With no formal design training, how did you become involved in the furniture industry?
By accident. I was in the process of applying to graduate programs in history and took an entry level position at a small cabinet shop. I soon began exploring traditional furniture making techniques in my free time. Soon after that, I began designing objects to build, with a focus on honing specific technical skills. Designing and making have never been separated for me. In a relatively short amount of time, I realized that I was probably better suited to design and fabrication than to academics. Because people ask, I should explain that.
Do you have any favorite sources for inspiration/creativity?
Not really. My designs are negotiations of proportion, visual weight, line, balance. All of these things are all around us all the time, in both the made and the natural world. I think people who design things can draw inspiration from absolutely anything.
What design trends do you like/dislike?
I don’t like the idea of a trend. The point with our work is to serve those who share our commitment to enduring design and workmanship. This idea is at odds with work that is either fashionable or disposable.
What does your own home look like?
It’s in the woods north of a colonial town called Hillsborough (25 minutes from Durham and Chapel Hill). I designed it a few years ago. Pictured inside are Skram’s Piedmont No. 3 Chairs and a Version 5 rocker.
What’s your design process like?
1. Thumbnail sketches
2. CAD elevations/some 3d modeling
4. Try it out at home for a few months
5. Prototype again as needed.
Anything you haven’t designed that you’d like to?
We don’t do fully upholstered work at Skram. From a design standpoint, there are things one can do in terms of volumetric form that can be explored with upholstered good. Plus we need a new sofa at home. . .
Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve designed?
(We won’t tell the others.)
Seating. The L01 Armchair. The V5 Rocker. The Piedmont #2 Stool. Also, I’d have to say that there’s something about the Wishbone Desks that seems sort of classic.
At a time when many manufacturers moved away from the N.C. area, why did you choose Burlington?
We’re trying to offer a model of sustainable manufacturing that’s based on merging highly skilled labor with technologies of manufacturing in a way that yields high quality and well-designed products. We are in a good area in terms of infrastructure. The key as we see it is to change the conversation away from competing on cost alone–which is self-destructive and short-sighted–to one that focuses on value and quality.
Being here has advantages and limitations but overall we feel that we are here at an exciting time, as are all moments of transition and change.
We hear you purchased an old knitting mill for your manufacturing facilities. Could you share more about your plan / vision for the space?
Yes. Burlington is on the edge of North Carolina’s furniture making area, but it’s in the center of the textile area. This is an industry undergoing challenges that are similar to the domestic residential furniture industry. So in 2012 when we needed more space, we purchased a 1934 knitting mill in downtown Burlington that had been unused since the late 1980’s.
To date, we’ve been focused on interior upfit. As time and funding permits, we plan to do a full exterior renovation. We also are working towards the installation of solar power in the next two years, which would be really exciting. (I can’t resist: There are many other affordable properties in the area. Feel free to get in touch if you want help finding a factory or studio.)