Access Art: Elisa Valentine Transforms Words, Images and The Natural World Into Painting

by Laura Goldstein

Elisa Valentine of Studio Valentine is a Renaissance woman. A former casting associate for film and television (Stargate, Elf,) she is one of those rare people who combines both the cerebral process of composing the written word with the emotional expression of painting.

Some of her earliest memories of growing up in Vancouver were running through rows of raspberries on her parents’ property and to this day, immersing herself in the sensory lushness of the West Coast. Valentine brings her unique interpretations of the natural world to the inaugural Artist-in-Residence interactive programme presented by SwitzerCultCreative the first Saturday of each month from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. beginning May 4th to August (tba.) The final date will tie-in with The Armoury Design District’s summer celebration.

Entitled Access Art, “It’s a very inviting look into an artistic process, and designed to bring clientele closer to the artistic process,” Valentine explains. Closer indeed, as she will set up her easel in the window of the SwitzerCultCreative showroom, one of British Columbia’s foremost supporters of local, Canadian and international furniture, pottery, glass and lighting.

“Since opening our SwitzerCultCreative showroom in 2015, we strive to champion the exceptional talents of Canadian craftspeople especially those from the Pacific Northwest,” says founder/partner, Renee Switzer.“ Elisa Valentine is a Vancouver – based artist who brought us the idea of hosting an Artist-in-Residence programme in our space. We look forward to welcoming Elisa and the public to our showroom over the spring and summer for these special events.”

Fascinated with texture, Valentine wields her brush using built-up acrylics on raw canvas giving the impression of 3-dimensional gesso. She also employs the use of charcoal, ink and sometimes found objects in nature. “I see painting as the sensory poetry of nature,” she rhapsodizes.

Her popular Valentine’s Letters series was created using custom-made woodblocks in the style of old typewriter fonts. Using graphic design techniques, she illuminates each letter with botanical imagery then applies them to a variety of merchandise including stationery, notebooks and totes.  A portion of those sales supports charitable organizations dedicated to literacy and the arts for children.

Inspired by a photograph of beach sand covered in frost by Vancouver professional photographer, Josh Neufeld, Valentine penned a short story and sent it off to him. “A few months later he contacted me and suggested we collaborate on a book,” says Valentine of the serendipitous partnership. the nature of She is a metaphorical contemplation of Mother Nature and the feminine explored through photography, poetry and short story.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Valentine also conducts pen & paint workshops at The Museum of Vancouver that combine en plein air painting with the creation of a story or poem. “I find it’s a wonderful tool for storytelling because painting evokes our memories,” she explains.

SwitzerCultCreative kicks-off the first Access Art event on Saturday, May 4th with Engage With the Artist and an opportunity to meet Elisa Valentine as she works on a large scale painting.

June 8th The Colour of Your Letters: Elisa invites clients and walk-ins to choose a woodblock printed letter from her alphabet series and choice of three acrylic colours for a one-of-a-kind-commission on canvas.

July 6th pen & paint: will welcome the summer season with a mini workshop in which clientele will spend a few hours exploring their untapped creativity through the application of writing & painting. All materials will be included. NOTE: Only 8 pre-reserved spots are available.

August date (tba) to coincide with The Armoury Design District’s Summer Celebration

SwitzerCultCreative Unit 102-1636 West 2nd Avenue, is located in The Armoury Design District, Vancouver (604) 736-3020

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German Aguirre: Storytelling and Spiritual Symbiosis Bring Artist and Nature Together

Photography: Albert Law

by Laura Goldstein

A rotating conical pendulum of burnt wood and gold leaf is a mechanical embodiment of a Japanese dry sand Zen Garden; intricate patterns of seeds on furniture tabletops recall swirling Tibetan Mandalas and a Brazilian amethyst sculpture is an ageless geological wonder. In the hands of sculptor and furniture designer German Aguirre of German Aguirre Atelier, they are as contemplative as they are beautiful.

