I recently sat down with Jason Wismar, furniture designer and member of the restoration team at Danish Teak Classics to discover his take on Scandinavian design and get an inside look at his upcoming exhibit at Art Attack 2010. The Cleveland native studied in the late Swedish cabinetmaker James Krenov's internationally acclaimed program in California.
Q: What is 'good design?'
Jason: A marriage of beauty and function.
Q: What was your first experience with Scandinavian design?
Jason: I studied under a German furniture designer in Chicago. He was highly influenced by Scandinavian designers and he designed a take on a Hans Wegner chair. I built it. I was a beginning wood worker at that time.
Q: Where do you draw inspiration from?
Jason: My inspiration comes from looking at my empty house and wanting to furnish it. I am inspired by my experience every day in my work restoring Danish modern furniture. Shaker designs and communities are inspiring. They fully believed that they could create paradise on earth. I would like to suggest a beautiful way of life through the objects that we surround ourselves with. I've done collaboration with metal workers. Artists in other disciplines are always inspiring to me.
Q: How are your designs influenced by the traditions of Scandinavia?
Jason: My sense of proportion was something I learned through studying under Swedish influence. The techniques I learned come from a Swedish lineage. I make my own tools like Swedish cabinet makers do. Swedish design is very direct: if it doesn't function, its not worth making. Its a set of principles I take with me rather than a particular aesthetic.
Q: What is your favorite part of the design process?
Jason: Problem solving. For example, if I want to make a table and I know that I want this particular table to come apart for ease of storage, movement, etc. Working through renditions of the idea until you arrive at a design that hits the nail on the head- its a process of discovery. It drives me to come up with something new.
Q: What is your favorite piece that you've designed?
Jason: My favorite piece is the oak trestle table that I'm in the finishing stages of. (It will be at the show) The reason I like it more than things I've done in the past is because its kind of a response to things I've done in the past. I made a rosewood cabinet in school but I don't feel its accessible. What I like about the table is that its the beginning of a new, more deliberate approach: not just making something beautiful, but something with a more healthy balance of beauty and function.
Q: What is the best part about working at Danish Teak Classics?
Jason: I love the people and the environment. We have a relaxed atmosphere but we take our work seriously. I like feeling like I'm doing something that's worth doing. Its worth keeping these pieces in use. In a way, we're doing a little bit of education of Danish modern furniture. It's prompted me to ask why I'm so drawn to this type of furniture. My own work is an attempt to answer those questions.
Check out Jason's work at the exhibit Under the Influence: Three local furniture makers respond to Scandinavian Design at Art Attak 2010!
"For the show, I'm focusing on oak. Oak instills confidence because of its robust, earthy nature. What better piece to start your day with than a solid oak table? I wanted to work in solid wood for this group of furniture because it's honest: there's no facade. I'm using a more straightforward technique to render a more accessible piece for everyday." -Jason Wismar