An Unexpected Beginning
Jerry Helling, President and Creative Director of Bernhardt Design states, “For many years I have been fortunate to work with the most talented people regardless of their primary creative discipline, which has included: photography, fashion, graphics, set design and art. A mix of passion, commitment and a love for creating is more important to me than a design resume. These designers don’t come to the table with preconceived notions of ‘how it should be done or what isn’t possible.’ This fresh perspective often produces unique ideas and new concepts.
“Upon meeting Terry Crews, we discussed the importance of supporting emerging designers and considered how we might partner in the future to help young talent. The more we spoke, the more I was impressed by his knowledge and commitment to art and design. After researching his background, I was captivated by his keen eye for scale and proportion, and more importantly, his skills at painting and drawing. I went back to him a day later and said: ‘If we’re going to do a project together, you should channel your passion and be the designer, not merely a benefactor to someone else.’ He accepted and I would draw science fiction scenes, heroes, monsters and anything else that I could imagine. The problem was my ability never matched my imagination. I would take styrofoam pieces out of shipping boxes because of their interesting shapes and with glue, paint, and cardboard, I would create space ships! I really enjoyed feeling like I could make something out of nothing—and I still do.
“My first art award was Best of Show in an ice sculpture competition, when I created a lion out of snow. My drawings improved significantly with practice and from elementary school until high school graduation, my artwork was always featured in the school’s showcases.
“My desire was to go to the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, but football was another passion and sadly, they didn’t have a football team. Fortunately, I was awarded a summer scholarship from Chrysler to attend Interlochen Arts Camp and experienced a very competitive artistic situation for the first time. College was unaffordable, so my plan was to walk-on to a football team, earn a full-ride scholarship, and major in graphic design. Western Michigan University offered a $500 art excellence scholarship and they had a football team. I had found my collegiate home. My first job using my artistic skills in college was drawing courtroom sketches for WJRT-TV12 in Flint.
“Football and art were difficult to do simultaneously at a major university. The balancing act between the two soon required that my artistic dreams take a backseat to football. I ultimately earned a scholarship that would take care of my education and eventually led to the NFL.
“During my first NFL off-season, my passion for art reawakened. I sketched for enjoyment and loved doing logos for local rap groups and businesses. Throughout my NFL career, I found myself falling back on my artistic talent many times. I studied various illustrators, such as Drew Struzan and Norman Rockwell. I worked at a small design firm doing sketches, mock-ups, and painting animation backdrops. At the team hotels, I would set up my art table and continue to paint. My reputation grew around the NFL and I had no shortage of players contracting me to do portraits of their wives, kids, and themselves.
“When I retired from the NFL, I went to New York and presented my body of work to NFL Properties. I was seeking employment as an artist in their marketing department, but a position was not available. Subsequently, I moved to Los Angeles and attended animation classes at Associates in Art. I started to build a portfolio and submitted my work to Hanna Barbera, DreamWorks and of course, Disney. Disney loved my work and told me to continue to develop my portfolio, but alas, the days of hand drawn animation were over. I became an actor instead.
“I’ve always approached acting and drawing in the same way. The questions I ask myself are: ‘How can I make this feel real, how can I make the work tell a story and what would I like to see in this character?’ A good performance and design share the same principals. You live in ‘real.’ People see ‘real’ all the time. Acting is life with all the boring parts removed. You can say the same about great art and design.
“After years of acting, my family moved to Pasadena, home of the renowned ArtCenter College of Design. My plan was to take classes there, but my acting career had taken off and I was booked solid for years. I have always bought books and magazines on art and design, especially when on location. I am a self-proclaimed ‘font junkie’ and take pleasure using creative fonts on posters, signs, and magazines. During this time, I developed a friendship with a young ArtCenter student,
Ini Archibong. Ini and I would have long conversations about art and design. In a way I was living a industrial designer’s life vicariously through him.
“After Ini graduated, I decided to invest in this young man and give him the same support I desperately needed for my art – without having to make tackles and intercept footballs to do it. The project would consist of a light sculpture, a sofa, and two tables to complete the suite. The project was selected for exhibition at Salone Satellite at Salone del Mobile Milan. Fortunately, I was able to meet the artisan who made the sofa for the exhibition, Nolen Nui. We became good friends and he gave me a valuable insider’s view of the world of manufacturing furniture and lighting.
