Archive for Monday, May 18, 2009

Art and Craft alive and well in American design

May 18, 2009

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At this spring’s Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York, technological marvels were everywhere. “Green” appliances; high-tech kitchens; clever ways to integrate, hide or otherwise disguise the working components of our homes.

But equally remarkable was a resurgence of craftsmanship.

Whether they chose wood, metal or glass, a new generation of skilled artisans stole the show floor with pieces that demonstrated understanding and respect for the materials. Grains weren’t just revealed, they were celebrated. The natural contour of a tree became the profile of a headboard or a dining table. Veneers and inlays married different woods in unique ways. Steel was melded into elegant cabinetry, rubbed to a soft patina. And what was once a slurry of silica became a glass vessel, or richly colored wall art.

In an era when we expect and accept that mass-produced products will fill our homes, a niche exists for those who craft and want pieces made with a skilled, slow hand.

Tyler Hays, founder of the Brooklyn, N.Y., furniture concern BDDW, says he likes making simple, purposeful things “that will withstand the test of time aesthetically, and physically.” His tables are crafted of white oak, maple or walnut, many of them finished with a bronze base.

Baltimore-based Jonathan Maxwell forges steel, brass and aluminum, much of it recycled, into cabinets, tables and lamps. While working as a projectionist in a movie theater after getting his bachelor’s degree in fine arts, Maxwell became fascinated with lost architecture and the decline of industrialization.

“I realized that if I combined my art background with the ideas I had for furniture, I could make some very intriguing and unique pieces,” he says. Muscular yet sophisticated, the pieces have an Art Deco feel, but Maxwell brings them right into the 21st century.

Richard Parrish, an architect and designer in Bozeman, Mont., kiln-fuses crushed and powdered glass and metallic fibers into warmly hued glasswork. The finished pieces of furniture, panels, windows and other objects have won recognition from the Corning Glass Museum’s publication “New Glass Review,” and the American Craft Council. His installations can be seen at the Denver Children’s Hospital and the Bozeman Public Library.

“I’m fascinated by the constructed and the natural. I find inspiration in both the human-made environment, and the landscape of the American West,” he says.

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