Photography: Albert Law

“As a child growing up in Lima, Peru, my mother’s and grandmother’s antique store was an endless playground of lampshades and pieces of things to build with. I’ve always been mechanically minded,” laughs Aguirre from his studio in West Vancouver. “But it was my gap year as a guide in the Amazon that changed my whole world. I admired the artists of Peru and their use of stones, wood, engravings and natural elements,” he explains. “I want to tell a story through my pieces but with a modern interpretation.”

Originally trained in visual arts and design at the University of New South Wales  Sydney, Australia and in product design at The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, the intrepid world traveller moved to New York after graduation. There he worked on collaborative projects including Hugo Boss fragrances, Bose SoundWear and a 3D printer concept at Aruliden NYC. When he and his wife decided to re-locate to Tucson, Arizona for her work in 2015,  Aguirre became mesmerized by the natural landscape, gemstones and minerals native to the area. “I wanted to tell a story on a more mentally conscious level that was more meaningful to me,” he explains about making the transition from product design to sculpture and furniture.

Photography: Albert Law

His Seed Line Collection of tables, ingenious Lazy Susans and wall-mount art are created with native seeds of Peru; huayruros, quionoa, chia, shihuahuaco seeds, black beans and shells. They are inlaid in colourful and meticulously patterned layers of eco-friendly, water resistant resin. “I love working with ash and charred wood although birch plywood is usually what I use to build the tables,” he explains. Having drawn out his patterns by hand first, Aguirre then projects them onto the tabletops, and like a surgeon using the most delicate of instruments, begins the time-consuming process of placing thousands of seeds, one at a time to form the intricate patterns.

Although designed for interiors, the tables can be used in an outdoor covered setting.

Photography: German Aguirre

It’s truly a labour of love for Aguirre who is completing a custom dining table for American singer/songwriter, Kelly Levesque and her husband, Canadian, Fraser Walters, a former member of The Tenors an a cappella group, for their getaway home in Kauai. “In this piece I’m symbolizing how the power of their music can shape mountains like the majestic Napali Coast along Kauai’s North Shore. Together they create this world around them through their passion, love, talent and creativity to ensure a safe and nurturing space for their family of five. This I represented by a five-petal flower which is the shape Venus, the Earth and the Sun create with their orbits,” Aguirre explains. Embedding huayruros, quinoa, black sesame and black beluga lentils into the design, the tabletop shimmers with colours derived from carnelian, malachite, turquoise, rose quartz and azurite semi precious minerals and crystals.

With a passion to reinterpret gemstones in new and exciting ways, Aguirre’s mineral sculptures, like the egg-like Gaia’s Womb in which a stunning citrine geode metaphorically symbolizes the gestation of life, appears to defy gravity within it’s wooden frame.  

A selection of German Aguirre’s pieces are available at SwitzerCultCreative, Unit 102-1636 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver.

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Living Design: Danielle Trofe Transforms Lighting Through Mushroom Mycelium

MushLume Hemi Pendants illuminate The Riverhouse Suite in the newly opened luxe 1Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in NYC /Photo courtesy Danielle Trofe Design

By Laura Goldstein

If you watched the award-winning documentary, Fantastic Fungi on Netflix you know about the incredible communicative and medicinal properties of mushrooms and their mycelium roots. Brooklyn-based biodesigner, Danielle Trofe of Danielle Trofe Design has taken this ecological phenomenon another step further by working with living organisms to produce contemporary, organic and sustainable lighting.

Biodesigner, Danielle Trofe of Danielle Trofe Design/photo courtesy Danielle Trofe Design

“From architecture to business management to product design, ‘biomimicry’ looks to nature’s evolved patterns and strategies to help solve human challenges,” explains Trofe from her Brooklyn studio. With degrees in Marketing, Biomimicry and Design, and teaching at The Pratt Institute and Parsons The New School, Trofe has parlayed all her specialties with a love of nature into the new realm of biotechnology.

