Do What You Love: Simbiotek Design Lab

 Hayley Stewart and Hunter Ruthrauff

Tell me how and when everything started.
Simbiotek became an idea after we met in college. Hunter was researching a concept known as symbiosis, the close ecological relationship between two or more species, for his senior project. At the time he was most interested in how bromeliads, also known as air plants, attached themselves to large tree hosts in the cloud forest of Peru. We became fascinated with this concept and how nature holds a mathematical logic to forming biological structures. This in turn led us to form a brand which engages its viewers in products with meaning between their designs and the particular organism that inspired them.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a business owner?
We have always wanted to be our own bosses and love that our passion could lead us to creative freedom. We both remember doodling sketches and building with blocks throughout childhood which eventually led us into architecture school. This later formed into the idea of using creativity to make a living designing both objects and buildings.

SDL Charms

Where do you get your inspiration for your shop?
Biology and architecture are at the heart of Simbiotek. Many of our designs are inspired by a unique plant we see while traveling or by architectural sketches we draw while designing a building. We also draw inspiration from ancient culture and anthropology, reinterpreting traditional forms of human expression like jewelry, carving, or textile patterns into modern designs. While traveling, we often catalog images from both nature and architecture to act as a springboard of inspiration for our next project.

We generally start each project by designing an object’s basic form then adapt that form to a specific function, like a bracelet. During this process we often take the structural logic of a building or a plant and use it to define the object’s material quality, efficiency, and structure; a concept generally known as biomimcry.

What advice would you give someone considering a similar path?
Keep your day job. First, establish yourself in a larger field and gain as much experience as you can. This may lead you to similarly invested people and clients. Networking is always an important thing in business especially in a creative field and you may not know you are doing it when you meet someone new, so always leave a good first impression.

We are firm believers that if you are passionate about something in life, it is for a reason! Always allow yourself the chance to pursue the possibility of success and happiness no matter what others say. Their opinions won’t bother you if you really believe in what you’re doing.

SBL Machi Earrings

What makes your shop unique?
Our shop is unique because we do it all out of passion and would be doing it even without any other incentive. We use it as an outlet to explore what we normally would not be able to in our professional lives. We utilize cutting edge fabrication processes that support the creation of eccentric forms while using a minimal amount of material.

How would you describe your personal style?
Eclectic with a modern edge. Hayley tends to wear items that reflect her mood that day and love that clothes enable us to be whoever we want! She loves to visit secondhand shops to find unique small-scale designers that are out of the main stream. This may include wearing a bold colors or retro patterns like those her mother wore in the 70′s.
Hunter’s style is definitely laid back yet with interesting details like asymmetric zippers and expressive seam lines. He bounces between surf wear and clean cut traditional architect’s attire, like a collared shirt rolled up to the elbow and classic black pants.

SDL Necklace

What’s next for your company?
We hope to take Simbiotek to the next level in the coming year. We are currently in the process of refining what we do and how we do it so that we can offer the best items possible and grow our brand. We are currently defining what this will mean while pursuing boutiques to host our designs on the west coast and in online storefronts. We are looking forward to continuing our quest to explore the world’s cities and ecosystems while following our dreams.

Thanks to Hayley & Hunter of Simbiotek for sharing their story.

You can visit for more info!

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Author: Rose Wheeler

Hey, I'm Rose! I work with words on a daily basis as a content manager and writer. When I'm not working with my awesome clients, I enjoy cooking, yoga, styling, blogging and curling up with a good book.

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