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A Dozen : Brad Ascalon

This week for A Dozen, myninjaplease interviews Brad Ascalon. Brad and his brother Josh, recently composed a soundscape for the 2009 PULSE New York contemporary art fair; Brad has made this available to the MNP readers for free, you can download it here! (We recommend you listen to this while reading this interview to get the full effect:)

Brad Ascalon Studio, Service Wine Bar_02,  for Architectural Digest

How did your family help mold your development as a designer?

I come from a very creative family of artists, sculptors and designers. My parents were always enthusiastic about introducing creativity into the lives of me and my brothers. That being said, they were always supportive of whatever avenue I chose for myself. I guess they were most influential not only raising me in an environment full of art and music, but in making sure not to embed into my brain that I needed to be a lawyer or doctor when I grew up. It was nice to know that being creative was a good thing, not just as a hobby, but as a career and a way of life.

Where did you gain the most experience to get to where you are now?

In January of 2006, I had just received my Masters’ in industrial design, and I wanted to jump right in and start my own studio. I figured that the only way I would gain the experience necessary to run my own studio was to run my own studio. It was a sink or swim mentality, and I’ve been fortunate enough to keep swimming ever since. I acquired my first client, Maybelline, in early 2006, and I knew next to nothing, but I learned because I had to learn. I’m still learning and that’s one of the most exciting aspects of what I do.

How would you describe your work best?

That’s such a hard question for me to answer. My work varies immensely because my clients and their markets vary. I do work that I think is smart and functional, or elegant, or super efficient, or thought-provoking based on who I’m designing for, both in terms the manufacturer, their respective country and their audience.

Spindle Table for Ligne Roset, Brad Ascalon Studio_02 Hi Res

We featured the "Spindle" previously on MNP, what led you to design this?

I wanted to design a furniture piece that incorporated both elements of modern and classical. Of course this concept has been visited many times and by many designers. My goal was to bypass the humor, irony and one-linerisms that are generally associated with designs of this nature. I wanted to pay homage to both ornamentation and industrial modernism, to celebrate the history of each style in a respectful and elegant manner.

What piece are you most proud of?

The Spindle table for Ligne Roset is still the piece I am most proud of. I think it truly accomplishes what I set out to do. And working with Ligne Roset as an American designer so early in my career is something I’m also extremely proud of, so that just adds to my feelings toward that design. I’m also very excited about a few new pieces I’m developing for a company in China, but that’s jumping the gun a bit.

How do you start the building process with your furniture?

I don’t physically build the furniture that I design. I leave that to those who do it best, the manufacturers that I work with. But the process generally starts with a concept that together we dissect in order to determine the most viable way to achieve something very close to the original design intent. I do create a handful of sketch models and mock-ups in my studio in order to solve certain issues, but that’s the extent to which I actually build anything myself. On occasion, a partner of mine builds prototypes in his furniture workshop.

Where/when do you conceptualize most of your work?

It just happens out of nowhere. It's a funny thing, I spend a good 15 or 20 hours a week sketching on ideas for companies that I’m working with. But more often then not, a good concept happens when I’m not expecting it, when I’m walking to the subway or shopping at the grocery store. When that happens, I try to design it in my head and hope it stays up there until I have a chance to put it on paper.

05 New York City

How do you use painting in combination with creating furniture?

I don’t physically combine my painting and furniture design, but rather correlate the two with regard to the creative process. I am after the same things in either medium, which are a perfect balance, proportion and resolution, whether others see it or not. People sometimes ask abstract artists how they know that a painting is finished. They just know. I think it's the same for furniture designers…or any creative type.

What materials do you find yourself using?

I love designing with the more traditional materials, such as metal, wood, upholstery and glass. Modern materials are definitely very interesting to me, but I think there’s still so much that hasn’t been done with the old ones. Of course I’m open to using new materials, but I just haven’t found the right opportunities to do so yet.

Are you open to collaboration?

Of course. Anytime you’re designing for manufacturers, it's a collaborative process. There’s no avoiding that. In terms of working with other designers? I am always open to an interesting collaboration! In fact I’m gearing up for a couple of furniture collaborations in the coming year for a German company, and this past March, I finished a music composition and production project with my brother, Josh, which was part of a larger project, a VIP lounge space that I designed for the 2009 PULSE New York contemporary art fair. I think that the best results occur when you have somebody to bounce ideas back and forth with.

What does your personal residence look/feel like?

It feels like a dumping ground for my furniture and paintings! No, I’m kidding. It's just a eclectic mix of some pieces of mine that are in production, a few prototypes, a few custom pieces I designed and had produced for the apartment, and a couple of hand me downs…and quite a bit of of Ikea used as filler. It definitely has a modern feel to it, but warm at the same time. And the Philippe Starck gnome stool for Kartell that I bought my wife is the centerpiece of the entire apartment! We love that thing!

What plans do you have for the future?

I have no idea what lies ahead of me, nor can I plan for it. I am talking now to a few amazing companies right now both here and in Europe about potentially doing some work with them. But of course a lot of that will depend on how soon the economy can stitch itself back together and how willing these companies will be to invest in my ideas. In the long term, I want to design a bit of everything, as well as continue designing furniture until I’m an old man.

Quatro Tables, for Naula

What is your affiliation with Naula Workshop?

Naula is a small, high quality custom furniture workshop based in Brooklyn, NY. Its been around since 2002. I met the owner, Angel Naula, a couple of years ago at an exhibition that I was part of during the ICFF in 2007. Eventually he invited me to see his showroom and workshop, and I was amazed at the quality of his craft. After realizing how well we got along, and how our goals were in line with one another, I thought that he would be a great person to work with. I started by helping him design his trade show booth for the 2009 Architectural Digest Home Design Show. Eventually I ended up designing a piece or two for the show, and before we knew it, he had brought me onboard as his consulting design director. I helped to rebrand the company, give it a new identity and design a number of pieces that are a part now of Naula’s collection. My main goal is to find new opportunities for interior designers and architects to discover Naula as a very valuable resource for creating custom furniture, both residential and commercial, for their clients. Currently we’re working on a custom furniture project for the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. family, which will be part of a much bigger eco-friendly project taking place at their residence. Most recently, I’ve been asked to design an outdoor bar for this year’s Esquire House in NYC, for which I brought Naula onboard. It is these types of projects that we’re hoping will build traction for both Naula and myself as a designer.

What is your relationship with Angel Naula like?

Angel and I get along very well, and we both want the same thing for his company. We want to grow our business, start working with new designers not only in the New York area, but around the country, and we want to continue on the path we’re currently on as a high-end, reputable furniture maker. In order to get that done, we both put a lot of trust in each other that we’re both making the right decisions for the company. Its tough to gauge right now, due to the current economy, but when things pick up, I think we’ll be in a good position to gain the traction that Naula deserves.

How would you describe the kind of custom work that Naula can produce for the client?

Naula produces exquisite upholstered and wood products to the design trade. We have great relationships with many designers and architects because of the quality of work we do. We’ll take on jobs as small as reupholstering old chairs or sofas to doing custom furniture for entire hotels, restaurants or homes. Clients can come to us with their own custom designs, or we also offer our own design services based on the nature of the job. In essense, we’re truly a one-stop resource for beautifully crafted custom furniture.

:: all images courtesy of Brad Ascalon ::


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Posted: July 24th, 2009
at 5:42am by Koookiecrumbles

Tagged with

Categories: contemporary,a dozen

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