“I originally got in touch with an American company, Ecovative who were creating substitutes for styrofoam packaging using ‘mushroom packaging,’ as it’s called. By allowing the mycelium to grow around clean agricultural waste such as hemp, corn stalks or husks, over a few days, the fungus fibres bind the waste together, forming a solid shape,” she explains . 

MushLume Hemi and Linear Pendants over a kitchen island. Photo courtesy of Danielle Trofe Design

This process sparked her ingenious lighting application to design 3D printed lampshade molds then pack them with the same natural materials then injecting mycelium, that grows very quickly over four to ten days. Everything is then mulched together to create each lampshade’s form.

The MushLume Stagger Chandelier/Photo courtesy of Danielle Trofe Design

“Grown in a lab, the mycelium product is very sustainable and there are no off-gases or leeching into the earth,” says Trofe.

In 2013 she launched her prototypes at New York Design Week and the Mushlume Lighting Collection received an enthusiastic response.

Light and velvety to the touch, Trofe has also experimented with adding colour to her lampshades. “The mycelium was eating the dye! ” she laughs, “so for now I’m staying with the natural, white colour.” 

The MushLume Hemi Pendant is available in two diameters – 24” and 18” and three different metal hardware options of powder-coated black, white and polished brass. 

The sensuous curves of the textured MushLume Trumpet Pendant is contrasted with a smooth, hand -turned wood stem and brass hardware. And the MushLume Stagger Chandelier (available in several permutations ) and MushLume Linear Chandelier,) is an elegant, sculptural addition to a hallway or over a dining table. Trofe has also designed variations in the form of  single and double wall sconces.

Her very cool residential and commercial collaborations include restaurants and boutiques.  Mushlume Lighting Lampshades and Pendants adorn the Westley Calgary, Alberta Downtown Tapestry Collection by Hilton and The Riverhouse Suite in the newly opened luxe 1Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in NYC.

MushLume Hemi Pendants are part of the Westley Calgary Downtown Tapestry Collection by Hilton/Photo courtesy Danielle Trofe Design

Like Trofe, more and more fashion and textile industries are starting to embrace eco-friendly solutions to traditional product manufacturing through biofabrication using seaweed (seacell,) pineapple skins and cocona fabric made from coconut husks.

“We’re on the brink of a materials revolution and I think that will significantly change the way we live,” Trofe affirms.

Danielle Trofe Design lighting is available at SwitzerCultCreative, Unit 102-1636 West 2nd Avenue,Vancouver.

Posted in Contemporary, Design Community, Design Competition, Designer Showroom, Interior Design, Interior Design Show, Interior Design Showroom, Lighting, Modern, Sustainable Home Furniture | Leave a comment

Aqua Creations – Drama In Motion

by Laura Goldstein

Appearing to sway seductively by imaginary water currents Aqua Creations’ Morning Glory Floor Lamp is positioned precariously like an ancient stalagmite in a cave at Beit Gurvin National Park. It’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site in Israel. “This was an amazing set-up and shoot in celebration of our 30th Anniversary,” describes Albi Serfaty from his studio in Tel Aviv. “All our lighting is handmade from pleated silk and I chose this location because the raw textures of the cave rock and silk are the same – it’s like the creation of fabric in a way.” 

As co-founder, designer and photographer of  Aqua Creations, Serfaty decided to re-release Morning Glory because it was one of the first lighting pieces created by the company in 1992 but “has since evolved from short and fat to tall and skinny with a different crown,” he explains .

With a predominately abstract sculptural interpretation of sea life, Aqua Creations’ striking lighting pieces all constructed in-house, have distinguished interiors of hotels, restaurants,  and residences all over the world as well as film and television set design.  

