“The idea was always about us trying to create a North American stage where designers – both local and international – can express their ideas,” says Jamie Wolfond of Good Thing, the Brooklyn-based design and manufacturing company he founded in 2014, just months after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design. The startup’s first outpost, based on West Street in Greenpoint (recently relocated to the Pencil Factory), is now joined by another location in Wolfond’s hometown of Toronto, where he recently relocated and now leads product development. Acting as designer, manufacturer, and entrepreneur, Wolfond has emerged as a tastemaker with a roster of well-made, affordable products and home accessories by himself and a promising band of young designers that include Benjamin Kicic, Visibility, Studio Gorm, and Daniel Emma, among others.

Good Thing has steadily added new items each year, but the somewhat hodgepodge collection has always remained sizable and relatively lean, curated. Items including wine keys, flashlights, pitchers, and incense holders, along with dustpans to “hot dog trays,” are introduced and phased out to “respond to the market,” Wolfond explains, slyly using the words of a casual businessman. While they might not necessarily be characterized as desert-island essentials, each Good Thing item is almost assuredly an affordable and useful everyday item elevated through carefully considered design.

And their stories often interrelate: the dustpans and hot dog trays, for one, are more similar than one might expect (or, possibly, hope). Wolfond, pleased with the result of Christopher Specce’s crimp-edged Richman dustpan, made from pressed and lacquered sheet metal, wondered how the industrial metal-forming process could be used for another item. Toying with the fluted edge in various formal mockups, Wolfond and Specce eventually ended up with a small serving tray that recalls the paper boat ubiquitous in ballparks – and winkingly named it Frank.

The enterprise, now in New York and Toronto, is a lot to have accomplished in a matter of years — let alone for someone as young as Wolfond, 26 — though the Canadian designer and entrepreneur had originally set his sights further afield. As a student, he admired the modernist rigor of European and Scandinavian design, as reflected in his own playfully colorful, spare wares focused on simplicity and function. “When I graduated from school, the thought of moving to New York was actually sort of depressing,” he joked. “Because that’s not where my design idols were.”

While studying furniture design at RISD, Wolfond spent two consecutive summers interning in the Netherlands, first with the designer Maarten Baas — best known for his authorial, narrative works that straddle fine art and even theater — and DHPH, the manufacturing group that Baas ran with his business partner at the time, Bas van Herder. Working with “Baas and Bas,” as Wolfond calls them, led to the next summer internship, with the renowned designer Bertjan Pot, a friend and associate of DHPH.

“I guess the Netherlands is just the kind of place where your design heroes hang out,” he says with boyish admiration, describing how Pot’s rigorous work ethic has greatly informed his own: “Bertjan’s process is that you don’t really know where you’re going until you get there. He will sit and experiment with a material, and let that experimentation digress for anywhere from a couple months to a couple years, until it turns into something he feels is worth making. And if it doesn’t, he throws it in the garbage and moves on.”

That sort of dedicated, soup-to-nuts exposure to product design, development, and manufacturing led Wolfond to pursue a career as an independent designer. “That was, like, a year of me trying to get licensing projects through, and feeling frustrated with the opacity of the whole production and manufacturing process,” says Wolfond, who moved to New York upon graduation. When two strong leads went awry — his design for a computer desk was altered beyond recognition in the production process, and others were dropped for logistic reasons after extended delays — Wolfond decided to put two of his smaller designs into production himself, promptly listed them for sale on his website, and registered to debut them at NY NOW, a twice-yearly trade show for gifts and home accessories.

“The idea of beginning with smaller items and accessories was that there was an opening there that might not readily be there with furniture,” says Wolfond. “There were fewer companies doing everyday objects with a level of thought, and the brands that did were ready to be disrupted.” After a whirlwind few months of soliciting additional designs from friends and roommates, he rounded out a full collection, put it into production, and officially incorporated the venture as a company, Good Thing.

Among the debut designs, two by Wolfond are still in production — the Sticker Clock and the Easy Mirror, both frequent museum-store stock and priced at under $25. The designs are compactly flat-packed and require some assembly of the user, but rather than a burdensome ordeal, the assembly is fun and playfully self-reflexive. The Sticker Clock simply comes with standard clock parts and two fabric adhesives bearing the numbers 3, 6, 9, and 12, used to affix them to any wall or surface (and, for the indecisive or capricious, strong enough for up to 200 reapplications, without flaking paint). Folding back the easel leg die-cut into the minimal Easy Mirror, made from a single sheet of polished stainless-steel, renders a sculptural form that props up like a picture frame.

This spring, Good Thing made the leap to furniture, launching stools and side tables by MSDS and Chen & Kai at ICFF. Wolfond also designed an umbrella stand made from terracotta, a naturally absorbent material typically reserved for planters, but cleverly used here to wick away moisture.

Deceptively simple and composed of spare parts, each Good Thing release reads like a study in materiality and manufacturing — two core production elements that are not a means to an end, but often the starting point for considering an object’s form and design.

Text by Aileen Kwun. Photography by Charlie Shuck.

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