Interview with designer Cindy Hsu Zell of WKNDLA
We're so excited to present our first interview for the new year featuring a maker from my hometown of LA. Get to know the experimental charming designer of the modern sculptural wall hangings and jewelry line, WKNDLA-named after the designer's fave time and place. With a background in sculpture along with retail installations and display, LA-based Cindy Hsu Zell took a leap last year to pursue her passion full time. Her creations embody a minimalist aesthetic, yet a standout for the innovative fusion of different materials (textiles, wood, metal) and design techniques. Rooted in creating special pieces for her friends and family, Cindy's beautiful modern designs are treasured additions to our shop.
We love your stunning modern wall hangings! How would you describe your design approach and creative process- from design, inspiration and the formation of each collection?
I like to work organically, when I have an idea I try to make it as soon as possible because no matter what I picture in my head, the final product always ends up a little different. Usually this is because I can’t force a material to do something it doesn’t want to do so I like to get hands-on early and see where it goes. I try to have a cohesive group of materials or shapes to play with when forming a collection, such as the Small Hours collection of wall hangings inspired by different times of the day from sunrise to sunset, or Perpencircular, inspired by curves and straight lines. Right now I’m focusing on making all of the small and large-scale ideas dancing around my head without an overarching theme in mind, it’s going to be a little more experimental and one of a kind!
How did you get started in designing and crafting sculptural wall hangings and jewelry?
I created the brass, wood, and natural fiber wall hangings as favors for my wedding. I wanted to make a modern version of the good luck talisman to give to each of our guests as a token of our appreciation for them coming out to celebrate our special day with us. That’s how I started designing my wall hangings, by making each piece for a specific person in mind very close to us.
Love your design aesthetic and mixture of different elements. How do you integrate and choose the materials to use for each design?
I like to work with a very neutral color palette so mixing more texture and materials came very naturally in the design process. I love the contrast of shiny brass with raw wood. I also really enjoy incorporating different techniques into my pieces, from metalsmithing to woodworking, to spinning rope!
How have your designs evolved? What's next for your collection or any new projects?
My designs are continually changing as I find new materials to work with and develop new techniques. I’m really interested in continuing to hone in on my rope-making skills and see what kinds of interesting new shapes and combinations I can make from scratch. I really want to make some larger wall sculptures and installations this year!
Any advice for others taking a leap and starting their own business in design and creating products?
My advice is to be original and kind, always.
I know it’s so hard to choose, but what are some of your favorite pieces from your collection?
My favorite piece is called Perpencircular 002 and is made of a very large piece of rope draped over a wooden dowel. This piece is the reason I started making rope myself, because I wanted to create a 4” diameter rope from scratch. It took 8 hours alone to walk the string before I spun it and several hours to dye it indigo. It is over 4,000 strands of thread thick and uses 36,000 feet of string. I can still recall every drop of blood, sweat, and tears that went into that thing! I currently have it hanging in my studio where I don’t think I’ll ever move it.
Running a business requires a lot of time and passion for what you do- on your down time, what are your other interests, passions or activities that you enjoy?
My husband Matt and I just bought a house and I love figuring out how to decorate it. The slow process of building furniture to fill it with and finding the perfect pieces to save up for is totally addictive. We also love all food and enjoy discovering new restaurants and cooking our favorite dishes. We just got a grill so we’re obsessed with making dinner in the backyard, our favorites are ribeye steak and pizza!
Fun facts about you. Secret talents? Any irks and quirks you'd like to share?
Matt and I love to watch the Bachelor, and have watched almost every season of every show from the franchise together for the last 6 years. I love all the drama but have to admit that I also cry during every finale because I’m a hopeless romantic and believe they can actually find love on that crazy show. I also taught myself how to play the ukulele so I could play my favorite songs by Beirut.
What is your personal style or aesthetic?
My style is very comfortable, versatile, and minimal. I only wear black and grey, I can’t really help it! For my home, I also love neutrals and keeping everything very clean. I don’t think any of this is very surprising or different from the aesthetic of my art!
What are some of your favorite pieces and items you collect for you or your home?
I love trading art with other makers and they are some of my favorite pieces in my home. It is such an amazing and humbling opportunity to be able to exchange my time and energy for an object that I’ll treasure forever. I also like to collect functional souvenirs from every place I travel to that blends in with the aesthetic of my home. I like to look for things like textiles, art, and ceramics that I’ll actually use and display that has a great memory behind them of the journey!
Shop WKNDLA wall hangings
As a small business, we love to work with and support a community of emerging designers. It has been a joy to share Cindy's process and journey as she balances work, craft and life. Her organic flexible approach and respect for materials inform her stunning designs. Her advice resonates with any industry big or small and of course, in all aspects of life that "kindness" is key. The joy, support and care for her customers and community of makers are evident in what she does. Utilizing skills from woodworking to metalsmithing, she is truly one of the sweetest and versatile makers I've met. Thank you so much Cindy for taking the time to share your craft, process and personal side! And so delighted to showcase your work and support my fellow Angeleno!
Product and Studio/Home Photos courtesy of WKNDLA