The [New] Old-Timey Makers: Brush Factory’s Handcrafted Furniture

13 April 2016 / By Alyssa McClanahan
Interview: John Blatchford & Alyssa McClanahan / Photos: Natalie Jenkins & Jon Medina Kunst sits down with Brush Factory’s co-founders in this second edition. After designing items for mostly commercial and professional spaces, Brush Factory—a local custom furniture company run by Hayes Shanesy and Rosie Kovacs—has just premiered its first collection of handcrafted, solid hardwood furniture for the home, known as bff. We wanted to hear more about their company’s evolution and their ideas about craftsmanship and how it works in the modern world. Check out the following excerpt for a piece of the interesting interview:   Kunst: What have we lost, in terms of craftsmanship, in the modern world? Hayes: We’re living in a weird world where, while there is this artificial bubble or trend of appreciation of craftsmanship and hand-made items, so many people in my generation didn’t have shop class. They don’t have the interest or the understanding. It’s so foreign to them. I’m not even talking about craftsmanship. I’m talking about a general understanding of how things work. It goes back to the Jeffersonian idea of being a self-made person—I hesitate to use the word ‘man,’ but it was that way back then. You were on a farm. You knew how all of your farm equipment worked. And it was obviously simpler in 1850, but up until 1950, the independent farmer could fix all of his machines. He could build an engine, obviously do everything in the field and he liked to woodwork in the wintertime. That person—there aren’t that many anymore. So I think part of the interest in craftsmanship now is that the pendulum is swinging towards nostalgia and ‘I don’t know anything about this. That guy does. Cool.’ … I think there are more people that are interested in having a relationship with someone rather than going to a big-box store. It’s really cool to be able to make something for someone, whether that is a custom piece or something we’ve made in batch production. You still get to have that relationship, and there’s still the understanding that, ‘This person made this for me.’ I think that’s really powerful and meaningful across time. Kunst_December 11, 2015-13

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Rosie: I do see a resurgence of interest in handcraft, custom-made products. We wouldn't be in business if there wasn't. I don't think craft is a fad. History would suggest otherwise. Contemporary western culture has just been so saturated with globalization that the masses have been completely disconnected with the objects with which they surround themselves, but there have always been people who pay special attention to meaningful objects. Generally speaking, I think ETSY has been a huge catalyst for the maker movement and has shined light on the importance of knowing that objects don't appear out of thin air. Someone somewhere has to make it. The masses are picking up on this. The challenge is the business of manufacturing.
About The Author

Alyssa McClanahan

Alyssa McClanahan is a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Cincinnati and is Co-Founder of Kunst. She currently lives in Over the Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio and is on the Over-the-Rhine Museum board.

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