The spectacular coral reefs of the Red Sea to the Sinai have always influenced Serfaty’s lighting designs. “It all started with snorkelling, which I love,” Serfaty enthuses. “I was recently in Sinai again and I saw the Beduins who are fisherman there and I thought that it would be a good idea to give back by employing them to take care of the coral reefs. A lot of coral has been damaged not so much by climate change but by severe storms.”

Although some wall sconces and ceiling lights became more geometric over the years like Simon Says Yes, many designs have recently come full circle like the new curvaceous Code 130 Collection’s, C1 Pendant Light. “You must look up to see them and for me, that’s the angle of optimism,” Serfaty says. It’s available in 16 spectacular silk colour combinations in the single pendant or double lantern-shaped iterations. 

Serfaty is a big proponent of families – and not just because two of his daughters have joined the Aqua Creations team as the web designer and another daughter looks after social media and is a photographer like her father.  Collections are conceived in “ families” with various lineages in each: from the stylized, organic Morning Glory Family and her Coral Wall and Ceiling Lamps, Fan and Medusa Wall Lights to the modernist geometric ToTem Family and a new collection entitled Lakes that Serfaty will showcase at Design Miami 2022.

For the 2022 Milan Design Week, Aqua Creations partnered with Lexus and award-winning German architect, Germaine Barnes for Sparks of Tomorrow. The immersive sculptural installation utilized C1 Pendant Lights and ToTem Chandeliers in the Lexus launch of their new battery- electric vehicle, RZ.

“This is the nice thing about being around for 30 years,” laughs Serfaty. People know us and when the product fits it’s a wonderful collaboration.”

Aqua Creations lighting is available at SwitzerCultCreative, Unit 102-1636 West 2nd Avenue,Vancouver.

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A Delicate Balance: Nature and Geometry Go Hand & Hand for Two Designer/Makers

by Laura Goldstein

I really felt that the fitness world was trapped in an odd aesthetic place. There’s no reason why the objects that are part of a workout can’t also inspire and be beautiful,” confides HEFT Designs maker, Shane MacIntosh. In fact, his luxury crafted free weights for a home gym are so sculptural, you might be inclined to spend too much time admiring their hedonistic attributes! But don’t be fooled, they are made to be used.

A long distance runner and kick boxer in college, MacIntosh admits he “was terrible in the gym,” mostly because the mass produced equipment just didn’t entice him. After studying at the Santa Fe Fine Furniture Program in New Mexico, MacIntosh began creating unique furniture pieces for commissions in the U.S., then later moved to Vancouver. As a seasonal Park Ranger his love of nature, trees and their beguiling textural hardwoods inspired his design for his Torch free weights.

With a discerning eye, MacIntosh carefully selects sustainably sourced wood stock from chocolatey Walnut Hardwood, Two-Toned Live Oak, (once used by shipbuilders for its hardiness) and dense, fragrant Leopardwood from Australia ‘s outback, renowned for its stunning variety of colours and textures. Turning the wood by hand and the stainless steel on lathes to create the perfect curvature is extremely labour intensive as is matching grains and balancing the geometric accuracy of 2lb weights to 8lb weights. Each Torch set is showcased on its own wood stand embellished with the HEFT Designs logo.

With use, the wood weights develop an even deeper lustrous patina and the stainless steel can be wiped clean with a soft cloth,” MacIntosh says.

His next iteration of wood free weights are dumbbells (think those used by a circus strong man,) under the Mallet line.

The Torch HEFT Designs Collection is available at SwitzerCultCreative, Unit 102-1636 West 2nd Avenue,Vancouver.

* * *

Imagine an acrobat balancing on the tip of a teeter-totter and you get the gist of Studio Saan’s Loma Lamp. Sparking curiosity is most important to designer/maker Sasan Norouzi who has worked on architectural installations in Los Angeles and after four years in Vancouver, recently moved to New York City. “I’ve always enjoyed aligning my interests with design, arts and culture,” Norouzi explains.

