Brooklyn Designs Maker Take Over

04.30.2018

Brooklyn Designs Maker Takeover

posted on 04/30/2018 By Adrian Thompson

In just a couple of weeks, Brooklyn Designs—Brooklyn’s premiere maker design event showcasing furniture, lighting, accessories, and technology—will host thousands of visitors from designers and architects to educators and store buyers and more. The three-day show features a diverse conference program along with collective exhibits, pop-up lounges, hands-on demos, and an exciting array of products from Brooklyn’s craftspeople.

With so many brands participating in this year’s event, we at interiors+sources wanted to know more about the makers who will come together to celebrate Brooklyn’s rich design heritage and iconic style. Following our last installment, learn more below about several designers who are showing at Brooklyn Designs and what inspires their work.

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Argosy Designs

Founded in 2004 by Erik Johnson and Jen Johnson-Kuhn, Argosy Designs specializes in custom residential and commercial architectural metalwork, as well as hardware, lighting, and furniture.

interiors+sources: How did you get your start?

Erik Johnson: I grew up building and fixing things with my father. This instilled within me a deep appreciation for craftsmanship and a fascination with how things are made. Art school brought me to NYC, where I found myself utilizing the skills learned in my youth building and outfitting various lofts and studios, as well as trying my hand at some early lighting and furniture pieces. This eventually led to setting up a small shop in the basement of my Brooklyn apartment which was, in essence, the beginning of Argosy Designs.

i+s: What is your favorite thing in your working environment?

EJ: My workbench located in a corner of the machine shop.

i+s: Who has helped you realize your dreams?

EJ: My wife (and partner at Argosy Designs) has always helped with taking risks and making bold decisions.

i+s: What do you think is next for the interior design industry?

EJ: I hope there is a deepened appreciation of craftsmanship and the well-made, even as technology and manufacturing processes continue to advance.

i+s: Where can people find your goods?

EJ: For now, they will be available at argosyproductdivision.com.


Argosy Chair NarrowArgosy Disc Lamp
At Argosy’s Brooklyn facility, a select staff executes 3-D drafting and modeling, extensive welding, fabrication, machining, and specialty finishes.

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Evan Z. Crane

Brooklyn born and based, Evan Z. Crane creates modern heirloom furniture by combining the latest computer numerically controlled (CNC) technology with traditional furniture making techniques.

interiors+sources: How did you get your start?

Evan Z. Crane: I grew up in a very creative environment. I have been making art since as far back as I can remember. I studied painting and sculpture in NYC at the School of Visual Arts. In the early 2000’s I was doing large wooden carvings made from recycled NYC timbers. They were the biggest pieces of wood I could get at the time for dirt cheap. The timbers would come with mortises and tenons cut in them--periodically there would be old school carpenter symbols like runes scratched in them, evidence of decades-old woodworking. The raw timbers were very intriguing, in retrospect, probably more interesting than any of the finished sculptures. 

Someone gave me a book about Japanese joinery and I dove into the subject. The complex joints really blew my mind, functional sculpture. I started to make simple furniture. It was a totally different experience. I was using all the same principles of art--form, proportion, composition, materials--but they directly related to a physical human experience. I think realizing the connection that people could have with furniture is what sealed the deal for me. The daily physical contact could make the users’ experience intimate and powerful. Like a relic or artifact that is activated by touch.

i+s: What is your favorite thing in your working environment?

EC: I could definitely list a bunch of tools that I’ve been obsessed with lately, but honestly, the first thing that popped into my mind after reading this question was, “Windows!” I moved my shop just last year from a space with very limited natural light to a space with a huge window wall and amazing views of Brooklyn and Manhattan. It’s like I work in a penthouse apartment of a high-rise. It is such a simple thing, but I realized it’s so important to my creative process.

i+s: Do you have any rituals for getting out of a design rut?

EC: I feel a bit lucky in this regard--I really have never been in a legit rut (knock on wood). That being said, I am constantly trying to “re-raise” myself, and change things up as I design and build things. One technique that seems to feel like it works for me is to continually make fun of myself. If I see or feel like I’m getting too serious about a piece, I’ll take steps to actively mess with myself. Like eliminate a central design feature, or add a completely foreign element to the assembly. Essentially, I pull a design-judo move on myself in an effort to never find myself in the dreaded creative rut.

i+s: What do you think is next for the interior design industry?

EC: More and more 3-D printing is really driving the creative industries. People have been using computer assisted design (CAD) and computer numerically controlled design (CNC) for years now, but it still fell to the craftsman or maker to realize the rendering. Now the rendering can be realized straight from model space. As a result, designers are conceiving of extremely complex forms and the competition feels ferocious to stay relevant or “cutting edge”. I’m really interested in seeing where the technology takes us in 5-10 years.

i+s: Where can people find your goods?

EC: You can find my work on my website evanzcrane.com. It’s also represented by the great folks at WorkOf.com. Coming up, new work will be available at the TicTail.com show room in the Lower East Side starting in late May.

Evan Furniture
From couches to mirrors, all of Crane’s products are meticulously designed.

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Fitchwork

Created in 2016, Fitchwork is a collaborative design studio working across architecture, fashion, and design products that is driven by an obsession with geometry and the exploration of new technologies.

interiors+sources: How did you get your start?

