By Serena Brown
Asking myself where to properly store a custom fire pick in my apartment was never really a question I’d anticipated asking. However it’s exactly the mental discussion I found myself in after spending an enjoyable and informative evening at Jefferson Mack Metals.
For our most recent Third Thursday, the office was invited to participate in a blacksmithing demonstration with Jefferson in his San Francisco workshop. As a full-time blacksmith, he is dedicated to creating beautiful, unique, honest pieces, rooted in the traditional aspects of metal working. Our experience was equal parts learn by demonstration and learn by doing, as we were able to take part in creating our own metal art with the help of the talented workshop designers.
The evening began with a meet and greet over charcuterie, followed by a quick gallery tour. Jefferson Mack is known for innovative metal design, the more “out-there” the better. The small room was filled with delicate sculptures, wall pieces, and serpentine furniture. Our designers were particularly drawn to an upright pendulum, situated at the front of the garage workspace. As we admired the array of pieces, Jefferson explained the history of his practice and the different collaborations that had occurred over the years. In conjunction with Aaron Gordon Construction Inc., he hosts monthly workshops similar to the one we attended in order to allow suppliers and clients alike to get a taste of the process behind their requested pieces. He’s also worked with various artists and other creatives to forge everything from gazebos to cutlery!
Before beginning the hands-on portion of the evening, Jefferson sat us down for introductions and an explanation of the process. Then, in groups of three we began forging our fire picks. To begin, the steel metal rod was heated in one of their few furnaces to a temperature of about 2246 degrees Fahrenheit. Together with a resident blacksmith, we each hammered the tip to a point, bent it over an anvil at a 90 degree angle, shaped the handle, and added decorative twists.
Since our group was only 10 large, each interaction felt extremely individualized. I was able to spend as much time as I desired hammering, twisting, and perfecting my piece. The atmosphere was lively and comfortable, and not as hot as I’d expected! The entire process took a little over an hour, leaving plenty of time for chatting and refreshments at the conclusion of the evening.
Before departing, we were able to watch Jefferson in action, forging delicate spirals out of the hot metal with seemingly little effort at all. He also passed around a few small pieces from his gallery, and opened the floor to questions. The conversation focused around the history and background of blacksmithing, at what age each artist started, how long an apprenticeship generally lasts, and what metals they typically work with at the shop.
At around 8pm it was time to leave and we were all struck with a similar thought: Would BART or an Uber be a more appropriate mode of transportation home while carrying a newly forged fire pick? We were split on the answer.
Our experience at Jefferson Mack was warm and inviting in more ways than one and a truly beneficial experience to designers and office assistants alike! Now all that’s left is finding a fireplace or planning a company camping trip to use our new tools! We invite you to learn more about their fantastic studio and the craft that they’ve mastered on their website!
Thank you so much for having us Jefferson and we look forward to collaborating with you in the future!
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By Serena Brown
As an architectural firm, we’re always looking for new ways to expand our creativity and invite new inspiration. At our latest Third Thursday, Hope Mohr, of Hope Mohr Dance, stopped by to share her own unique creative process and offer some advice on what values we as artists could share.
A world famous choreographer, curator, writer, and Columbia Human Rights fellow, Hope has striven to deconstruct the intersection of dance and poetry, while continuously supporting her fellow artists. She pulls inspiration from other creatives around her—painters, writers, even historical buildings and their illustrious beginnings.
Hope began the session by introducing us to case studies based on two of her previous works, Stay (2015) and Precarious (2017). She familiarized us with her inspirations for both and the way she harnesses her dancer’s agency during the creative process. Creating art for art’s sake is a strong motivator for her pieces, as she isn’t afraid to bring the audience into the realm of the uncomfortable.
Photo: Hope Mohr Dance
In order to make her dances evoke the same feelings as that of a painting or work of literature, she spends months researching and preparing potential artistic influences. Her 2015 piece in particular, drew inspiration from the works of Francis Bacon and his use of saturated colors, distorted figures, and arrow motifs.
One of her goals for the performance was to force both herself and her audience to stay longer in moments of discomfort, and to incorporate uncommon silhouettes and images. She noted, to our interest, that she often choreographs her pieces without music, and has a sound engineer create the soundtrack at a later date. In this way the movements are a direct response to the physical subject matter, rather than the instruments of a song.
Photo: Hope Mohr Dance
Towards the end of the hour, Hope touched upon one of her upcoming pieces extreme lyric I and asked our staff for an architect’s point of view on using polarized light. The discussion that followed evolved into a conversation about the ‘client’ of her work, be it the audience, dancers, or even herself. When designing a building, the client is more often than not involved directly in the creative process. In her dances however, Hope was wary to identify a specific client, for her works are not entirely for the dancers nor the audiences who view them. The question of clientele holds true for any artist, who exactly is one creating for?