Having experimented in furniture-making and inventing an ingenious little cable holder, The Igloo, inspired by Inuit traditional housing, Norouzi has turned his attention to lighting. The sculptural Loma Lamp looks like alchemy as the top filleted cylinder emitting light appears to precariously tip on its base. In fact, the top can pivot into multiple configurations as both a desk lamp and accent lighting.

Environmentally friendly and “ made from a bio plastic using corn, the shell is 3D printed, durable and watertight,” says Norouzi. It’s customizable in almost any colour that Norouzi hand-paints by airbrushing giving each iteration a metallic-like sheen.


Studio Saan’s Loma Lamp is available at SwitzerCultCreative, Unit 102-1636 West 2nd Avenue,Vancouver.

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IDS Offsite 2021: SwitzerCultCreative Greenscapes the Showroom for ARTISAN and Mary Ratcliffe Collabs


By Laura Goldstein

Bringing nature indoors takes on a new creative connectedness at SwitzerCultCreative with two wood-inspired furniture brands and the botanical artistry of Burnaby’s Greenscape Design & Decor. 

“It’s amazing how greenery really warms things up,” effuses Adam Bellas, manager and partner of the luxury showroom specializing in sustainable Pacific Northwest, made-in-Canada and curated international furnishings. “Beautiful furniture truly becomes a relaxing sanctuary with the addition of plants.”

It’s a match made in botanical heaven: Both SwitzerCultCreative and Greenscape Design & Decor have been sponsors and participants at IDS Vancouver for years. “We jumped at the chance to elevate what we do by partnering together during the IDS Offsite fall design programme,” explains Corinne  Kessel, Principal of the all-women custom “fauxtanical” design company. 

Handcrafted in their Burnaby studio, intricate framed wall art composed of spongy chartreuse preserved Reindeer Mosses and deep forest green cascading ferns, tropical potted floor plants and trees are a lush foil for real-life flora and look so alive you have to resist the temptation to water them! “All our mosses and leaves started out as real – then we preserve them with glycerin and a non-toxic treatment that won’t dry them out and they stay naturally soft,” Kessel explains.

Their 3D greenery particularly melds with the new solid wood furniture collection from ARTISAN. “We have known wood our entire lives from the forests we played in as children,” says the Bosnian company’s co-founder Fadil Ćostović.

For example, (right) the Latus Sideboard in walnut is so sleek the bespoke wood drawer cabinetry appears to float inside the external frame. 

The Mela Lounge Two-Seater Sofa (below) boasts ARTISAN’S recurring design motif: a side wraparound in walnut (also used in many of their chair designs,) that embraces the plush velvet sofa. Both the fabric and wood are available in a number of different choices as are the Tanka Dining Chairs (Tanka means ‘thin’ in Croatian,) with their striated wood backrest positioned on subtly curved back legs.

Also new to ARTISAN is the Shift Lamp in three permutations of floor lamp and desk lamp constructed on wooden stilts with vinyl shades in black and white.

Toronto’s Mary Ratcliffe Studio collection of impeccably crafted wood furniture like the Lyndoe Low Seat with black buffalo leather slung  seat (also available as Bar Stool & Bench,) and two-toned Myers Console, reflect her emphasis on sustainability and hope that clients pass down her pieces to the next generation. (see Mary Ratcliffe Shakes Up the Male Dominated Realm of Furniture Making)

IDS 2021 Offsite collabs with Greenscape Design & Decor, ARTISAN and  Mary Ratcliffe Studio Collections are available at SwitzerCultCreative, Unit 102-1636 West 2nd AvenueVancouver throughout October.

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Mary Ratcliffe Shakes Up the Male Dominated Realm of Furniture Making


by Laura Goldstein

Gone are the days when creative women were pigeon-holed into interior design and textile design career options only. Now they get down and dirty just like their male contemporaries, actually making the furniture they design.

