In The Spotlight: ToTeM Family

Available as a floor lamp, a pendant light, or as a totemistic stackable system — discover more about the ToTeM Lighting Family from Aqua Creations.


Click below to watch Albi Serfaty, one of Aqua Creations Founders, talk about the ToTeM lighting family, featuring exclusive footage from Aqua’s New York showroom.



Click below to watch the making of ToTeM.

Still want to know more? Stop by the SwitzerCultCreative showroom at 1725 West 3rd Avenue, Vancouver BC to see the ToTeM Pendants in person and much more from Aqua Creations.

Browse the collection or read more about the ToTeM pendant lights, floor lamps, and stackable systems on our website 

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Meet the Clair End Table from Autonomous Furniture

Introducing ‘Clair’, she’s light and nimble but satisfyingly stable. A bit of edge but capable of handling the daily grind. Oh, and she’s gorgeous. Shown in scrumptious black walnut sporting an acrylic base.

Tailored heights available upon request, the Clair is the perfect mate to any living room chair or sofa. Designer Kirk Van Ludwig intended to create the perfect parking spot for a coffee or iPad. Available in Walnut (shown), whitened Ash, and torched Oak.

Light, however stable, take her to the bath should you wish. Clear and elegant make Clair usable in many decors.

Interior Design professionals are the back bone of Autonomous Furniture, allowing them the freedom to play with forms and materials, new designs and continuing to push forward. Without them, all this would not be possible.



Autonomous Furniture is designed and created in Victoria, BC. You can now find many of their pieces in the Switzercultcreative Showroom, with more to come in the Fall!

Come by and let us know what you think! 1725 West 3rd Avenue, Vancouver, BC.

View the collection on our website:


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At SwitzerCultCreative, we are passionate about creating opportunities to come together in community and to support craftspeople locally and around the globe. This year, we were delighted to take part in Crafted Vancouver as an Official Event Partner, hosting two events in our showroom.

Meet and Greet with local makers.

We hosted an open house meet and greet with some of our local designers and makers on May 25th. It was meaningful to spend time with new and old friends sharing what we do and our passion for quality sustainable design. Some of the local designers and makers in attendance were Jay Miron, Jason Klager, Nicholas Purcell, Robbie Farrell, David Ullock and Jake Johnston.

Connect Series by Robbie Farrell.

Kick Lounge Chair and Ottoman by Nicholas Purcell.

Fickle Trickle mixed woods and paint on custom panel by David Ullock.

You can view Jay Miron’s Franklin Dining table and Kern coffee table in the showroom. Jason Klager’s Vertex cubes are on display. Nicholas Purcell is showing his Sidekick Chair and Ottoman and Finn Side table. Robbie Farrell’s Connect Series as well as other new pieces are on view in the showroom. David Ullock and Jake Johnston’s unique and sustainably created wood-based art pieces are on display. Come by the SwitzerCultCreative showroom at 1725 West 3rd Avenue in Vancouver to view these handmade items and much more from local and international makers and designers.

Vertex Cube by Jason Klager.

The Kern Coffee Table by Jay Miron.

“Meticulous” by Jake Johnston.

Cedar basket weaving workshop.

On June 1, we hosted a cedar basket weaving workshop led by Jessica Silvey of Red Cedar Woman. Each participant made a cedar basket, using cedar sourced sustainably by Jessica and her husband Robert. Jessica also hand dyes cedar and other materials with berries found locally. It was an enriching and connecting experience to get hands on with this traditional craft. Jessica offers these workshops year-round.

Jessica Silvey of Red Cedar Woman.

Cedar basket and materials.

From time to time, we have events like these. If you have suggestions for events, please let us know. Join our newsletter list here:

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With His Heritage of Makers Going Back 500 Years, Calgary Furniture Designer, Sumer Singh Innovates For the Future

By Laura Goldstein

The organic Plote and Prov Tables are made from a hand-molded plaster process invented in the 17th Century. Photo: MTHARU

Talk about pressure to succeed! When you come from a long line of artists, poets and authors, an engineering degree alone just didn’t cut it for Calgary’s Sumer Singh. His passion for the arts dictated his continuing education at ACAD and Vancouver’s Emily Carr University in jewelry and textile design, sandcasting and later earning a Masters in Architecture. The New Delhi- born maker formed MTHARU in 2013. “The name means ‘sword hilt maker’, the occupation of one of my ancestors and my first name was also my great-grandfather’s. He was a well-known artist in India and as a writer used that pen name, Singh explains. “The very foundation for everything I do comes from free-thinking, breaking boundaries, and pursuing honesty, whether it be in myself or in my creative process,” he confides.

