn.”