You might call Anna Rabinowicz a “Jack of all trades”… and that would be an appropriate title. The Stanford-educated engineer, design professor, and product designer wears many hats. However the most notable one might be running ANNA New York, the home accessories brand she founded in 2002.
Indeed a “family business,” Anna Rabinowicz started the company out of her grandmother’s basement in Queens, New York. At inception, Anna’s grandmother and mother helped out by, for example, putting the small rubber feet on the bottom of the agate gemstone coasters. After Anna’s grandmother passed away, Anna’s young daughter began helping with design development.
Rabinowicz’s tenacity has helped her to navigate difficult environments. As an older engineering student, she was the only female both in her class and in the machine shop. To give herself inner-strength, she wore a red satin cape to math exams. The designer focused on biologically-inspired designs and turned this into her area of research. Some time later, Rabinowicz earned the title of Professor of Design.
Following graduation, Rabinowicz continued her interest in biomorphic design by designing prosthetic knees and devices for cardiac surgery. Her interest in “naturally-inspired” designs set the path for her to found ANNA New York. Continuing to celebrate women throughout the world who pursue their passion and stand up for their rights; the company remains and will remain women-run.
Obsessed with nature, the materials Rabinowicz most frequently uses are: glass, metal, and stone. The thought behind using solely primary materials is that they last forever. Formerly having designed cell phones, Rabinowicz realizes the importance of working with “real materials.” Unlike plastics and electronics which do not yellow or rot, some of these stones were formed over 1 million years ago.
Gemstones have been a fascination since the designer’s childhood. She says (courtesy or Surface Magazine), “My attraction to gemstones comes from childhood. My father, who was a pediatric ophthalmologist, collected fountain pens and all kinds of beautiful things. We both really liked stones, so on the weekends in Detroit we’d go to gem shows together and buy pieces of stones. I had a cabinet with all kinds of little drawers that contained gemstones. I rediscovered Agate on a trip to Yosemite many years later, and I went to my parents’ house afterwards and found the same stone in one of the drawers. There was an intrinsic connection to my past, my love of luminous gemstones, and the love of my father. Much of my work involves connections to my past, to people that I have loved, and to their interests.”
Since ANNA New York is all about geodes and natural materials, there is a lot of research that goes into the inspirations that affects the design process. For example, Rabinowicz conducted studies on the hexagonal crystals that grow in Brazil and on the crystals’ formations. She developed a categorization system of the crystals in order to map out the way they grow. From there, she created a design that essentially showed crystals growing up the sides of household objects such as bowls and candlesticks.
Biomorphic inspiration is what the company is based upon. However even though these events are naturally-occurring in nature, there is plenty of research that must be done in order to replicate the process.
When Rabinowicz selects a new material to work with, she pinpoints the region it is from and boards a plane to find the right artisans to collaborate with. Her first opportunity to do this was to going to Brazil so that she could source her beloved agate.
Recently, the designer took a jaunt to Dubai because she wanted an opportunity to learn about the region. She sought inspiration and desired a new place from which to source materials for future collections. She says (courtesy of In Lifestyle), “I’m here to meet people, to understand what their lives are like, what their needs are, so I can better design for them.”