Furniture designer, Sumer Singh researches like a scientist and mathematician then post-digitally, hand-sculpts many of his pieces. Photo: MTHARU

Sumer Singh’s MTHARU furniture is showcased at the SwitzerCultCreative showroom, 1725 West 3rd Avenue.

Heavily focused on digital technology when designing, Singh then integrates a myriad of sculptural techniques afterwards by hand, some based on ancient practices. Add a dash of mad scientist and you get his newest Plote and Prov Tables. Based upon a complicated geometry called Photogrammetry that enables Singh to make 3D models of an object on the computer from a sphere and a cylinder, machines and human hands later sculpt the tables. Using the technique known as scagliola the colouful veined material in which plaster mimics marble in both strength and appearance, was invented in Italy in the 17h century. It can be buffed and is more resistant to scratching than marble and also not as expensive. The results are highly durable pieces that resonate in the garden, on the patio and indoors. And, their colours are customizable in almost any palette.

One of his earliest designs, the Jouir Table is both curvaceous and streamlined. Photo: MTHARU

The Jouir Table one of Singh’s earliest designs, continues to be a classic in the furniture maker’s repertoire: a continuous role of curvaceous steel is embellished with welding “scars” using melted bronze. “It’s the scars that give us strength as people so why hide them?” he asks. The Sentric Table continues Singh’s exploration of welding scars but this time with black steel juxtaposed with shiny melted bronze for a striking contrast.

Singh was inspired by the geometry of ocean waves for his design of the translucent Del Mar Collection. Photo: MTHARU

The Del Mar Collection of tables and side tables simulates angular translucent ocean waves. Originally produced in smoked grey and rainbow-like dichroic glass they are also available in aluminum.

Fe is designed to be a stationery rocking stool made from a single sheet of steel and can be customized to fit beneath a kitchen counter, island or as a bar stool.

Fe is a comfortable rocking bar stool or can be customized to reach kitchen counters & islands. Photo: MTHARU

The prolific Singh has also delved into lighting with the Kamino Lamp. Sculptured from cement, latex and basalt, the organic floor or table lamp takes on the shape and patina of an archeological find. The Sagrada Pendants, resembling woven baskets, use energy efficient LED lighting and can be made in a variety of finishes including textured metal tone powder coat, black steel, copper or brass.

Solving complex mathematical problems combined with rigorous research into raw materials and finishes is Singh’s forte. He participated in New York City’s annual ICFF international furniture show in the Javits Center recently and has designed limited edition plant stands for West Elm and Fe Stools for Steven G. Interiors in Miami. 

 “I want to be constantly evolving,” says Singh. We’ve never been a company that was scared to try new things. Collectibles, not mass production is what’s important to us.”

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Juxtaposing Wood and Acrylic Elements, Kirk Van Ludwig Brings Drama Into The Home

The CB1 Table has a Western Maple top that appears to float in mid-air because of Lucite legs positioned underneath and affixed from the middle of the table. Photo: Autonomous.

By Laura Goldstein

Fashion rather than furniture has long been known to make political statements. But for Victoria-based designer/maker Kirk Van Ludwig of Autonomous, his Constantinople Table Set began as a metaphor for modern times: 

The Constantinople Table Set juxtaposes geometry, colour, wood and acrylic whether placed together or apart. Photo: Jo-Ann Richards

“Constantinople (now Istanbul) was an ancient city besieged by diversity and contradictions and I thought, why not create nesting tables distinctly different in geometry, colour and materials, that somehow co-exist just like people should,” Van Ludwig explains. A whitened Ash round tabletop sitting on three asymmetrical acrylic legs gets cozy with a torched brown Douglas Fir square, offset by two acrylic legs. The juxtaposition works. While beautiful separately, they make a bigger statement united. And, although we can’t promise it’s the answer to world peace, they certainly bring drama to our living spaces! 

Van Ludwig’s furniture is showcased at the SwitzerCultCreative showroom, 1725 West 3rd Avenue.