Mary Ratcliffe of Mary Ratcliffe Studio in Toronto laughs good- naturedly at the thought of any rivalry. “Yes, it can be an old boys club sometimes so I do try to hire women for my team (we do have one man,) and I think mentoring is so important.”

She grew up playing in her hobbyist Dad’s carpentry shop making gifts for family and friends out of scraps of wood. “I actually thought I’d be an architect but it just wasn’t creatively fulfilling for me,” admits the graduate of the Ontario College of Art & Design. A stint with celebrated innovator and designer, Bruce Mau whose environmental methodology in all his projects imbued Ratcliffe with a devotion to sustainable practices and materials, gave her more confidence to make the next leap in her profession.

“I began to think that I could have my own studio which I started in 2013 and has since expanded to two spaces; one in Liberty Village and a huge shared wood shop in Toronto’s West End,” she explains. Ratcliffe likes  to say her designs “ meet at the intersection of beauty & function.” 

A visit to Leonardo Da Vinci’s museum home in Milan in 2019 inspired her to make furniture with a proportional, rustic elegance that can fit comfortably into any space. The Lyndoe Bench (above, also available as Bar Stool & Low Seat, left) is topped with a buttery toffee or black buffalo leather slung seat and draped across blackened, bleached, greige (gray +beige) or natural ash, oiled or oxidized oak. The bench is constructed from 29 mathematically hand-turned components.

Ina Tables (bottom) are designed to work independently or as a collective group of nesting tables in oak, oxidized maple, walnut and ash.

“I like to think I build through the lens of longevity” says Ratcliffe. Passing down her furniture is not just a compliment but a testament to its superb craftswomanship. The solid wood construction of the Barrow Table balances structure with symmetry. And the oh so cool modern vibe elicited from the two-toned Myers Console with its concealed drawer pulls, can be customized with leather, brass or blackened steel.

Like most makers, a temporary slow -down during Covid inspired some new pivots. “I had been experimenting with resin and cast stone,” Ratcliffe explains. My husband encouraged me to create a collection of catch-all dishes that sold out immediately and I’ve since expanded to multi-purpose vessels, candlesticks and an incense set.”

Ratcliffe is a pragmatist.“I also discovered that I love the business side of the company – something I know is difficult for many makers and artists so I’m really working to improve my understanding.”

“Although I really enjoy custom projects my goal isn’t to reinvent the wheel. I’d like to build an iconic Canadian furniture collection that is sustainable in every sense of the word. I’m always trying to push the boundaries.”

From October 1, 2021 Mary Ratcliffe Studio furniture is available at SwitzerCultCreativeUnit 102-1636 West 2nd Avenue,Vancouver.

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September’s Comings & Goings

I think it was Andy Warhol who said the idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.
We at SwitzerCultCreative, have been busy organizing the new showroom and waiting (with heightened anticipation,) for our exciting new collections to arrive and can’t wait for you to see them!

As you may know, championing Vancouver, B.C. and Canadian designers and makers has always been at the heart of our business while introducing our clients to some very savvy, curated international brands and artisanal accessories.

With that in mind, we are excited about a furniture collection from Mary Ratcliffe Studio in Toronto. Devoted to her craft developing simply unique furniture based upon sustainable materials and practices, precepts that we also share, Mary Ratcliffe Studio combines functional with beautiful bespoke construction.

And, I do admit, I’m a little bit biased. We are extra excited about this collection not just designed but constructed by a woman – a rare species among men in the realm of furniture making! Mary will be involved with our Offsite Showcase as part of IDS-Vancouver 2021 September 30- October 3, but more about that later.

When we last spoke with furniture maker and sculptor Isac Kaid for our Blog, he was leaving for an intensive summer arts residency in Florence, Italy. Weathered limestone and crumbling pavement provides the palette from which he creates his sculptural tables, chairs and lighting that appear resurrected from an archaeological dig. In fact, as Kaid updated us, he actually created some new projects on the River Arno, grinding the soil for usable pigment, an ancient Italian technique known as scagliola.

