Brent Warr joins us this week to discuss the design process behind his inaugural Woodfin collection. The sculptural furniture, lighting, and decorative pieces are made by using a unique wood, plaster, and paint mix to create compelling and whimsical works.
Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop this new collection?
Brent Warr: I started working on my ‘Woodfin Collection’ in October of 2020. I moved back to Atlanta after most of the company I worked for was laid off due to COVID-19. I was frustrated with the job market at that time. I began looking around at the market and peers that had started their own studios and thought that if they could start their own thing, why couldn’t I?
RPS: What was the overall timeline from conception to achieving the final design?
BW: From initial sketches to debuting my first collection at ICFF in November of 2021, the entire process took around one year. Once I designed my Wendon Console, the rest of the collection came fairly quickly! I knew I wanted to put together a decently sizeable collection of seven pieces since you have only one chance to make an excellent first impression. After sketches all came together in October, I used the months of November and December (of 2020) to prototype and build small- and full-scale models and learned the properties of working with plaster as a medium. By May of 2021, I had created an entire collection and started getting product photography together. I also did a complete overhaul of my website and then started to plan and prepare for my official launch in November.
RPS: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea(s) come from?
BW: I was inspired by ancient Roman aqueducts and children’s Lego blocks. I wanted to combine something very architectural and streamlined with something more whimsical. The collection also features my shape of choice, which is starting to permeate through new work, the semi-sphere. I wanted to use a beautiful and elegant shape while giving depth to each piece. Also, this shape came about more so due to function over form. Plaster as a material can be very fragile until it is built up, and with a semi-sphere not having any hard or sharp corners, it was the perfect shape to use as an element in my designs.
RPS: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
BW: The word process is something that permeates through all my work and my practice. I always start with sketches before moving to prototypes. Prototyping can be frustrating but fun to experiment with and play with form. It is especially thrilling to see something you sketched come to fruition in an entirely constructed piece or go in a completely different direction than what you started with. By enjoying the process, you can become more creative and allow the material to speak and do what it wants to.
RPS: Did you have a specific audience or theme in mind?
BW: With this being my first collection, I had the opportunity to create something original that I loved. Other than a few critiques and edits, I brought to market precisely what I wanted to in terms of appearance and originality. I tend to have that industry in mind when designing with my interiors background and work for two top-tier firms in NYC (Yabu Pushelberg & Meyer Davis). But, this collection tiptoed that line between form and function and pushed me as a designer to trust my gut and create something that I wanted that I hoped people would enjoy as much as I did.
RPS: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials you used to develop and prototype this design?
BW: I mainly work with plaster and a paper pulp mixture as my primary medium. When selecting what material to start my practice with, I studied the market and noticed a small gap and opening for another plaster artist/maker. While this material has a learning curve, it was much quicker to learn and execute designing an entire collection around as the material can be painted, cast, or sculpted. The extensive use of plaster allows me an enormous range of experimentation that I can play with. Typically, I start with sketches, then on to smaller models to get an idea of scale, then build an artist proof to see if I like the piece and want to continue bringing it to life.
RPS: Please describe any challenges that affected the design and perhaps steered you to an entirely new final design?
BW: The biggest challenge was learning how plaster as a material works, behaves and enjoys being manipulated. That was the most significant learning curve I had to get through. Countless prototypes were cracking, breaking, and pieces looking how I wanted them to until I could figure everything out. That is also the beauty of a challenge, though. You begin to learn and slowly start to master the material, and you can start to learn other new techniques that can propel your designs forward in the future.
RPS: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos.
BW: My overall brand ethos is to “create pieces that evoke emotion, allowing viewers to reach a more imaginative part of themselves.”
RPS: Are there any upcoming shows or designs you are excited about?
BW: I just released probably my favorite piece to date in my “Shell Chaise” in partnership with Objective Gallery in NYC. It is a collectible chaise lounge and is a one-of-a-kind piece. This chaise is my first piece of a coming collection of Victorian-era-inspired furniture that explores the idea of gathering coming out of the pandemic and paying homage and reference to a period of grandeur and design. I am also releasing a new collectible bench with “The Current Show” in Dumbo, New York, that will run May 6 through New York Design week.
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