A journalist once said about this acclaimed Cleveland based artist: "deconstruction and creation happen at the same time in his mind”.
Your works have a distinct refinement and subtlety– how do you ensure proportion and beauty?
I look for ways I can incorporate my design and fabricating skills into items first. I tend to use reclaimed items as materials for color or character and stay away from using them as a whole. I personally consider my furniture and lighting as art. To most people there is a line drawn with considering functional design as art.
Why in your opinion has the repurposed industrial style of furniture and design become so popular?
I like to think of it as a new genre or age of interior decor. I feel that others gravitate to the industrial aesthetic because of the new uses of the old machinery components that have hard edge lines that most people can agree with without being too decorative. Most of my works are everyday items that can be lived with. Some are meant to be statement pieces and looked at.
“I try not to question much till I come to a cross road in a design, then I reconfigure and refine.”
Your famous Pitchfork chair was made from two pitchforks (found in a Dumpster). Do you like bringing new life to the condemned?
I do. Sometimes when I am looking for inspiration I go to industrial surplus warehouses and get ideas for general shapes, lines, and movement for my lighting and furniture. I am finding myself lately to be refining my old designs that were complimented by industrial remnants into designs made from scratch.
A journalist said about you – “Deconstruction and creation happen at the same moment in his mind”??
I have a method of configuring an idea by random thought. I try not to question much till I come to a cross road in a design, then I reconfigure and refine. Over time that method has proven to pay itself off.
You started off working for your family business – what inspired you to make the jump into creating your own art?
I started out working at my family’s sheet metal shop making ductwork. That led to me being a Boilermaker working in power plants as a welder. I did that only to learn how to fabricate steel and to make enough money to buy machinery and equipment to start doing what I do now on
a larger scale. Ever since I was a kid I have done sculpture and design work to my aesthetic that I have developed. I was fortunate enough to have a clientele of people who bought my work to be able to transition into that after I was able to build my machine shop.
You once met Ralph Lauren and did not recognize him? Tell us about that
This was at the Architectural Digest home design show in NYC. Ralph and his designer were shopping there and were interested in some of my floor lamps. His designer told me that Ralph wanted to purchase a couple of floor lamps and proceeded to tell me that his client Ralph Lauren wanted them for his home. I was pleased to see that Ralph was there and got to meet him and now he’s a customer.
Your fans swarmed DESTIG DesignBuzz blog when you were featured – you have a devoted following?
Over the years people in Cleveland and the northwest have seen me develop my work and aesthetic into what some consider a “rustbelt chic” look. I have a good following of people who collect my work. Over the years it has been very humbling to attain international attention and articles written about the work I truly love to create and to be able to make a living at it. Finding a niche for my work and having a steady work ow over time has led to a lot of breakthroughs and humbling experiences. Also meeting other designer / makers and becoming friends with them have broadened my capabilities and knowledge. I feel that the best experiences have yet to come.
You have a background in metalwork – how important is it for Artists to have real hands-on experience?
I think it makes all the difference if you want to truly render your thoughts into a solid piece that’s well made. Over the years I find myself taking more time on pieces because I have a better understanding on fabricating different materials.
You supply to many leading Interior Designers – can you tell us of some of the places your works have ended up in?
Most of my work goes to customers’ homes in coastal cities like NYC and LA. I have a lot of my work in Metropolitan hotels and some work in public art. I have gotten a lot of inquiries from New Zealand, India, Japan, Hong Kong, and Germany. At the moment there are some good things brewing up in Hong Kong.
You created a limited-edition series of photos printed on old industrial blueprints. “Birds on A Wire’?
The meaning of that series was how I wanted to feel, “calm, serene and well spaced.” I felt that the Birds on wire subject would make a great background or motif for my furniture as well. I do a lot of screen-printing now, such as my “birds on wire” series and other work. I consider that
a transition from when I was painting when I was younger. The 2d imagery I am doing now is a more convenient way for me to portray my design expression.
The abundance of materials for your work is due to many closed factories and broken machinery – how is the Cleveland economy doing now?
The Cleveland economy is doing better now than ever in my opinion. A lot of the work I am doing now is custom furniture based off of work I did when I was using a lot of factory surplus from the buildings being torn down 8-10 years ago. I am doing more work that is going in Cleveland, which is nice to see. The art scene in Cleveland in my opinion is also very inspiring. There are great art districts in the city such as Gordon arts district and the 78th street studios. We also have one of the best art museums in the world.
Image Credits – Kevin Busta
Like this interview? Then why not check out the rest of our global creatives without borders in issue one of DESTIG Magazine by clicking here