You could say author & artist, Elisa Valentine is a woman of few words. Her delightful woodblock acrylic on canvas letters that spell LOVE, adorn our showroom and she will customize clients’ own colour schemes.

As we welcome these artists to SwitzerCultCreative, we must also give a heartfelt goodbye to two designers we’ve collaborated with for several years now- Jay Miron Furniture and Sholto Design. It’s been great to work with you guys and wish you continued success in the future.

We look forward to seeing you soon.
Renee Switzer, SwitzerCultCreative

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Studio Isac Elam Kaid Explores Amorphous Sculptural Furniture Rooted in Antiquity

by Laura Goldstein

Isac Elam Kaid is about to fly to Italy for an intensive art residency outside of Florence. “I realize it’s not the best of times to travel,” he laughs,“ but it’s a fantastic opportunity to study scagliola, a 17th -century plaster technique made with selenite, glue and natural pigments that imitate the look of stone and marble,” he explains over Facetime.

The intrepid young sculptor and artist based in Vancouver, grew up in farm country outside of Edmonton, Alberta. He has a diverse background having spent six months in Israel absorbing the culture which has intimately influenced his work. “It was a magical combination of a very modern culture rooted in an ancient past,” he says. “I was so inspired by the work of Israeli sculptor, Ilana Goor and lighting designer, Ayala Serfaty.” (She was co-founder of Aqua Creations now overseen by Albi Serfaty.)

Kaid works with crude, natural elements like gypsum that seems to come alive in his hands, then seals his pieces in wax to create one-of-a-kind organic sculptural furniture. UNIS, a pedestal table, is hand-formed in clay then cast in stone. He doesn’t add colour to his tables and for that reason there is something ethereal – almost ghostly about them – as if pieces are actually floating in an interior.

GUERIDON 1 is a winged sculptural ode and INTERSTICE, he describes as “ a small space in between two thoughts.” Perhaps because of the tranquility they evoke, some of Kaid’s furniture has been placed in a garden setting like those for a client in the Hamptons.

“I’m really attracted to working with my hands. That’s the journey which I think gives my work more soul and life,” he confides. Unpredictability is Kaid’s mantra creating the “story” as he goes.

In distinct contrast, Kaid created PULP WORK, a series of rugged, black tables made from discarded, non re-cyclable paper plastics which he renewed with India ink mounted on ash wood frames. Their volcanic ash appearance erupts from Kaid’s free-flow approach to sculpture and therefore no two pieces are exactly the same.

Like charred torches, his CRUSHED LAMPS continue his exploration of degraded plastics permanently petrified through chemical hardening.

Inspired by his travels in the Middle East, Kaid observed chairs in villages with a stylized architectural look that were constructed by ramming raw materials like sand, straw clay and wood into primitive molds. Resembling gigantic puzzle pieces, “I designed my MONO BLOCK CHAIRS using combinations of those molds, hand-pouring, stamping and pressing materials in place,” he explains.

“I also love working in travertine,” Kaid admits and two of his pieces designed for Galerie Archimobilier in Paris, CONSOLE 5 and CONSOLE 6 are both studies in form and balance with striking striations of subtle natural colour and inspired by Kaid’s interest in modern Brutalist architecture.

Excited about immersing himself in Italy’s superb craftsmanship and rich architectural history, “I’m happiest when I can escape to the country,” Kaid admits – still a country boy at heart.

The Unis Table by Studio Isac Elam Kaid is available at  SwitzerCultCreativeUnit 102-1636 West 2nd Avenue,Vancouver.

All photos courtesy of Studio Isac Elan Kaid.

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COVID-19 Sparks Creativity & Innovation By Two Canadian Makers

By Laura Goldstein

One of the few positive repercussions of the 2020 pandemic has been a surge in artistic creativity around the world and Canadian furniture makers are no exception. Left to their own devices, often in lockdown situations, makers’ productivity has soared. With a ‘sink or swim’ mentality, they also quickly realized that they needed to come up with innovative ways to market their products during the impermanence of retail closings.

