Alumnus Samuel Pawlak founded a studio that specializes in high-end furniture.
In this Nexus series, Get My Job, we interview alumni from one of the University’s 160-plus undergraduate and graduate professional programs. The latest installment features Samuel Pawlak, a 2016 graduate of Jefferson’s industrial design program and owner and founder of Livesay Ether Design Studio, which specializes in high-end, limited furniture.
How did Jefferson best prepare you to enter the field and start your own business?
Industry collaborations, namely one with Umbra for Target’s “for students, by students” project, aided my understanding of what it takes to bring something from concept stage to market successfully. Also, the ability to work freely with fiberglass my senior year instilled confidence when I decided to use the material professionally for Livesay Ether.
What was your path to land in your current position?
I always had been passionate about the fine arts and design, and I’m also a tremendous automotive geek and Formula 1 fan. I originally looked to obtain an industrial design degree so I could merge those interests and become a car designer.
However, after completing my first furniture design project freshman year, I realized I truly enjoyed designing and sculpting sleek functional forms rather than cars. After graduation, I was hired by Armstrong World Industries as a designer at their headquarters in Lancaster, Pa. Though a great design job, I still loved designing my own furniture, and I knew I always wanted to run my own business.
In my spare time and over the weekends, I began designing multiple furniture pieces as I formulated what Livesay Ether would represent as a studio and a brand. After much iterating, I chose a low coffee table set—which came to be known as Pangaea—as the first piece to launch. Designed with a heightened sense of flamboyancy and fluidity, it most clearly represented what I wanted Livesay Ether to stand for.
With a presentable prototype and ample marketing materials, I reached out to galleries and showrooms that would be a good fit for Pangaea. The production version of the piece now resides in the Wexler Gallery in Philadelphia.
Can you describe your core job responsibilities today?
At the moment, I’m focused heavily on the marketing side as my debut piece enters the public domain. But beyond marketing, I wear a plethora of hats from financial bookkeeper to furniture designer to managing outsourcing. I’m also co-founder of Ikoniqa, a Lancaster-based design agency. I’m in charge of everything from public outreach to client design work.
What are your favorite parts of your job?
Being able to bring my ideas and designs to life for a living. I also enjoy executing purposefully unorthodox marketing strategies. Whether producing a theatrical promo video, taking the furniture to an abandoned building for a photoshoot, or scripting cryptic online messages for people to follow, it’s all about creating a dark, elegant, surrealist and somewhat distorted aesthetic of what Livesay Ether truly represents.
What’s your one piece of advice for students considering entering this major, as well as for recent graduates looking to start their own businesses?
For students considering industrial design, know that you can—and should—tailor this major to your personal interests. Come graduation, you want a portfolio that represents you and what you love to design. And since Jefferson offers many industry collaborations, you will get a great feel for what you do (and don’t) like, how the business works, and how best to position yourself in the market.
For recent graduates, make connections as soon as possible—lots of them. Ask them about their own success, their business and the industry. You’d be surprised at how outgoing and helpful others can be when you’re just starting out. And best of all, those same genuine connections you make in the beginning can be the same ones that help you grow your business years later.