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LA Box Collective’s Fourth Year at AltBuild Expo in Santa Monica

LA Box Collective's Fourth Year at AltBuild Expo in Santa Monica

We look forward to seeing you there! Meet many of the members, working to support sustainable local designer-makers in Los Angeles.

CAFAM Desk Debut

Tomorrow night the entry desk that the L.A. Box Collective built for the Craft and Folk Art Museum debuts to the public for the first time! It has been over a year in the making but has finally made it from its initial concept sketches to reality. But you didn’t think we’d spoil the surprise, did you? You’ll have to go to the opening to see it in its final form!
axon1

Join us at CAFAM for the opening reception for “Social Fabric and Scratching the Surface: Contemporary Wood Sculpture” and also check out the debut of the desk. The opening goes from 6-9pm and admission is $12 (or free if you are a museum member.) If you’d like to see the desk any other time for free just pay a visit to the CAFAM Museum Shop which also happens to be selling some smaller BoxCo pieces.

What I’m working on now

Drawers are such a piece of cake.
Not for me of course.  But in general, drawers are so cheap.  You can buy the boxes on the internet for less than what it costs me to actually buy the materials.  No joke, that’s real.  Just google it.  You’ll be stunned.  Or maybe you won’t.  After all, I’m a furniture making nerd, so the things that stun me are weird.  Then you just screw your drawer face material to your internet made drawer box, and you’re in business.  Fat city.  It’s such a damn utilitarian thing, a drawer.  You put the crap in it that you don’t want to have lying around, you close the drawer, and presto!  Less clutter in your house.  Also, from a fabrication perspective, drawer boxes are precisely the thing that plywood is perfect for.  You need thin, strong, consistent swaths of material that can make, well, a box.  With plywood you just cut out the shapes you need and join them together.  With the right router jig, you can even make dovetails, and even fancier joinery.
But, and I bet you didn’t see this coming, it just doesn’t sit right with me.  Drawers off the assembly line.  pure function and efficiency over form.  It’s this kind of thinking that has really kept me waltzing right around the poverty line for a good long time.  It’s really hard to be an artisanal (dare I say artistic?) furniture maker and not make some bad decisions vis-a-vis price-to-product ratio.

Drawer side and box joint jig.

Drawer side and box joint jig.

See, if I was a good businessman, I’d be ruthlessly about my bottom line, and all else would fall into place from there.  That’s not so hard to do when you’re going through your accounts, making your estimates, sourcing your materials, competing against a lousy economy for a job.  But when you get in the damn shop, and you know you have to make the right choice to do better than break even, it’s not so simple.  It’s hard to automate instead of express.  Inevitably (and I should really know myself by now) I choose to do what I see as the right thing artistically at the expense of the bottom line.
Witness, the chest of drawers I’m currently building.

A stack of box-jointed solid wood drawers
A stack of box-jointed solid wood drawers

I love making these box jointed drawers.  But I can never pay for them.  They’re solid wood everywhere, including in the bottom, where you could so easily hide plywood.  They’re so much harder to install, because you can’t use an applied face to cover your mistakes.  The face of the drawer is the front of the box.  Period.  But I also can’t help but believe that they are nicer for it.  I feel better making them.  I just can’t take you out to dinner with the proceeds.  Thanks for understanding.

Cradle type base for the chest of drawers I'm making.

Cradle type base for the chest of drawers I’m making.  In ze glue up phase.  I got that massive clamp at the San Bernardino flea market for a dollar.  I love that thing.

my main assistant, and primary counselor, hard at work on her chew toy.

my main assistant, and primary counselor, hard at work on her chew toy.

 

Desk Progress

It has been a busy summer for all of the BoxCo members but  some time has been made for progress on the new CAFAM front desk. Here’s a quick sneak peek as it sits in Cliff Spencer Furniture’s shop awaiting its top!