Ironically, when Covid-19 hit in March, we were having one of our best months ever,” admits Victoria-based designer Kirk Van Ludwig of Autonomous FurnitureBut all of a sudden everything ground to a halt and it was quite stressful.”

Re-grouping, Van Ludwig capitalized on his company’s debut at New York’s Wanted Design during NYCx Design Week last year. Autonomous Furniture was selected as one of only ten designers across North America to showcase their meticulous work at this prestigious exhibition sponsored by Surface Magazine. Recently, in response to so many closures of in-person trade shows during the Covid pandemic, the ICFF (International Furniture Fair) and Wanted came up with the idea of CLOSEUP: a virtual platform to showcase product launches and new trends inspired by a TV-show setting and broadcast live from New York to interior designers.

I felt like I was in a reality show for furniture,” laughs Van Ludwig “and it was such a clever way to market in these uncertain times.”

And, for the 4th time in almost consecutive years, Autonomous Furniture has been named one of 2020’s Designers of the Year by Western Living Magazine.Van Ludwig’s 3,000-square-foot studio in downtown Victoria buzzed with projects and flatpacking of new furniture shipments when we video-chatted during the interview.

His sleek Tilikum Bench and Console Tables are handcrafted in Douglas Fir with contrasting matte black or acrylic legs and incorporate 65% recycled paper composite, part of Autonomous Furniture’s commitment to using sustainable materials. The popular Constantinople Table Set composed of two opposite but compatible geometric shapes of a whitened Ash round tabletop sitting on three asymmetrical acrylic legs, gets cozy with a torched brown Douglas Fir square table.They are available with or without built-in storage. Pull up the versatile Clair Black End Table in Douglas Fir inserted into a contemporary black or acrilyic base for a glass of wine.

We take so much for granted,” says Van Ludwig explaining that although most of his carpentry staff wear masks anyway while working, one of his staff is deaf and depends on lip-reading, not an easy task during Covid-19.

You know, this pandemic has made me realize just how important the personalized connection is with people and how much I miss that with our clients, ” he confides.

Autonomous Furniture can be found at SwitzerCultCreative, 1725 West 3rd Avenue in Vancouver.

* * *

I’ve been the busiest I’ve ever been!” enthuses Jason Klager of Studio Klager from his Prince George, B.C. studio via Facetime. “There was a lot of new home construction here and I think with people staying or working at home during Covid, there’s so much attention on making things comfortable. And thanks to SwitzerCultCreative’s support of Canadian makers and artists, Canadian Consulates and official residences around the world have ordered a lot of interesting pieces that have gone to Paris, Turkey, Australia and Iceland,” Klager adds.

These have included a stunning black walnut lacquered Oru Cabinet with undulating curves perched on gold legs and a two-seater Milo Bench in walnut, to name only a few.

I’m currently working on six new bespoke pieces for interior designer, Janie Hungerford of Hungerford Interior Design for one of her clients in Vancouver. Good thing I work well under pressure,” Klager laughs.

Klager has always admired the Japanese aesthetic of elegant, streamlined simplicity in fine furniture and cabinetry construction. His Folio Table Series in walnut and white oak boasts boldly striped zebrano wood tops. The geometric tables have a wood base – some sprayed with a black conversion varnish and resemble building blocks for adults. They can be combined in multiple permutations including stacked to add height.

Although he enjoys working with the unusual grains of exotic woods, he finds that maple, walnut and birch are more conducive to cold dry winters. Peering through the glass-topped Vertex Cube Side Table, it gives the impression of an optical illusion of mountain peaks as the table is viewed from mutliple sides.

Furniture by Studio Klager can be found at SwitzerCultCreative, 1725 West 3rd Avenue in Vancouver.

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