A sensitive note to the reader: Rose Greenberg, the eccentric and passionate designer of the pillows explored within the following conversation, passed away last year at the end of 2020 before this interview had the chance to reach the digital sphere. We publish this interview in honour of not only Rose’s artistry, but in remembrance of the warmth, playfulness, and dedication that she shared with us. I was lucky enough to have a chance to speak with Rose about her creative process, design philosophy, and her own understanding of her personal aura. We hope this piece helps to keep her memory alive in the best of ways.
The pillows — cozy eye candy — slip, as if by magic, from imagination into the material world where they end up on our beds or on our couches, you name it. Puffy, comb-shaped, cow-patterned, bright, swirling, and dynamic, it only takes the shortest scroll through LA-based designer Rose Greenberg’s Instagram feed to see that she’s capturing the essence of the pillows perfectly. The melting geometrics of her designs remind me of grade school bubble letters. It’s all fun, it’s all play, and it feels good. What’s a more intimate object than a pillow, anyways? I can admit, it’s something I’d never given much thought to before coming across Rose’s work, but our pillows are with us each and every night as we slip from our day into our dreams and back again. It totally deserves more of our attention.
NBGA got the chance to speak with Rose about her journey with design, her beliefs about the energy contained and expressed through objects, as well as her hopes to find more and more sustainable ways to grow her brand in the future.
“The first thing I learned to sew was a pillow,” Rose admits. It seems like pillows caught her attention early on and never let go. “But I started making pillows for real almost twenty years later. I’ve always been interested in businesses and eventually doing my own thing, like entrepreneurship. Making whatever I need. I’ve never liked having jobs. I never loved working for other people and I really, absolutely hate hierarchies. So I was just like, okay, I have to find a way to make money that doesn’t involve those things and I have to just truly believe that it’s possible. When I was in middle school, I started my first real business, which was selling vintage clothes that I bought at thrift stores. And that’s something that happens a lot now but it wasn’t very common back then. I would go shopping to thrift these clothes and my cousin would model for me. I’d post the photos on Facebook and people would actually buy them! I’d bring them to school illegally and sell them there and get cash.”
Rose’s decision to finally begin constructing pillows for real began with her own dissatisfaction, her own longing for an object more energetic and interesting.
“I moved back to LA,” she explains, “I was living in this beautiful apartment that I was so excited about decorating. But I don’t like going to shops that mass produce; for the most part I’d say I go to thrift stores, or find stuff on the street or make it myself. Or, I buy a piece that an artist friend of mine or an artist in general has made. Because the energy of a piece is really important to me. People don’t realize how the energy affects the experience of having the piece.
“I couldn’t find any pillows that had the right shape. Before I even graduated, I was doing a lot of ceramics in school. I’d made these comb-shaped ceramics and I thought to myself: This is a really fun shape. These leggy things with all these arms coming off them. I thought: This would be a really cool shape for a pillow. And I don’t think it would be that hard to make. When I graduated it was finally like, okay, I have the space. I have the need for it. It’s the perfect time to go for it. So, that’s my pillows.
Her work with pillows was born out of a personal necessity. Instead of waiting on someone else to deliver her vision to you, she pursued it herself, a drive that is feeling more and more necessary in our increasingly entrepreneurial world. “I think there is a huge gap in the industry. There are a lot of things made by artists, handmade, that are really cool but unaffordable. This is starting to change a little bit now. I think, especially with platforms like Instagram, it’s easier to sell things and have people find you.
But you can either get really expensive, beautiful special handmade pieces that you could never afford or you can go somewhere like Urban Outfitters to get more affordable pieces. But everybody has them and maybe it feels like the person who made the piece was so far removed from it. I don’t know. I don’t want to disrespect anybody’s work because somebody obviously made that piece. It wasn’t like a robot.”
It’s so interesting, thinking about a decorative object or a home/lifestyle accessory from a metaphysical level. They suddenly feel less superficial when you think about the material item and who is coming into contact with them when they’re being created. Perhaps an energy is deposited into it?
“Yes!” Rose agrees. “When I buy something, it’s not just because I want that item. It’s what it represents. It’s the person that made it and it’s me wanting a piece of their image and their energy and their life and whatever goodness they represent. Sometimes, I can’t buy or use the most accessible thing because I don’t want to represent or support that energy. Even though I just drink the water or eat the food or buy the shampoo, I feel like, no. I don’t want to. I don’t want that object in my life and in my face. That’s so important to me.”
Rose has a totally energetic curation style. When I ask her about the driving ideas behind her creations, her response comes quickly: “I like comfort. I want the pieces I create to provide a lot of joy and inspiration. Even in my own space, I want to look at my things and feel excited and full of love and full of gratitude. I’m looking at my fruit bowl right now. It’s this ceramic piece that I made and it’s really crazy. It has legs. My cutting board is a really gorgeous board that my dad made with different kinds of wood. Even the pan on my stove is a cast iron pan that I got at a flea market and I’ve had it for years and it’s been so amazing to me. I want everything I have to spark joy. I think the basic comforts in our life can still be beautiful and inspiring and provide excitement and color and freshness.”
When it comes to what’s missing from her brand, though: “I just want to find a more environmental way to go about this. I haven’t figured out a way that is both environmentally sustainable and still affordable. I’m looking for ways to do that. That’s a huge priority of mine. I also think it would be great for them to be used more as therapy pillows. I just want to make them as accessible as possible and align totally with my values.” At the time of this conversation, it was at the very beginning of the global pandemic lockdown, a beginning of a strange and stressful time for many all over the world. In terms of the effects the lockdown had on the pace of her creative life, Rose was grateful for a lot. “It’s just an adjustment. It’s really been a practice of how I can just be okay with each day. If there’s not much happening, can I be okay with that and not have to constantly produce just for the sake of producing? I feel myself growing in the stillness and becoming better at being okay with it. Accepting the discomfort. And that’s part of the journey. It doesn’t always have to be easy.”
It brings us right back to the material and energetic qualities of objects. When it comes to artistic pieces, Rose is most captivated by the energy that a piece manages to transmit. “It’s a feeling. I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for but I’ll know when I find it. That’s sort of it. It’s all energy for me. And if something has the right energy, I want it. I rarely buy things, just in general, I find it really hard to buy things. There are so few things that I both want and need and can also afford. I can wait a really long time. If I want something, I’ll want it but then I’ll sort of forget about it and just put it out into the universe. The exact right thing will eventually come to me. I have a dining room table, and it hasn’t had chairs for a year because I cannot find the right chairs. I found some amazing chairs but they were $2000. I was like, no, I’m not going to spend $2,000. And I find other chairs that are practical and affordable, but they don’t feel sexy to me. They don’t have that energy that I want. I’d rather wait.”
It’s a trait that anyone can admire, in all realms of life. Waiting for what you really want, what you really connect with, what really impresses you and delivers to you a delicious feeling. Waiting, instead of impulsively filling the void. When people enter Rose’s space, it’s her own energy imprinted around her regardless of whether it’s within an object that she herself created or has selectively chosen from another artist/designer. “I do look around my house and think, I love that and I love that. There is nothing that I hate around me. I have trust in myself in that area.”
In three words, Rose’s aura can be described as, “Vivacious. Grounded. The last one that came to mind was iridescent. It’s not colorful, even though it is colorful. There’s something magical about it.”
If you’re looking for some magic of your very own and are interested in the life contained within everyday objects, check out Rose’s online shop where you can find Cherry Lime Cheetah Squiggles, Blue Raspberry Velvet Long Combs, or a Swimming Pool Velvet Squiggle, just to name my favourites.
Thank you, Rose!
Rest in peace.