While Autonomous Furniture has become synonymous with a Pacific Northwest aesthetic, there’s always a sculptural twist that makes Van Ludwig’s pieces unexpected, such as the integration of acrylic into many of his wood pieces. Though not entirely an homage to the ‘70s, “I love it because it reminds me of the acrylic I saw as a kid in my parents’ home,” Van Ludwig laughs. “But, there’s a big difference as the museum-grade acrylic we use in our pieces is very durable (no scratches or clouding often found in ‘70s pieces,) and is actually very expensive. I love the way it lets the light through too.” 

Kirk Van Ludwig at work in his Victoria studio. Photo: Lia Crowe

The CB1 Table sports a Western Maple top the colour of caramelized sugar with striated grain on the bias. Lucite legs positioned underneath and strengthened from the middle of the table, give the illusion of floating in mid-air. Now that’s the ultimate legroom!

Born in Edmonton, Van Ludwig moved to Victoria in 2005. “When I started the company in 2013, I really wanted to turn the industry upside down,” he admits from his 2,500-square-foot showroom and studio. “I wanted to focus on excellent craftsmanship and materials and we even delivered to our local clients personally,” he says. Van Ludwig and his team prefer to concentrate on about 15 classic iterations that can be customized to clients’ preferences adding two to three new designs each year.

The versatile Tillikum Bench is topped with Douglas fir with a matte black frame and legs. Photo: Autonomous

Most of Van Ludwig’s raw materials are sourced from all over B.C. “Remaining loyal to family-owned woodlots, some owned for three generations, is important to me,” he says. “I like to go out and choose the timber myself like that used in the Tillikum Bench.” A floating seat in a light Douglas Fir with matte black frame and legs gives a modern Scandinavian look to an entryway. 

An unusual deviation from local sourcing is a large piece of Cedro, a fragrant cedar-like wood native to South America, left on a ship then made available to Van Ludwig. A pilot for a Russian super yacht has commissioned Van Ludwig to design and build a desk from the exotic wood that is most often used to make Spanish guitars. 

Is it an end table or sculptural art piece? The Clair End Table becomes both when Van Ludwig gives the sturdy museum grade acrylic base an oil & wax-finished black walnut tabletop. It’s a perfect fit when condo space is a concern.

The sculptural Clair End Table with walnut top on museum-grade acrylic is perfect for small condos. Photo: Autonomous

“You know, every furniture piece we make at Autonomous is debated, scrutinized, and tested,” he assures. “Is the bench the perfect height to put on ones’ shoes?  Can you jump on the bench?  Will the finish stand the test of time? Could the furniture piece be repurposed in the future?”

 Van Ludwig’s shop has been working in overdrive lately in anticipation of his furniture debuting at New York’s Wanted Design Manhattan May 18th-21st during NYCx Design Week. Autonomous was selected as 1 of only 10 designers across North America to showcase their work at this prestigious exhibition sponsored by Surface Magazine.

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Crafted in the City with SwitzerCultCreative

As an Official Event Partner, SwitzerCultCreative is hosting a gallery showing with designers present for a casual meet and greet.  Here is your opportunity to meet the designers and makers behind some of the most exciting Pacific Northwest and locally designed and made contemporary furnishings.  Please join us on Saturday, May 25th between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

Designers in attendance:

Meet Neal Aronowitz, Robert Farrell, Jay Miron, Nicholas Purcell and chat about design in our beautiful city.  

Award Winning Whorl Console table in Aluminum by Neal Aronowitz









Finn Series Vanity Stool by Nicholas Purcell. Credit: Bright Photo

Kern Coffee Table by Jay Miron

Round Folio Coffee Table by Jason Klager.

Prais Nightstands by Robert Farrell

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CRAFTED IN THE CITY: Nicholas Purcell Kicks It Up A Notch With Original Design And Sculptural Elements

By Laura Goldstein

Nicholas Purcell’s Kick Lounge Chair and SideKick Ottomon were inspired by the Scandinavian kick sled popular in the winter months. Credit: Bright Photo

“In this last year I’ve found my creative side needed more feeding,” admits furniture designer and maker, Nick Purcell of Nicholas Purcell Furniture, Vancouver. 

Usually focused on bespoke design pieces for clients, Purcell decided to further challenge himself by taking part in several city-wide events. His furniture is showcased at the SwitzerCultCreative showroom, 1725 West 3rd Avenue. They are event partners with Crafted In the City, presenting Purcell and other artists and makers at an Open House May 25th. Purcell will also exhibit during Crafted Interiors at the Pipe Shop at the Shipyards, North Vancouver May 11-16th. All events were the impetus for the intrepid maker to experiment especially in cast bronze.

“It took me quite a while to find a foundry in Vancouver that was even willing to cast small artistic pieces and not just gigantic ship parts,” laughs Purcell at his studio in the rabbit warren of 1000 Parker Street. 

“I love all the bubbles and how the patina varies from gold to pinkish flecks,” says Purcell of the sculptural, limited edition Vanity Stool in bronze and curly French oak. It’s part of the Finn Series (named after his youngest son,) and is an elegant, modern addition to a home, office, spa or yacht’s interior. The Finn Bench in bronze and walnut is wrapped in a luxurious imprinted leather with impeccable top-stitching that brings to mind fine Italian workmanship. “The sides of the FINN Series are cast in silicone bronze using the ancient process of casting in sand. My intent was to show the unrefined nature of this method which was achieved fantastically in the ripples and bubbles formed in the bronze,” Purcell explains.

Nicholas Purcell’s Kick Lounge Chair boasts an adjustable head pillow counter-weighted from behind the chair with a silicone bronze pulley. Pirelli strapping gives the classic piece a sporty look. Credit: Bright Photo

The Kick Lounge Chair and SideKick Ottomon were inspired by the Finnish “kicksled” originally produced in Sweden with long runners to get people moving outdoors in the cold months. Purcell’s rendition is so comfortable it has the opposite effect- you’ll want to curl-up in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine watching your favourite Nordic noir! Stylishly built in ash with exacting joinery and upholstered in buttery caramel English bridle leather, the adjustable head pillow is counter-weighted from behind the chair with a silicone bronze pulley. Pirelli strapping gives the classic piece a sporty look. 

The INCENDIO Table in blackened and white-washed ash is Purcell’s homage to his memories of sitting around the campfire with his family camping in B.C. He carefully created the illusion of stacked logs on a campfire for the table’s base, a balancing feat that finally materialized from his countless drawings and scale models. Plans are in the works for both a coffee table and long dining table topped befittingly, with smoked glass.

Designer and furniture maker, Nicholas Purcell. Credit: Bright Photo

“You know Europe has this great history in furniture design and craft which I really appreciate and admire,” Purcell says. Born in England and originally trained as a graphic designer, he studied furniture -making under the tutorage of master furniture maker, David Charlesworth in North Devon. In 2000 he moved to Bowen Island B.C. where he established his studio then relocated with his wife and three children to Vancouver in 2010.

One of Purcell’s biggest compliments came from his adult children last Christmas. Unbeknownst to him, “they all had my logo tattooed on their arms,” he relates with a huge grin.

“I’m really passionate about my work especially about original design and I find that so many things are just replicated from photos on Instagram instead of putting the effort into designing something new,” the maker has noticed. “I think it’s better to make one fantastic piece rather than ten mediocre. You know, bespoke furniture-making is often solitary and I’d love to get together with like-minded makers in Vancouver on a regular basis to discuss design. There’s a lot of good work in Vancouver- let’s move forward and take it to the next level.”

The INCENDIO Table by Nicholas Purcell his homage to memories of sitting by the campfire camping with family. Credit: Bright Photo

Nicholas Purcell furniture can all be customized including upholstery and size through SwitzerCultCreative.

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Made From Scraps: When Leftovers Become A Feast For the Eyes

By Laura Goldstein

Made From Scraps poster logo by Ian Kaart; leaf design Oksana Gaidassheva

The Pacific Northwest is not just a playground for tourists but has become a mecca for makers and artists environmentally attuned to creating without destroying the landscape. 

Made From Scraps is a new collection of art and sculpture by four Vancouver artists collaborating at SPACE Gallery. Curated by maker, Pat Christie and showcased at SwitzerCultCreative, the pieces evolved from or incorporate wood detritus scavenged from abandoned lumber yards and old construction sites.

Made From Scraps curator, Pat Christie and Discs made from 800-year-old Red Cedar off-cuts. Photo: SPACE Gallery

“I was really impressed with the creativity, vision and workmanship these pieces reflect,” says Renee Switzer, founder, SwitzerCultCreative. “Most of these artists are in- between newly discovered talent and established in their own careers.” Curated selections of the makers’ work are available to the consumer at the SwitzerCultCreative showroom, 1725 West 3rd Avenue in Vancouver.

When industrial designer and entrepreneur, Pat Christie graduated from Emily Carr University of Applied Arts + Design in Vancouver in 2011, he realized that he and many of his colleagues were thrust into the art world with little background in the marketing and business side of their chosen careers. The award-winning maker was made research associate at Living Labs, The Shumka Centre for Creative Entrepreneurship at Emily Carr to address these concerns and develop a think-tank environment for students.

In 2013 he co-founded Yew Woodshop and more recently, SPACE – a confluence of workshop and gallery in a 2,000-square-foot setting in which artists of diverse disciplines can incubate ideas and collaborate on projects. Made From Scraps is one such venture.

“My goal is to bring artists together from the community to innovate, and many of whom would never have had the opportunity to meet,” Christie explains. An accomplished carpenter and artist in his own right, Christie brings to fruition through fabrication, the Geo 5 Coffee Table, designed by Israeli craftsman, Eli Chissick and available at SwitzerCultCreative. In what was once a derelict police station at Main and Hastings, Christie was commissioned to design and build a sweeping, intricately constructed reception desk, all built with wood off-cuts and it’s the showpiece at 312Main Community Centre.  

Mexican painter and retail store proprietor, Pablo Zamudio. Photo: Courtesy Pablo Zamudio

Greeted with an exuberant “hola,” Mexican artist and entrepreneur, Pablo Zamudio works late into the night creating dazzling op-art paintings on reclaimed wood that literally vibrate with patterns and Day-Glo colours. 

As a kid growing up in Guadalajara, Zamudio was obsessed with art, music and skateboarding graphics. When he moved to Vancouver in 1997 he concentrated on graphic designed T-shirts and went on to open a lifestyle fashion retail store and gallery, El Kartel in Chinatown.

“I love optical illusions and all my paintings are based on a perfect grid. I discovered that everything in the universe is connected through numbers,” explains Zamudio, ” although at the same time, I embrace imperfection,” he laughs. ” The more you allow yourself to look at my paintings from different angles, the more things you suddenly see, and I think, learn about yourself.”

As a carpenter working on heritage home restorations by day, mixed media artist David Ullock finds old-growth fir scraps and conjures beguiling sculptures by night. His painted pieces resemble intricate 3D puzzle pieces in which animals, birds and people are re-imagined.

Mixed media artist David Ullock at work on one of his murals. Photo: courtesy GLovely Clouds

“I want to explore spatial dynamics by taking a two-dimensional plane and translating it into a three-dimensional object,” Ullock explains. Several of his current sculptures are made from 800-year-old Western Red Cedar, off-cuts gifted to him from Christie’s project of wood discs that trace the life of the ancient trees. 

Ullock created several vibrantly painted sculptures for Tall Tree Health in Vancouver and his spectacular murals on Commercial Drive and for the Vancouver Mural Festival are car and pedestrian show-stoppers!

Many of Jake Johnston’s clock sculptures immediately recall the abstract style of Art Deco, compelling the viewer to peer in closely, and not just to read the time. 

FocusFace and artist Jake (TikTok) Johnston. Photo courtesy ake (TikTok) Johnston

Growing up in Victoria, Johnston, (aka TikTok) was profoundly influenced by the street art scene there and eventually studied graphic design at Pacific Art Academy.

“I was always interested in playing with form and shape and breaking apart things to explore balance, form and colour,” says Johnston.

“All my designs start as a sketch with pencil and paper- nothing is done digitally, he admits. And, I’ve really gotten into free-form pieces as well, using spray paints and masking techniques to lay on colour.”

In 2018, Johnston worked with Opus at a pop-up tent designing and painting skateboard decks and the year before, partnered with other artists to create a mural on the side of a bus. 

It’s evident from all four artists that the camaraderie and mutual respect that  Made From Scraps has inspired among them is the foundation for more exhibitions in the future.

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Not your ordinary design store

January 2019 marks our third year since opening the SwitzerCultCreative Showroom.  Reflecting back, I continue to feel the thrill of connecting with designers and craftspeople who create exciting, timeless works, infusing their personality into creating original design. The excitement of connecting with creatives happens at Design Shows in Europe,  ICFF in New York and in small workshops right here in British Columbia. Inspiration comes in surprising ways; a museum exhibition; a storefront in a new city; a special flower arrangement.  For me, it is essential to take myself out my daily routine and roam neighbourhoods in familiar and unfamiliar cities for inspiration.

Designers and makers put their heart and soul into creating original, unique works.  Each of the designers & companies we work with has a story that fits well with the goals we have for SwitzerCultCreative.  We aspire to bring products into our showroom that are not available elsewhere in British Columbia and we love to work with craftspeople who live and work in British Columbia.  For 2019 we want to get closer to our goal that 50% of our collections are “Made in Canada”.  Of the 17 furniture Collections currently available, 7 are designed and made in Canada.  These collections include designs by Eli Chissick, Jay Miron Furniture, Sholto Design Studio, Nicholas Purcell,  all made in Vancouver and Studio Klager from Prince George, BC.  Textiles and accessories from Ivan Meade of Victoria, BC., and lighting by Miller Modern from Vancouver Island.

Hand thrown ceramics from Beth Hawthorn, Roberts Creek, B.C. , glass accessories by Jaan Andres designed and made in Vancouver, and hand woven cedar baskets by Jessica Silvey from Sechelt, B.C. are all available in our showroom.   A commitment to include made in Canada goods in our business model is also a commitment to small business and families close to home.  For me personally it is very gratifying to provide the showroom space, marketing and sales support for hand crafted, made in Canada furniture and accessories and to play a role in helping the talented designers and craftsman grow their businesses.

A healthy, happy and successful 2019 to all.

Renee Switzer


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Craftsmanship & Creative Risk-Taking: A Panel Presented At The 2018 Interior Design Show IDS-Vancouver

By Laura Goldstein

l-r: Adam Bellas, Partner SwitzerCultCreative; Jay Miron, Jay Miron Furniture Vancouver; Neal Aronowitz, Neal Aronowitz Design/Art Portland, Oregon; Jaan Andres, Jaan Andres Glass Design, Vancouver and moderator, Sholto Scruton, Sholto Design Studio, Vancouver. Photo: Brand Apiary

What happens when four of the Pacific Northwest’s most distinctive glass and furniture designers meet to discuss the trials, tribulations and personal success stories in each of their crafts? Lots of fascinating insight, true confessions and laughter, of course! Sponsored by SwitzerCultCreative the designers’ pieces were also presented in the SwitzerCultCreative Booth at IDS-Vancouver 2018, showcasing the company’s continued support of the region’s talented makers. Curated selections of the makers work are available to the consumer at their showroom, 1725 West 3rd Avenue in Vancouver.

Here are a few of the highlights:

The Panelists: Moderator, Sholto Scruton (Sholto Design Studio, Vancouver), Neal Aronowitz (Neal Aronowitz Design/Art Portland, Oregon), Jay Miron (Jay Miron Furniture, Vancouver) and Jaan Andres (Jaan Andres Glass Design, Vancouver.)

Sholto Scruton: Please introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about how you started.

Neal Aronowitz beside his award-winning concrete canvas Whorl Table in the SwitzerCultCreative booth at IDS-Vancouver 2018. Jay Miron’s Oval Franklin Dining Table in foreground. Photo: Brand Apiary

Neal: Unlike my fellow craftsmen here, I’m a little late to the party as I only started doing this work about four years ago. I’ve been in construction with my own company all my life but in the meantime made some furniture for family and friends- nothing very risky but filling dozens of sketchbooks. Then I thought if I don’t get going on my design work I’m never going to do it at all. So I entered a contest with my concrete canvas Whorl Design Table and won the People’s Choice Award from Azure Magazine. My second piece was a lighting design (Boro Boro Chandelier,) that I entered into the LAMP Competition in Vancouver and that won 2ndplace. I thought, this is normal – you enter things and you win! No, but seriously, I felt I had finally found my calling.

Jay Miron with his Oval Franklin Dining Table in the SwitzerCultCreative Booth at IDS-Vancouver 2018. Photo: Brand Apiary

Jay: Hi everyone. I design and build furniture in my studio in East Vancouver. I’m a former professional athlete, a BMX bike-rider but I retired from my career- too many broken bones – so I started a bike company. It got huge with a ton of employees but I was just not happy. I sold everything and went to wood-working school and interior design school and began designing and building custom furniture.

Jaan: I’m a glass-maker originally from Haliburton, Ontario and Calgary. I went to the Alberta College of Art & Design where I discovered glass-making at 18 -years- old and have been doing it ever since. In 2009 I travelled to Adelaide, Australia and I took part in a two-year boot-camp training program at the JamFactory working with dozens and dozens of sculptors and lighting designers.

I moved to Vancouver in 2015 taking a job blowing glass full time at BOCCI- you’ve all heard of Omer Arbel, and I teach part-time at Terminal City Glass in Vancouver.

Panel moderator and furniture designer, Sholto Scruton in his Vancouver design studio. Photo: Courtesy Sholto Scruton

Sholto: I started repairing Victorian and Edwardian furniture with my Dad and Grandpa as a kid but wanted to be a painter. I did a Masters in Industrial Design and realized I really wanted to make furniture. I never wanted to work in a factory but ended up working in a factory for Bensen for four years! I learned a lot and designed sofas and finally, about 7 years ago I started my own company. I want things to endure and make things people love.

How is your work defined? By method or by the materials you work in?

Neal: I think it’s dangerous to be pigeon-holed but if I have to be defined by something I think it would be working with concrete canvas because I think I might be the only person in the world working with it.

Jay: I agree with you Neal. I don’t like to stick myself into a box or category. I’ve mostly worked with wood so far but I’m really excited that next year I’m going to be working with metal, glass and stone. I think the biggest thing we have to offer as craftspeople is the ability to go in different directions.

Glass-blower Jaan Andres at work in the Terminal City Glass Studio, Vancouver. Photo courtesy Jaan Andres.

Jaan: I have to admit I’m slightly more defined by my material in that I’m very much a glass nerd – I’m in love with the material. Frankly, I don’t think that pigeon-holes me. It just interests me to no end, blowing glass is so vast and capable of so many different things. I like to define my method as doing a few things really, really well.

But, I have to tell you making a living is also important. For instance, last week I had the weirdest commission I’ve ever had in my life! A lady wanted a glass strawberry and vanilla ice-cream cone sculpture with a cherry on top made for a Statue of Liberty scale model

(lots of laughter)

Sholto: I’m really defined by method because I come from a design background. I’m concerned with problems. We set out with a brief and that’s very pragmatic. The material is whatever it has to be. Sometimes it makes sense to do one thing one way.

What is the value of craft today where high quality production is so widely accessible?

The Kern Dining Table was inspired by the splat of a drop of water. Jay Miron used 5 species of wood in its intricate construction. Photo: Haruki Noguchi

Jay: I’m quite qualified to answer this question because I’ve worked on both sides. My bike company manufactured everything overseas and now I’m an independent craftsman. I believe there’s a time and a place for production because 90% of what people want is to fit in whether it’s wearing the same style clothes, go to the coolest restaurants or listen to the music that’s in style. Just a small percentage want to stand out. They want spectacular objects in a beautiful home and that’s where people like us come in.

Jaan: You’re totally doing it Jay! I interpreted the question as what is the value of craft in today’s manufacturing zeitgeist? I think craft is invaluable because it predicates all the objects that are manufactured- you still can’t just think objects into existence, although maybe we’ll be able to do so soon. You need to address your tools whatever they may be and pick them up and make something. I’m terribly biased of course because I think craft will become even more coveted in the future and not made obsolete by manufacture.

Neal: Today it seems like everyone can be an artist with a computer and 3D printing but that never interested me. I think the products are lifeless. There’s something about the human element that’s inexplicable and I don’t think anything will ever be able to replace that. I don’t think a machine can create soul and that’s what we’re looking at as craftspeople.

The versatile Emerald Credenza by Sholto Scruton can be customized in many different iterations including a cocktail bar.

Sholto: I think there’s a beautiful balance between the two. The danger is if you remove craft from the equation then you’ll have nothing to model your machines after.

What’s the most challenging aspect of balancing commercialism with your own work and still make a living?

 Jaan: You have to remain very honest and integral to what you do. You put your own ego out in the world of Instagram then have to put a price tag on it.

Neal: I’m constantly battling if I want to please somebody else. What really matters to me is the process of what you’re doing and money is just the reality that we all have to deal with.

The Boro Boro Chandelier by Neal Aronowitz is created from a cluster of crystallized stalactites of frozen energy made from frosted borosilicate glass tubes and rods. Photo: MK Photography

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