AH: Where in Brooklyn did you
EC: I grew up on 13th Street between 3rd &
4th Avenue. It is the borderline between Park Slope and Gowanus. It has all the
colorful aspects of a neighborhood where residential meets industrial. When I
was a kid, if you parked your car on the lower third of the block it was almost
guaranteed you would get your tires stolen. It was, and still is sometimes,
referred to as South Slope. The Daily
News once called it “The Frayed Edges of Park Slope.” That is by far my
AH: When did you know you
wanted to be a designer? How did you get started?
EC: I don’t think I ever specifically said to
myself, I want to be a designer. I came at design through the Fine Arts. I went
to college for painting at the School for Visual Arts in Manhattan. From a
young age I had a love of building, cultivated by working on my parents’ old row
house in Brooklyn. I found myself gravitating towards sculpture because of it.
Design always seemed like a natural part of the process to making any
three-dimensional object, regardless of function. Everything I make comes from
a hand drawing first, and that drawing is generated from an idea or vision. It
is exactly the same method I used to make paintings and sculpture.
AH: Were you always
interested in furniture design? What drew you to it?
EC: I wasn’t always interested in furniture
design. Toward the end of college I was doing large wooden carvings made from
recycled New York City timbers. They were the biggest pieces of wood I could
get at the time for dirt cheap. The timbers would come with mortises and tenons
cut in them, evidence of decades-old woodworking. A friend gave me a book about
Japanese joinery and I dove into the subject. The complex joints really blew my
mind—they were functional sculpture. I started to make simple furniture and it
was a totally different experience. I was using all the same principles of art—form,
proportion, composition, materials—but they directly related to a physical
human experience. I think realizing the connection that people could have with
furniture is what sealed the deal for me. The daily physical contact could make
the user’s experience intimate and powerful. Like a relic or artifact that is
activated by touch.
AH: The newer designs give
animalistic qualities to different furniture pieces. How did you come to this
EC: I’m always striving to imbue personality
into my work, or draw it out of a form I’m developing. In 2014, I started experimenting
with hides and pelts. I made a captain’s chair with shearling and leather.
There was a tuft of the shearling that hadn’t been sheared totally. I was amazed
at what just that little patch did for the piece. It gave it such a shot of
personality that I had to explore the concept more. Naturally, I finally landed
on the wildest thing I could get my hands on. I always want my pieces to look
as if they can walk out of the room under their own power. The sheep’s pelt
combined so well with the other materials that it actually happened. I always
feel grateful when a piece I make can live on its own after all the initial
The sheep’s wool pieces
seem perfect for a winter home. How do they fit here in Brooklyn, do you think?
I fell in love with the raw
material itself and its essence. I think that the creature credenza and the
fuzzy captain have a real place in Brooklyn and not just because it can get
pretty frosty in the winter. I think that they are different and interesting
pieces, anything but part of the norm. Brooklyn has rapidly become a place that
celebrates that as a virtue more than any other in New York City. Honestly, I
wasn’t thinking one bit about if the pieces would work or not, or if anyone
would buy them (literally and figuratively). I even encountered a good bit of
negativity when they came out. I didn’t really have much of a choice in the
matter. The ideas just came to me and I had to stay true to them, and that’s
pretty Brooklyn right there.
AH: How long have you had
your studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard? Do you have people working for you or do
you make everything yourself?
EC: I have been working in the Navy Yard for
about six years, I do have people work for me on occasion but it’s mostly a
one-man show. I could definitely shop out some of the stuff I’ve designed but I
still want to connect to each piece before it goes to someone. I think it’s
important for smaller, independent designer/makers to be personally connected
to what they are producing. It is what separates us from bigger-name
manufacturers. Those differences should be embraced and not seen as a small-scale
AH: What do you think about the redevelopment
of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in recent years? What about in Brooklyn in general?
EC: I think the changes to the Navy Yard
are much like the changes to Brooklyn in general: overcrowding. I could be
upset about “gentrification” like other natives, but realistically people just
need places to live and work. New York’s population has gotten so much bigger,
even in just the last five years. All of these people can’t live in Manhattan,
so Brooklyn is the next logical location. The real issue in the Yard is the
shift from manufacturing to Tech, Fashion, Design, the Arts—all good things to
have around you except when it comes to your rent. Manufacturing requires
longer leases and lower square footage prices, two things that don’t jive with
the new Brooklyn. There are more people trying to get in and rent less space
for more money. This pushes out manufacturers, the very people the Navy Yard is
supposed to be specifically for. Luckily, it is still moving slower there than
in the rest of Brooklyn. You have got to be thankful for any little leg up you
get these days.
be in the Yard for as long as I can. There is a great community of makers
there. It’s like nowhere else in Brooklyn, the last bastion of centralized
manufacturing. When it goes, Brooklyn will never be the same for makers.
AH: What kinds of designs are you
thinking about for the future?
EC: I’ve been moving more and more towards big,
comfortable pieces. I usually don’t have it all worked out until later in the
season. I know for sure a bed, a club chair, and a couch, to name a few. I can’t
wait to keep exploring the creature credenza concept. There are so many
possibilities with that particular piece, it’s an endless source of fun.
Post by Anne Hellman
Photographs by Michel Arnaud
SOURCE: Design Brooklyn – Read entire story here.