Our time with Hope concluded with her sharing a list of values she’s cultivated over her many years as an artist. She encouraged us to properly do our research, and to be receptive to what the work wants, rather than what we want. She also noted that what a project calls for on its surface may be different from its driving force and to never stop doubting throughout the entire process. Reaching out into the unknown is also a key point to her, as is spending time with yourself in solitude, in the “real, secret studio.”
Her advice rang true with many of our designers, who, despite a lack of dance background, could relate to and understand the unique struggles of a creative. We all hope to see Hope’s new performance extreme lyric I in October of this year and if we’re lucky enough, have her come back and speak again.
Photo: Hope Mohr Dance
Thank you for the inspiring talk Hope!
Check out Hope Mohr Dance’s upcoming performances on her Website
By Katie Paolano
Licensed architect and gifted fabricator, Matt Hutchinson of PATH, brought his technical expertise and skilled hands to the Feldman studio in February 2017. A one-man-show, PATH is a design and fabrication studio in which Matt focuses on the synthesis of both hand-crafted and machine-made works. In his presentation, Matt noted that materials come together all around us, all the time—in furniture, in everyday products, in the spaces surrounding us—and we commonly experience the hybrid of two different materials fused as one.
Matt demonstrates this solidarity along with the overlap of digital and hand craft in his VICE Table (shown below) in which the wood surface smoothly transitions into the cast aluminum tray. We were particularly fascinated by his careful attention to the idiosyncrasies and limitations of different materials—how certain woods tend to split and break, whereas aluminum shrinks during the cooling process.
On the other hand, we at Feldman were all riveted on Matt’s experiments involving two parts of a single material connected by a joint. He created different versions of node connections—able to accommodate round tube, round solid, square tube, and wood dowels. The stool below exemplifies such junction with 3D printed stainless nodes fusing stainless tube struts.
Matt closed discussion, stressing the paramount importance of experience followed closely by failure, advising Feldman designers not to expect any project to go exactly as planned the first (or even third) try. He claims to still fail all the time, but by the looks of his work however, it appears as though Matt has acquired more than skill, seamlessly creating custom furniture pieces, lamps, chandeliers and other installations to near perfection.
If we’re lucky enough, maybe we’ll score a Matt Hutchinson custom piece to showcase in one of our future projects!
Thanks for stopping by, Matt!
Check out Matt’s work at http://patharc.com/info
When you hear the name Oxgut, images of beautifully crafted, resourceful designs might not immediately come to mind. However, that is exactly what the Oakland-based startup is known for, as we learned during their visit to the Feldman office in July 2016.
The unusual name, a nod to the first fire hose made in Ancient Greece, is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the materials from which LauraLe Wunsch produces her enterprising creations. Wunsch salvages “retired” California fire hoses deemed unsafe and re-purposes them into products as practical as they are aesthetically compelling: floor mats, industrial loungers, hammocks, tote bags, and most recently a firewood carrier.
LauraLe realized the problematic reality of sending the non-biodegradable material to landfills at the end of their careers and believed in their potential to live up to high end design. The hoses, not only striking in hue and texture, each have distinctive markings and history the designer knew deserved to be honored. As if the Oxgut offerings weren’t an enticing enough concept, a portion of the Kickstarter-funded brand’s profits go directly to The Children’s Burn Foundation. Suffice to say; Wunsch left the FA team feeling both inspired, and eager to find their own ways to re-purpose unconventional materials into beautiful, useful creations.
Shop the products and find out more about the one-of-a-kind designs at https://www.oxgut.com/
We recently had the pleasure of welcoming Sonoma-USA’s Steffen Kuehr into the office for this month’s Third Thursday presentation. In addition to being married to our very own Leila, Steffen works to repurpose the materials discarded by local businesses and individuals in Sonoma County, fashioning their fabrics into singular new products, such as tote bags and cases for iPads. Sonoma-USA diverts materials from landfills, designs unique products inspired by the resources at hand, and delivers the end results back into the local community. Armed with extensive knowledge about the alarming facts concerning waste production and management in the United States, Steffen encouraged us to ”rethink waste.” He left us both inspired by his use of design as a tool to respect and restore our natural environment and dreaming of new office messenger bags…
You can read more about Sonoma-USA’s mission and process here: http://www.sonoma-usa.com/
An architect and an academic, Charles Debbas visited us in May 2016 to share a wide variety of images and projects from his successful and varied career. From the earliest project he shared, a flower shop in Berkeley, to the child care centers and preschool he designed for a community in Zimbabwe, to his forays into product design, each project he shared assumed its own identity, clearly catered to the client at hand. Yet, the driving principals behind his work – a belief in the strength of simplicity, a delight in shaping the spatial experience of users, and a commitment to creating designs that activate all human senses – stood out as common across the board. We are grateful that Charles, who has been an architect in Berkeley since 1989 and teaches at the University when not working in the studio, took some time out of his busy schedule to share his story with us.
Flower Shop, Berkeley CA
Giza Museum, Egypt, 2002
Child Care Centers/Pre-Schools, Zimbabwe, 2006