JF Dialogues #02 - Furniture Designer, Brecht Wright Gander

Our second featured interviewee is New York-based furniture designer and founder of Birnam Wood Studio, Brecht Wright Gander.

"Birnam Wood Studio treats functionality as a ground plane for aesthetic play. Making materials spark, become molten, desiccate, oxidize, exhale and twist is at the crux of our research-driven practice. Produced through experiment and experience, through mallet and chisel, drawing on fine craft and restless exploration, the works are the culmination of many collisions."

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1. How has your work evolved in the past year?

In the past year I transitioned from a self-guided study in craft – in which I ran a company that did high-end remodels, millwork and architectural fabrication – to doing work which threw all the wrote procedures of spec-driven execution to the wind. Which is to say – I began to make things I wanted to make, simply because I wanted to make them.

2. What have you not achieved that you would like to?

I haven’t created the designs of my dreams, the designs which might satisfy me. I can describe and draw what those might be in detail. But internally, there is always a lot of preliminary – I need to win certain freedoms from within myself before inching closer to what I want.
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3. What’s the most rewarding element of your process?

Exploring unfamiliar mediums is often the most exciting part of the work cycle. I get bored quickly. Doing something again and again brings me no pleasure – though I respect artists who work in that way – who mine a particular vein with great fidelity. I’m more promiscuous.

4. What book has influenced you more than any other?

Both of my parents are poets. My father read me the Odyssey as a bedtime story. My rearing was so enmeshed in books that they filled the landscape of my childhood like snowdrifts. And they move in each other – one writer’s book is carried into another’s – and so while I could name specific titles which resonated powerfully – I doubt I would’ve received them in the same way if not for other literary exposures. Because my parent’s voices have been primary – the first filter – I’ll say Torn Awake by Forrest Gander and Deepstep Come Shining by CD Wright.
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5. What’s been your most rewarding project?

The True Jelly of the Beast is a monumental drybar I built out of steel and paper pulp. It felt like a beginning – a marker of independence from commission-based design. 

6. Where do your ideas come from?

I steal them. That’s the best way to be original, no?
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7. When people experience your work, what emotion(s) do you want them to feel?

I think what would most satisfy me is not where I most often aim. You need to be internally prepared – ready to throw true – before you try spearing dangerous game. So my works are often aimed at pleasurable surprise and amusement. But I’d most like to make a thing which does not inspire immediate response – “mirth” “bemusement” “disgust.” A thing which lingers in the digestive tract of the eyeball for a long while, teething. 

8. What does your studio / workspace look like?

If a gang of feral teenagers went on a binge at various industrial suppliers and then threw a party and didn’t clean up, the aftermath might look like my studio. I’m ashamed of what I am.
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9. How would you describe your personal design philosophy?

What’s the worth of a chair, without an ass? What’s the worth of an ass, without a chair?

10. If you could go back in time, would you navigate your career differently?

Oh god yes. I would poison all my competitors very early in childhood. Then I’d take it easy. But seriously, I’d short circuit the very long self-apprenticeship I put myself through. I didn’t go to art school and I made up for that through grueling professional experience. I have a puritanical prejudice – things which aren’t the product of a thorough effort are suspect to my sensibility. This is true to the degree that I find ways to make things more difficult than they need be, just so I can be more fully committed. I’ve felt an artistic vision clearly within myself from a very young age, and that feels cheap. Cheap, to live of the proceeds of congenital talent. And so I’ve done my best to learn things for which I feel no innate affinity – like efficient modernist design. If I could design and build myself I’d make myself a bit narrower, to paraphrase Dostoyevsky.

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You can find more of Brecht Wright Gander's work on his website, or follow him on instagram to keep up to date with his latest projects.