On a sunny afternoon, I was able to document one of Charlotte's best kept secrets; the b side of charlotte furniture design: Brian Bouwman of B Side furniture. We met at his house, a typical 2 bedroom fixer upper in east Charlotte where many a young Charlotte artist call their home (yes I also have a fixer upper in East Charlotte). My main task was to shoot his latest creation, a lamp fashioned from Carolina tobacco stakes, old fashioned cotton covered electric chord, brushed stainless steel and a sleek plastic cylinder, but whilst shooting, I snapped a few of the other goodies lying around his home.
Curiosity got the best of me and I had to ask where he got his inspiration... then it kind of turned into a full blown interview. And so it begins:
SH: I know you went to school for furniture design... and I can imagine that has a huge influence on your love affair with clean lines and industrial nuances. Tell me a little more about your journey to become the artist you are.
BB: I've sort-of always been a furniture designer. I credit the beginnings of this to being on my Grandfather's farm a lot when growing up. He had lots of farm equipment and parts, all of which operated with exposed gears and mechanisms. This fascinated me probably because it reminded me of the robots I played with... I loved Transformers. He had this huge machine that cut logs at the bottom, then carried them up a conveyor to fall off into the bed of a truck. It was too big to cover, so it gained this wonderful rusty patina.
But without Architecture, my design sense wouldn't have developed the way it has. Being in Architecture school exposed me to people, things, and places I would have probably never sought out. I came across a lot of Architects and Engineers that designed their own furniture to compliment the spaces they created.
Bauhaus and International Style Designers/Architects have always been inspiration. Mies Van der Rohe is the first Architect I studied in college and if it is any indication of his influence, I have his 1929 Barcelona Chair tattooed on my arm. It symbolizes the culmination of my passions in Architecture and Furniture Design.
Lighting is a big part of what I do. Louis Poulsen and Lindsey Adelman are two lighting designers I have recent fascination with. Adelman actually started by building lights from off-the-shelf parts and has grown her own line of uniquely fabricated features.
SH: If you could pick one piece of furniture (either yours or someone else's you own) what would it be?
BB: ...this one is tough to answer mainly because most of my favorite pieces were commissioned and/or sold quickly. What can I say, my customers have good taste. I took an old industrial fan motor and shroud and made a chandelier form them. There were lots of great connection details and the original pieces had a lot of great character. That is my favorite lighting piece to date. Well, except for the floor lamp I just finished.
SH: I see that you repurpose a lot of found items, pieces of machinery, objects made of dated wood, metal... can you share with us where you like to shop?
BB: My favorite places are trade secrets to a certain extent. I get a lot of ideas from just walking around these places. I like the ones that sell cast-offs or things that have lost their use for their specific time period.
SH: Okay... in few words... describe your style. GO!
BB: Inventive furniture design with an eye toward fine detailing and up-cycled materials. Also "bricolage." Look it up.
...I did look it up and learned a new word (go me!) check it out here.