Getting in Touch with Your Inner Maker
Contribution from Colette Taber
Creators and Makers in the A+D Industry
"I'm a better project manager because I worked on the manufacturers' side," said Michelle Hill, a founding member of LMNOP NYC. She, like many members of the architectural and design (A+D) industry, has discovered the value of collaborating with manufacturers and designers to craft solutions for client needs. Michelle’s words resonate with the LMNOP community’s shared commitment to forging strong bonds within a network of people with complementary strengths.
Her words feel particularly appropriate considering the idea behind LMNOP’s Annual Benefit this year: an opportunity to meet local artists and artisans with direct ties to the A+D industry. Jennifer Graham, President and founder of LMNOP NYC, described the nonconventional, wine-and-cheese event as about camaraderie, networking, and “experiencing craft and the creative process as seen through the eyes of the maker.”
Five “creators and makers” participated, displaying their creations and generously making themselves available to answer questions about their processes, materials, and artistic vision.
Technical Proficiency is Not Enough
On the Wednesday evening in early May, members of the LMNOP community and guests gathered together to celebrate the group’s eighth year in existence. A core mission of LMNOP is to equip the A+D community with the necessary tools for success. In 2017, this encompasses the skills to adapt and to innovate in response to fast evolving trends and volatile markets.
“Our goal from the beginning was to help each other,” said Stephanie Chiuminatto Wolfson, a LMNOP NYC co-founder. “In 2009, we had the immediate need of keeping talented individuals from leaving the industry, but the long-term objective [of forming LMNOP] was to create a strong network of people with complementary strengths. Networking was about sharing lessons learned and mentoring each other.”
Describing the A+D community, industry strategist Allan Lee said, “We've gotten really good at doing what we are trained to do." Allan has worked for many years with premier architectural firms. He now advises professional service firms on predesign and design strategies. "Technical proficiency is not enough for the next generation of architects. It is unlikely that employers will 'train' future architects in how to be innovative." They will need to already possess the ability to think critically to solve basic design problems. Success may ultimately be defined by one’s capacity to enhance product development.
It remains to be seen whether architectural and design fees will support the degree of experimentation required for professionals to grow and adapt to changing market conditions. However, we can learn from the artists among us, those who have made significant advancements within their trades by pushing the boundaries of how to create and make.
How to Innovate
At LMNOP’s Annual Benefit, I asked the participating artisans, craftspeople, and designers to describe to me how they are innovative. My objective, which was perhaps similar to that of the organizers of this year’s event—to encourage the A+D community to learn from and be inspired by many artisans' capacity to innovate and adapt to materials challenges, changing market conditions, and at times fickle client preferences.
When I posed the question “How do you innovate?” to the participating “creators and makers,” they responded with varied methodologies, philosophies, and coping techniques. I’ve included a sampling of their responses here.
Innovation begins and ends with a "solid understanding of the materials," according to Ashira Israel, owner of IN.SEK Design. Her company creates furniture, lighting, and objects for the home and office that are both functional and sculptural. Her team of fabricators, designers, and artists push the limits of what concrete, glass, steel, and wood can do. Built to last generations, the work is beautiful because it was made by an intentional hand.
Daniel Tillman owns C3 Design, a company that designs and fabricates bespoke textiles. He referred to the richly detailed, felt wall coverings that he creates as "sewing solutions." He collaborates with both individual designers and large practices, like the Rockwell Group, to solve problems inherent to "vertical source materials." At just 3 mm in width, his textiles function "just like wallpaper."
For many artisans, the practice of their trade has involved adapting conventional and even ancient crafts to evolving trends. Jimm Carroll is an expert in custom stained and leaded glass design and fabrication, but his original practice focused on architectural renderings. As digital technologies curbed some demand for hand-drawn drawings, his work with the medieval art form of stained glass was increasingly sought-after. He sees both trades as essentially about "communicative narratives." You "adapt and innovate" in response to changing circumstance, he said, but ultimately people appreciate art forms capable of "telling a story and inspiring by adding beauty."
Jill Malek, who creates lush, textured wall coverings, shared that "recurring events in nature" often serve as a "springboard" for inspiration but collaboration with materials companies results in innovative solutions. Her latest collection "Forces" was inspired by the natural patterns created by the movements of magnetic properties and particles. She partnered with Visual Magnetics, harnessing "the untapped potential" of workspace walls, including the ability to mount accessories using interlocking magnetic polarities.
Will Haude, Chief Creative Officer at 3D Brooklyn, spoke about a mini-revolution in personal creativity, the result of individuals accessing affordable manufacturing technology. A designer can "have the solution before having the problem, " he said, because 3D printing "tools" enable a person to "visualize, innovate, and iterate" in ways not previously possible through mass manufacturing processes.
Special Thanks to Our Host
We are grateful to our host Global Furniture Group, vertically integrated suppliers, manufacturers, marketers, and distributors. The generous support of our sponsors enables LMNOP to provide members of the architectural and design community with professional development, mentoring, CEU workshops, panel presentations, and networking activities and resources. For information about sponsoring similar events please visit our website.
Amanda Tedeschi, who helped identify guest artists and organize the event, works with Global's A+D Development group. She spoke about founder Saul Feldberg's impetus for starting his company, "He founded Global with his wife, Toby, in 1966. Because Saul wanted a better affordable chair, he felt that he needed to build it from scratch." Ted_eschi_added, "Tonight's focus on local artisans, on making...these ideas are very consistent with our mission, too."