We had the good fortune of connecting with Rebekah Thornhill and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rebekah, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
Something that I’ve only come to learn was such a big influence was my elementary school art program in Florida. It was an absolutely off-the-charts amazing program. It was the first time I got to try a wide range of techniques and materials. I remember marbleizing paper, throwing clay on a wheel, and using oil pastels. We always spent time exploring how each technique worked, artists who use it, and then were able to try it ourselves to make a particular project. At the time everything about it seemed normal, but now I realize that not a lot of other elementary schools will willingly hand kids cans of spray paint to get us to explore stenciling and gradients on t-shirts or take kids to a Keith Haring exhibit in the early 90s. Somehow they also arranged for us to visit William Wegman’s studio space, which was a great example of a successful artist at work. It was an experience that overall helped to build my confidence to try new things while giving a solid foundation of art and materials. Unfortunately a few years after I left the art program was cut completely.
I also had multiple experiences that encourage exploration and critical thinking. I was involved in science fairs and in high school attended a residential science program at the University of Florida. It both helped me to work more independently and to work towards solutions.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
R+D is centered around digital fabrication using sustainable resources. Our primary brand, Kitsch, Please, is bold, colorful, and original 3D printed jewelry. It is made in NYC and printed with plant-based materials.
From the outside, R+D is about having fun: We use a lot of puns in our product names and social media posts. We want people to be able to find something that is affordable and unique to give as a gift to brighten someone’s day, add an accessory that makes them feel unstoppable, or be able to inspire someone to think differently about sustainability and manufacturing.
Behind the scenes, we’re quite serious about our commitments: to getting the details right, to the environment, and to our community. We take time to carefully design and craft our products that make for pieces people want to wear and use forever. We opt for raw materials that are better for the environment and our customers. And we firmly believe in community over competition (we’re apart of multiple local collectives and membership groups and even serve on the board of one of them).
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in Sunnyside, Queens, a unique little enclave of New York City. Simply strolling through our tree lined streets and historic garden district is a lovely way to spend some time, but there is so much more in the neighborhood. I can’t resist taking friends to some of my favorite restaurants: The Alcove for craft beer and delicious food or right across the street to Sanger Hall for comfort food and cocktails. We might even venture further for Cemitas El Tigre’s fish tacos (but you can’t go wrong anywhere on their menu) or to Bolivian Llama Party for the bbq jackfruit sandwich. If we’re looking for a sweet add on, we’ll be checking the daily menu at Chip NYC to see if our favorites have made the list. We can stop in for some shopping at Bliss by Violet’s Volition or any number of local pop-up markets too. The next day we can find brunch at The Lowery and head towards the waterfront for the best views of Manhattan and an entirely different (but still extensive) list of places to visit., eat, and enjoy.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
While I work alone, I owe a lot to my spouse, the D in R+D. He will help sift through a pile of corn in the grocery when I say that I want the most photogenic ear for social media. He will nod along as I ramble about my thought process or the minute changes I coded on my website. And he lives with jewelry and supplies pretty much everywhere. He is a great support and can sometimes even be found in the booth at different markets. His top task: helping to write the puns that identify R+D products.