It all started with a love of stones. Over 15 years ago American designer Anna Rabinowicz went in search of crystal in a tiny hamlet in the Southern part of Brazil. After 24 hours of travelling, three planes and a truck, which continuously broke down, she and her now husband reached their destination. An area with the greatest proliferation of a particular type of crystal, here Anna met local artisans with whom she continues to work.
Anna by Rablabs Cascita bowl in crystal silver
“That’s the odyssey of my story; first it’s about finding the stone that is inspiring and then it’s about finding the place that it comes from,” says Anna, who launched her company in 2002 in her grandmother’s basement in Queens. By day she was a full-time professor at Parson’s The New School for Design in New York and a designer by night. Since then, the collection has grown to over 500 designs, from products for entertaining, to desk and bathroom collections, to lighting and furniture. “I wanted to create objects from ancient precious materials that could transform people’s lives,” she says. “I wanted to create objects that people loved so much that they would never get rid of them and which they would pass on from generation to generation and keep forever. That’s my version of sustainability.”
Heritage tray in pure emerald gold
Anna’s collections feature a luxurious palette of materials, layering of semi-precious gemstones with finishing touches in opulent 24-carat gold and pure silver. They are objects that speak to the viewer immediately, encompassing a natural synthesis of modern design with the beauty of precious stones. Her innate ability to combine the old with the new stems from Anna’s unique education in art and science.
A product designer by training, Anna holds Masters degrees in Design and Engineering from Stanford University, a programme that she now teaches. “I believe that design is transformative,” she says. “You take natural materials and any other materials and with the power of design you transform them into things that can resonate with people in their lives.” The resulting design, Anna believes, is what lives on and will continue to influence all who view it.
Dual tray in Carrara gold
Anna began her career designing prosthetic knees and devices for cardiac bypass surgery, focusing once again on natural materials and biological inspiration. “I have always been interested in the intersection of science and art,” she says. Here, beautiful natural materials are used for altruistic measure – the noblest of missions. Everything for Anna starts with the stone. “I’ve fallen in love with what the stones look like when they are rough and knowing what they can look like when they are then polished and cut and transformed,” she muses. “So there are two states to the stone – the rough state and the finished state – and they are both beautiful.” One stone she’s been fascinated with since the beginning is agate, a stone formed inside ancient lava streams.
Torta cake server in rose quartz gold
“As the water rushed through the spaces left by the hardened lava minerals that had been deposited, the stones formed and that’s why each agathe stone is different,” she explains. As soon as she discovered their origin in Brazil, she booked a flight to source them herself. The same took place for the Carrera stone she used, which is found in the mountains of Northern Italy – the same quarry that Michelangelo would use for his sculptures. “There is this incredible stone called alabaster which is translucent and delightful and not to be mistaken with marble,” she adds, “And there is only one mine in Italy in Volterra, a hill town an hour outside of Tuscany, which has it.” Anna’s mission for beautiful stones continues.
Torta cake stand in crystal gold, Ita and Forma cheese set in azure silver
The mesmerising stones that Anna procures dazzle in her spring collection. “It is about contrasts – of materials, finishes, and forms,” says the designer of her latest designs. Anna focused on deliberately blending elements that seemed incompatible, to create pieces which are entirely new. Each design is imbued with the best qualities of the elements which created it.”
The collection is available for purchase at Tanagra locations throughout the Middle East, a region that Anna feels resonates greatly with her brand. “The focus on hospitality and entertaining and the focus on gifting – these are all core values of my company and core values of what I believe in,” she says. Anna’s enrapturing stones are encapsulated into modern forms – designs that she also considers “timeless.” “Modern design should still breathe and be present in one hundred years – they have the ability to transcend.”
And that’s the beauty of it and key for Anna – taking something so ancient and combining it with something so new. “I like the irony of taking something that is so old – these materials formed over millions of years – and then making them feel so young,” she adds. “I am adapting it to the present and with forms that feel very fresh.” And these new modern forms, will one day too, like Anna’s stones, be old – products with a past and a history.