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April 03, 2021 Brands We Carry

Brands we Carry : Sun at Six

This past week from our respective homes a few members of the MINNA team including myself (Andiyah) sat down with Antares to learn more about Sun at Six. Aside from being blown away by their modern take on Traditional Chinese Joinery, it was an incredible opportunity to consider the strength, importance, and beauty in a family business and mutual passion. Just a few minutes into our meeting, it was clear that Sun at Six grew out of a shared familial dedication to traditional craft, natural and sustainable materials, and design. In this interview, Antares gives us a small glimpse into the ancient history of Chinese Joinery, makes important points on the ‘Made in China’ stereotype, and confirms that moms are cool.

How did you get started with S6?
My mom is a furniture designer, so I grew up around her drawings, in warehouses stuffed with cardboard boxes, played hide and seek 20 feet in the air on stacked tables. Growing up around it, I thought furniture was a super lame commodity, like tape or gasoline. At some point years later, it dawned on me that my mom worked a fascinating creative career, and that furniture was a desirable object of design. 

That realization changed my relationship towards my mom’s work, and put furniture in the back of my mind. As I became frustrated with all the digital design and time I spent producing work on and for screens, designing furniture moved to the forefront as a possibility. I started producing a few designs, and when those sold out, we designed more pieces and grew the line from there.  

At MINNA we believe in creating beautiful, ethically made products and using business to do good - how do these concepts relate to or inspire your process?
We use a form of traditional Chinese joinery, and work with craftsmen who specialize in this fading art form. Featuring their craft and showcasing the incredible workmanship is a huge part of why we do what we do. 

When we founded the studio, an important angle to us was to address the Made in China stereotypes rampant in the United States - the false beliefs that China only produces cheap, low quality goods. In reality, China has a deep history of incredible craftsmanship with a reputation particularly for intricate detail work, as contrasted with Japan’s minimalism. Traditional joinery, for example, has been passed down generation to generation, with many of the joints we use having been around since Ming dynasty times, and inspired the Japanese joinery so revered in the West today. 

Now, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement and covid dictating our daily lives, we’re seeing increasing racist, anti-Chinese sentiment and attacks, as well as nationalist fearmongering. If covid began in a white, English speaking country, or if a white English speaking country began to surge economically, we wouldn’t see that country as an enemy or threat, as some of the louder voices in this country are attempting to imply. If covid began in England, we’d be giving them full assistance to stop the virus and help our friends across the pond. If Australia’s economy started popping off, no doubt we’d be like, good for them, let’s collaborate and partner with them. Instead, certain outlets are sowing seeds of fear, made possible because of xenophobia and a language barrier. 

As makers featuring traditional Chinese crafts and of Chinese descent, we hope that our work can bring some humanity to Chinese stories and people, break down the idea of “China” as a monolith, and address some of the xenophobia. That, just like in the US, young people are flocking to big cities for startup jobs or just trying to make ends meet. They’re just trying to get dinner with their friends on a Saturday night in peace. 

What about your home makes it feel like home? What is a favorite memory of yours in your home?
A place becomes home for me when I commit to the space and turn it into a project. I’m constantly tuning, tweaking, adding, removing, moving things around. My home’s always in flux, evolving into wherever my head’s at. It’s no fun to finish setting up a space. 

As to favorite memories, mine are always with friends. Originally we designed Sun at Six around facilitating relationships - dining rooms for gatherings, living rooms for long hangout hours. Covid’s kind of messed that all up, but the best memories are of having friends over, cooking together, feasting, lounging the night away.

What are you reading, listening to, watching or looking at lately?
I’ve been building up a bike lately, which has been a lot of fun and something I’ve been meaning to do and learn about for years. So that’s been a lot of YouTube hours on nitty gritty like how to bottom bracket compatibility, how to install a headset. Haven’t read anything for 6 months or so, music-wise I’m listening to a lot of Chassol.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
In terms of design, I had a creative director who would tell me “eh, this doesn’t feel right.” And I’d be like what do you mean can you be more specific? And he’d say the feeling just was wrong, which was frustratingly vague. I don’t know if it’s the best advice in design I’ve received but it certainly addressed an obvious blind spot for young Antares and has guided my work since.