Meet 5 Creatives Redefining What Handcrafted Is All About


Across the country, the next wave of makers returns to time-honored materials and method when it comes to crafting furniture.


“The thing about light is that it’s always changing,” explains Erin Lorek of Lorekform. After studying light from the object’s point of view at North Carolina’s Penland School of Craft, Lorek developed her own glass and iron process, and has since honed her craft while operating out of Brooklyn Glass studio in Gowanus, New York. For each piece, including The Surround Pendant, shown, she ladles glass onto large iron plates that start out as clay, and then presses various textures into the mixture to refract light. A simple lost-wax casting process transforms the pattern into iron and creates imperfections, which add their own narrative to the original texture. This deep dive into materiality and form are a true expression of an artist dedicated to the evolving pursuit of light.



When asked why handcrafting furniture is still important today, Matty Cruise of Corbin Cruise admits it’s because the artform is disappearing. While the digital age has certainly contributed to accessibility and exposure, he says there is something primal about working with your hands, especially as fewer people learn these valuable skills. For Cruise, this includes metal smithing, fabrication and experimentation with steel, brass, bronze and aluminum out of his workshop in upstate New York. The Aqueduct Bench and Fluted Console, shown, for example, are part of his new Gouge Collection, in which an invasive finish is used to age the pieces with a striking patina. His Collection No. 1 Coffee Table and Lattice Mirror Frame are also favorite designs, the result of slowing things down, sitting with the materials and seeing where his imagination takes him.



A celebrated artist in her own right for decades, New Orleans resident Natalie Erwin was constantly on the hunt for beautiful frames to complement her work. So, the recent launch of Fleur Home, a bright, happy collection of customizable mirrors and trim, seemed to be an organic evolution for the painter. Each piece is handmade from wood and finished in hues from color purveyors Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams and Farrow & Ball, as well as in bespoke tones. The designs are a nod to all the wonder and whimsy that her city has to offer. Even her mirror names pay homage to New Orleans, such as Garden District Laurel, Satsuma, Audubon and Carnival Proteus (all shown). Further fueling her creativity, Erwin has collaborated with other artists she admires, including Riley Sheehey, with several more in the works.



Detroit-based product designer Nina Cho credits her education for giving her the freedom to form a unique way of creating. Having studied woodworking and furniture design at Hongik University in Seoul, South Korea, followed by a focus on 3D design at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Cho now tells her story through pieces of furniture, and is influenced by the artistic ethics of her Korean heritage. In discussing her vision, the artist says, “There is beauty in empty spaces and it’s about respecting absence as much as the object.” This reductive aesthetic is a combination of Eastern philosophy with experimental form, exemplified in works like the Maung Maung Mirror and Cantilever Table, both shown. Through the use of various mediums and materials including glass, metal, wood and marble, Cho aims to make sculptural works that blur the lines between art and design.



For Los Angeles artisan Bennet Schlesinger, inspiration is found through the maintenance and cyclical rhythm of creation itself. Made from bamboo, paper and ceramic, his evocative and ethereal lighting pieces come to life through many steps—moments he describes as quiet action. Having grown up watching his uncle shape surfboards, he was taught by his family to see form and notice details in both art and functional objects, a practice he continues today. The fabrication process for the shades, which has been years in development, involves bamboo for the structure with layers upon layers of translucent paper sheets and archival glue for an overall effect that radiates warmth. Producing thoughtfully considered works that still exude ease and natural expression is certainly no small feat.