“Nolen Nui introduced me to Jerry Helling during ICFF. I knew of Jerry’s reputation in the design community and was thrilled to meet him, but my thrill turned to pleasant shock when he told me he saw and loved the exhibition in Milan. Shortly thereafter, Jerry asked me if I would be interested in working together. Initially, I thought he meant we would find another young designer to support, but I was completely surprised when he asked me to design a collection myself!
He knew I was an illustrator before I was a performer and recognized the intense love I have for the design community. I immediately told him yes. Now, one year, thousands of sketches, countless revisions and many sleepless nights later— my first collection is here, and a dream is fulfilled.”
Terry states, “When I began my collection, I was very aware of the significant influence of many modern contemporary designers like Corbusier, Saarinen, McCobb, Charles and Ray Eames, etc. My mind really started to expand when I began to explore fantasy elements of other cultures. Once again, I began asking questions: ‘What if Genghis Khan and Mongolian culture were still the dominant world empire?’ Greater still, ‘What if the empires of Ancient Egypt still ruled today?’
“As inspiration for the collection, I settled on ancient Egypt. I began envisioning what modern contemporary furniture would look like if Egypt was the dominant world power: ‘What would an evening in a luxurious, modern Egyptian palace look like?’ I thought about the Nile, the center and source of life at that time. Everyone wanted to be near the water and design would likely emulate properties which came from the Nile River.
“The Ibis sofa is my vision of a modern design that would reside comfortably in an ancient Egyptian palace. The outstretched wings of the Sacred Ibis are a consistent feature in the hieroglyphics and is a mainstay around the Nile River. The back of the sofa resembles the extended wings of this bird in flight. I also wanted those who sit in the sofa to have the subconscious sensation of feeling protected – like a bird protecting its young.
“The Float tables and Aire benches allude to the smooth rocks and pebbles along the shore of the Nile. I had visions of water flowing over these rocks and the soothing, ambient sound it would make. The table and bench shapes are irregular and organic, because I wanted them to appear as if they had been shaped over thousands of years.
“Lilypad represents exactly what its name suggests. The floating leaf of the water lily is culminated by a blooming lotus flower. The Egyptian sky god Horus was often depicted in ancient art sitting on the Egyptian Blue Water Lily. This image inspired the unique combination of an oval table, with a beautiful chair which appears to be a blossom rising above the table.
“The Lily Chair takes it cue from the sinuous form of the Lilypad. It features a continuous unbroken line that traces the exterior of the chair which encases a soft circular cushion much like the center of a blooming flower. The chair subtly converges from an open bloom at the top, to a perfect circle at the base.”
ABOUT TERRY CREWS
Action-movie hero, sitcom star, game show host, pitchman, former NFL player and best-selling author all describe the man that is Terry Crews.
Behind the brawn, bullets, and laughs is a renaissance man from Flint, Michigan, who, as
a teen, got his first big break after high school with an art scholarship at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. This was followed by an Art Excellence scholarship and a full-ride athletic scholarship for football at Western Michigan University, where as a star defense end, he helped lead the Broncos to a
Mid-Atlantic Conference Championship in 1988.
Expanding on his extensive background as an artist, illustrator, and his love of craftsmanship, Terry established the design house AMEN & AMEN. The company seeks out and supports creatives in the world of art, music, fashion, decor and industrial design. Initially breaking ground with menswear fashion designer Nana Boateng, the label successfully expanded to interior lighting and furnishings in 2016 with the exhibition of Ini Archibong’s The Secret Garden collection at Salon De Mobile in Milan. In 2017 he designed his first collection of furniture for Bernhardt Design.
A true definition of success, Crews’ life off-screen is as exciting and dynamic as his public persona. Crews is the caring husband of 27 years to wife Rebecca and proud father of five. Crews dedicates his free time to keeping physically fit—both in mind and body while also working with The Polaris Project, a leading non-profit organization in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
ABOUT BERNHARDT DESIGN
Bernhardt Design was founded in 1980 by the 128-year-old Bernhardt Furniture Company and continues to be a leader and innovator in furniture design and production. During the past 15 years, President Jerry Helling has assembled an extraordinary creative team that has positioned Bernhardt Design as one of the leading international design companies with a roster of talent that includes: Ross Lovegrove (London), Arik Levy (Paris), Jaime Hayon (Barcelona), Yves Béhar (San Francisco), Patrick Jouin (Paris), Fabien Baron (New York), Monica Förster (Stockholm), CuldeSac (Valencia), Suzanne Trocmé (London), Noé Duchaufour-Law- rance (Paris), Jeffrey Bernett (New York), Charles Pollock (New York), and Claudia and Harry Washington (San Salvador).