Travis Fitch: As a thesis student in architecture school in 2010, I produced a project studying the design and fabrication of modular building blocks. I began with a very basic intent—adobe, concrete block—but over the course of the thesis I became obsessed with modularity, digital design, and the potential for 3D printing to radically change how we make things. Since this moment, it was in some ways inevitable that I pursue design on my own terms.

i+s: What inspires you?

TF: I primarily look to mathematics and geometry for ideas that can be reimagined in a design context. I am constantly inspired by natural systems, and especially the ways in which humans have interpreted them— for example crystallography (the study of crystal growth) or the gorgeous illustrations of Ernst Haeckel, a true cross disciplinary thinker. I also pay close attention to different creative fields, especially the architectural, fashion, and industrial design communities. It’s very important to me to keep an open mind and an interest in work outside of my experience and expertise.

i+s: What’s your favorite thing in your working environment?

TF: Other than some inspiring, creative studio-mates and my sweet and devoted pup (Charlie)? My things! I set out to design my own world, to put work out there that I couldn’t otherwise find. I love surrounding myself in my own creation—-it is very empowering. My studio is full of work—samples, failures, prototypes, and successes—which are a constant source of surprise, reflection, and delight.

i+s: What do you think is next for the interior design industry?

TF: I read about lots of technological changes on the horizon, such as the use of artificial intelligence to help people make design decisions, or the use of robotic systems to help clients realize more complex projects. However, I think the interior design industry—and the design industry as a whole—will become radically more diverse. As new tools and methods become more available and open new doors and possibilities, it seems inevitable that you will have many different styles, authors, and schools of thought. This would be a great future.

i+s: Where can people find your goods?

TF: Fitchwork.com. All of my designs are direct to consumer, and made individually to order. This is very important to me.


Before Fitchwork makes an individual order, customers have to first choose a product form, pattern it, and then select a material.

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Foundrywood

Designed by Mats Christéen, this Brooklyn-based studio produces an artisanal furniture collection that amplifies the natural beauty of organic and often reclaimed materials, all sustainably sourced.

interiors+sources: How did you get your start?

Mats Christéen: It’s been a hobby for many years, just building stuff I needed for home and for friends. One day I got an order for 21 desks for an office and Foundrywood was born. 

i+s: What is your favorite thing in your working environment?

MC: The workshop is my sanctuary. It’s like meditation although I can’t sit still. Loud music, plenty of coffee, and just creating I can’t get enough of. 

i+s: What is your favorite design era?

MC: I would have to say the 50’s-60’s, Scandinavia. It influenced me a lot.

i+s: What do you think is next for the interior design industry?

MC: I’ll leave that for the interior designers and trend setters. I keep doing what I do, learning along the way, and hopefully people like it.  

i+s: Where can people find your goods?

MC: [Online at] www.foundrywood.com or Instagram, @foundrywood.


In honor of Christéen’s Swedish heritage, collections from Foundrywood feature the pure and modern lines of Scandinavian design.

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Ot/tra

Sofia and Adam Zimmerman officially established Ot/tra in 2016, creating furniture for workplace, hospitality, and residential interiors.

interiors+sources: How did you get your start?

Ot/tra:  Since 2010 we’ve had an architecture firm, Zimmerman Workshop. We had always designed custom pieces and millwork for clients. But it was after designing a conference table for our own office that we really fell in love with the process of creating furniture. That table led to a few more designs, and from there Ot/tra (named for our children, Otto and Petra) was born.

i+s: What inspires you?

O: So much! In our everyday, watching Otto and Petra play inspires us. We’ve been blessed with kids whose favorite toys are Magnatiles (look them up!), Legos, and a well-stocked art supply cabinet. Seeing them put their imaginations to work with this “anything is possible” mentality is a constant reminder to tap into our own imaginations and silence that voice that says something can’t be done.

i+s: What is the hardest part of the creative process?

O: Taking the design concept. What works in a drawing or digital 3-D model may not work out as furniture. As an example, with our barstool we thought we had the design all figured out. But when we went to build it, we had to go through many iterations to get it right. That can be frustrating because it’s so time consuming and there’s this unknown that looms, but the reward is immense satisfaction when something works and it’s true to the original design, if not better.

i+s: Do you have any rituals for getting out of a design rut?

O: Yes. Getting outside and into nature. We love going up to Storm King Art Center, which is just over an hour outside of NYC. The mix of fresh air, wide open space, and all the sculpture and land art are so restorative and inspiring. We find that a design rut can be the symptom of just too much work and pressure, so a field trip like this is just the relief we need.

i+s: What do you think is next for the interior design industry?

O: This may be more of a hope than a prediction, we’ll see. But that’s an increased appreciation for quality and products that have soul. As with disposable, fast fashion, we shudder to think about the waste in the furniture industry—and there’s plenty of that. We’ve seen people appreciate the fact that furniture like ours is made locally and responsibly, that they can get to know the makers, and that it will last a lifetime. We hope that sort of appreciation becomes more common.

i+s: Where can people find your goods?

O: Currently, we work directly with designers and they are always welcome to come see us at our studio and workshop in Brooklyn. We also have a presence at trade shows including the Architectural Digest Design Show and BKLYN Designs. In the coming year, we hope to have representation in showrooms well beyond Brooklyn…we’ll keep you posted! 

OTTRA Elliptical Coffee TableZimmerman Workshop
Sofia and Adam Zimmerman named their business after their children, Otto and Petra, who often work and play alongside them.

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