Tina Frey

Tina Frey, owner and designer of Tina Frey Designs, opens up about her journey with resin—a material so versatile that through it, she’s created a whole empire of playful objects and accessories for every room in the house.

Tina Frey evokes the same warm, cheerful energy that her products emit—it’s a very good vibe. Walking into her Montecito shop is almost a spa-like experience, with bright natural light, a welcoming spirit, and corners you just want to sink into. Every object and shape surrounding you is hand-rendered by Tina in clay, then cast in resin to create a silky, touchable surface that’s hard to resist. While resin is her primary material, she does cast a handful of pieces in metal, as well.

After 14 years in the business, she still finds endless inspiration and new iterations for her signature forms to take. From gelato spoon, to candlesticks, to stools, benches, and lamps, resin seems to know no bounds. With worldwide clients including private homeowners, hotels, and cruise liners, Tina’s version of creative play has proven to take her far.

We’re aware you once worked in the finance world…can you tell us a little bit more about your initial career and how you made the jump to a creative practice from a more traditional corporate job?

When I chose my initial career, it was more with the mindset of finding a job that provided financial security and societal expectations. It did not occur to me that doing something I truly enjoyed and was fun could also be a career since I always thought work had to be hard and challenging. My whole life I was creative and doing these things was always part of my life. At some point at the height of my finance career, I was getting promoted with fancy job titles and I realized that it was not fulfilling or making me truly happy. So I took the leap to start my own company 14 years ago. The transition was gradual since I was still consulting in finance when I first started but eventually, I was able to stop my finance work completely. I have never looked back since.

What’s some practical advice you might offer to someone looking to make the same kind of career shift?

 

You just have to trust your instincts and follow your heart. Everyone has something that they are good at and pursuing that will inevitably make you successful. You will naturally be happier, more motivated, and energized to do what you do every day. We all have fears that keep us from making that change. But you don’t want to look back later in life and regret not having tried something.

Starting your own creative practice and now running a large business with worldwide clients is a huge daily undertaking. What’s something you wish you had known when you were first starting out?

I wish I knew better how to delegate in the beginning. Initially, it can be hard since I am a bit of a perfectionist and it can be hard to let go and let someone else do things for you. But if you don’t do that, you will never get out of the details—which doing so, allows you to flourish and spend time doing the things you love and enjoy.

Your original studio is in San Francisco—what inspired or prompted you to open the flagship store in Montecito?

During the pandemic of 2020, I noticed I was really missing connecting with people. I am used to exhibiting the collections in New York, Paris, and Milan, etc. and it was a great way to show people what I had created. Since many exhibitions were cancelled or postponed during the year, I felt that the creativity that was still continuing in my studio was not reaching anyone. I also wanted to experience living in a different place for a while and Montecito is such a beautiful area. I just went with my heart and decided that since this is where we wanted to be for a while; it would be great to open up the store to continue to show my collection and collaborate with the local community of creative people also. This has been so much fun to connect with people again.

While you do include some other materials in your collections (metal, paper, etc.), most of your pieces are cast in resin. What originally drew you to this material and what keeps you motivated to continue using it?

When I was deciding what creative endeavor to pursue with the career change, I looked on my bookshelf and noticed that I already had a few books on resin since it is a material that I have always been fascinated with. I love the versatility since it can take on qualities of sea glass, marble, porcelain, terra cotta, and ceramic. Yet, the material is more versatile due to its durability, so I am able to make all sorts of things from furniture, serving pieces, vases, lighting, jewelry, and utensils. The possibilities for creativity and ideas is virtually endless. Hence, it is the material I wanted to specialize in.

You always seem to be coming up with fresh ideas for new lines and interesting products for every room of the house (and beyond). Where do you tend to draw inspiration from?

Inspiration comes from absolutely everything. I see inspiration from nature, from the way rocks or wood gets softened by the elements, to colors when I travel and see people in different cultures with colorful clothing, to architecture everywhere I go. It is all a visual feast wherever I look, and it is quite endless.

Any future plans for expanding your product line into other realms beyond tableware, home accessories, and small furnishings?

I am always looking to see how I can push the boundaries of creativity with the material and its applications. Sometimes it is in collaborations with designers and their projects, so there are always new opportunities. We recently did wall tiles for an interior designer and they look amazing! I am also daydreaming about our house renovation and seeing how I can experiment with wall treatments in resin.

What in particular has given you a jolt of creativity lately?

Believe it or not, the past 1.5 years without a lot of travel has helped create a jolt of creativity. Since there were fewer distractions and more time to spend in the studio, it allowed me to play with ideas and other materials for sculpting which has been fun.

How would you describe your approach to your personal style? How does jewelry play into that?

I am generally a minimalist but I do love to be a little quirky and different in the details. I love pops of color. Jewelry is like icing on the cake or the cherry on top where it makes the final outfit.

You have such a clean, definitive, and easily recognizable aesthetic. What advice might you give to someone looking to refine their own style—personally or creatively?

Everyone has a style that is “them” and they need to follow whatever it is that works for them. You can’t be someone else. For my own style, I like the idea of having a clean slate where you can change your look or the mood by varying the colors or accessories on the base. This also applies to how I decorate my home, since I like a neutral background and changing out accessories or colors can evoke different seasons and emotions.