It's prime season for chilled cocktails and porch parties here in Mississippi and this week, with that in mind, we are excited to share about a product and a designer we love- Andy Hilton and SwingLab. If you haven't seen the wonders of SwingLab yet, prepare to be wowed- the design is so simple and sleek, while being completely flexible as well. Read on for our recent interview with Andy, check out the demo video below and make sure to follow along with the SwingLab journey with the links at the bottom of this post!
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What exactly is SwingLab?SwingLab is both a brand and the debut product of a furniture design company. The name comes from the modern porch swing we make that is kind of the antithesis of a traditional porch swing. It has modular backrests that allow you to sort of play around with the seating arrangement.How did you get started and what was the inspiration to take the small business leap?I've been into designing and making objects in one form or another for some time. For a long time I only did commissions and one-of-a-kind pieces, but I've always been attracted to the problem solving involved in making a product. My first business was Studio2Concrete, which among other things made custom concrete countertops. As SwingLab becomes more successful I've been phasing out of the concrete work. I definitely enjoy being my own boss, but I'm always having to remind myself that I have to be my own employee. That takes discipline.How does Mississippi play a role in your business? Mississippi informs the design of SwingLab. We love our porches and swings here, so I doubt I would have even thought to approach redesigning the porch swing had I not grown up in Mississippi. Also, the materials are very much have roots in Mississippi: Cypress is a native and traditional wood here. The wood and the aluminum frame are sourced and built here in Mississippi. I'm proud that my product is American made, but I really brag about it being Made in Mississippi. What are your goals for your brand?We currently only have one product in our catalogue. We have plans to add more swing designs. I'd also like to provide more choices in woods and finishes. Manufacturing is an economy of scale, and it's been a learning experience to see how much goes into making sure that a single product can be reliably produced.What is your background?I have a degree in Industrial Design from Auburn University. While most people with that background design products for manufacturers, most of my professional experience has been designing and making things myself. This experience as a craftsman has led me to be a member of the Mississippi Craftsmen's Guild. I've recently been working towards a Civil Engineering degree at Jackson State University.Where do you find inspiration?When I approach a new problem, I like to break it down to it's most elemental parts, and start from there. For instance, in designing a new swing, I like to try and tune out conventions and preconceived ideas about what it's supposed to be, and then start sketching. I try and draw as many thumbnail sketches as possible, hopefully while drinking a lot of coffee.What do you like to do when you aren't "at the office"? My favorite thing to do in this area is explore the woods and swamps along the Pearl River, usually with my dog, Marvin.What are your favorite local places to shop and dine?Jackson is so full of great places to eat. I've really been on a big ethnic food kick with Thai food at the new Surin and Vietnamese at Saigon. Of course sometimes I like to go for an all American burger somewhere like CS's in Midtown. Koinonia Coffee House on the Metro Jackson Parkway has a blackened catfish lunch plate I can't stay away from.What are some of the reasons you call Mississippi home?I'm from Mississippi, and I have deep roots here. I lived for stint in New England, and it was amazing in its own way, but there is something about being from a place that is nationally seen as the "under dog." The more people talked down about my home, the more I stood up for it and missed it. The creative economy is critically important to Mississippi in general and Jackson in particular. There is a very supportive community around it, and I'm not sure you'd find that in many of the more populous places where people flock to. How do you think what you are doing is helping to shape your local community as well as the image of Mississippi?The vast majority of our swings ship outside of Mississippi, sometimes outside of the country. Mississippi is very traditional, and that is reflected in the aesthetic of art and design in the state. While a great deal of beautiful art and craft comes out of that tradition, I'm excited to be part of spreading the message that not everyone in Mississippi is doing things the way they've always been done.On the local level, we are proud to be a part of the burgeoning Midtown area of Jackson. We are located in a formerly vacant building, which is now humming with activity. SwingLab is also a member of the Business Association of Midtown, which helps to further support the revitalization of the area through arts and business.
Want to learn more about SwingLab? Find Andy & SwingLab in these places: