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 Furniture. “But 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.