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Perfectly Imperfect

I gotta go on record with a thumbs up for the Dunnage Show at Inheritance last weekend. I know, it’s a little “patting ourselves on the back,” but I thought the

Dunnage Furniture at Inheritance, 8055 Beverly Blvd.

show went swimmingly. To clarify, “dunnage” refers to material used to pad, prop up, balance, shim, and otherwise support massive interstate and international shipping. It’s basically building blocks for moving huge stuff. I think these days dunnage is mostly composed of some kind of plastic. but at some point in the past, dunnage was wooden. The wood came from super lowgrade wood that was maybe a step or two above firewood – at a point when grading had everything to do with wacky grain, checks, knots, and other “imperfections.” This system of grading still applies, I guess, in an aesthetic world where wood is most prized for not looking like wood. That is, consumers and makers are always looking for perfect, flat, knot-free material that won’t move or in some other way be rambunctious. I like to think that BoxCo type people, while appreciating “high grade” lumber, has as much or more appreciation for “low grade,” “useless,” “trashy,” cast off undesirable type wood as well.

Who we are

OK, speaking just for me, in that case, I find something intensely interesting in using these materials that stubbornly remain what they are – living things. Wood, after all, is an organic material that continues to act that way: it absorbs and gives off moisture – breathes, in effect – and when it does that, depending on the make up the wood, it moves, cracks, bends, warps, and may do so differently at different places based on its grain. It’s a real pain in the ass. But actually, that’s part of what

Fix me

makes what we do remarkable. We are not masters of wood, we are collaborators. We do our best to shape and bend the material to our design, our idea, and then hope for the best. We do what we can to anticipate where this material will go, how it will try to spring its joinery, and then give it room to do its thing, while hopefully helping it to continue to do our thing. On our best days, we’re collaborating with nature. On our worst, we’re fibbing our way into temporary dominance, only to be reminded by time, humidity, and sun that our days are numbered, and what we make, if it stands up, won’t stand up for long.

Dunnage in a Riiska-Moyer Collaboration

Wow, OK, slight digression there. Thanks for humoring me. That’s all to say why we appreciated our dunnage so much, and what’s special enough about it to have a show. Dunnage represents the best of the worst, the most perfectly imperfect of

Wood and Food! Thanks Paul!

materials, in which we recognize ourselves, our own stubborn imperfections our own stubborn imperfections which make us exactly and precisely unique, perfect, children of God. A tall order, no doubt, high flown prose, definitely, but not entirely overstated.
I found this stack of dunnage shopping for old tools on Craigslist. In addition to being a furniture maker, I’ve got a romantic and practical appreciation for old machinery, of the type that gets obsessed over at vintagemachiney.org. It’s aesthetic, but also functional. At least in this realm, there’s real truth to the statement, “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.” I found an ad from Bud on Craigslist, and went to check it out.  When we first met Bud, who’s since moved to Florida, Andy and I were checking out his amazing Oliver jointer (which I eventually bought), his huge planer (I already had one of those), his Tannewitz bandsaw (I couldn’t justify that one), his crazy drill press Check out this drill press.  It's a work of art!(I bought this even though I already had a great old one) his enormous collection of R&B and other records (I couldn’t afford them), his very completely and partially restored collection of vintage bicycles (likewise, I didn’t get any of these – a man can have only so many collections, after all!).  Anyway, in the process of checking all that out, we stumbled on the dunnage, and had to have it.
The culmination of all this was our show last weekend at Inheritance.  I’m so proud of the BoxCo.  Inheritance looked amazing.  So did the work.  Only downside is that Bud couldn’t be there.  Florida is a little far to commute.

Dunnage stored at Bud's. Note vintage bikes and planer

Gallery

Robert Apodaca’s Dunnage Pieces and Process

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Our dunnage score contained a mix of red and white oak. The horizontal part of the organizer is white oak while the feet and upright are red oak. The shallow bowl is first carved with a CNC router. It is … Continue reading

Photos from AltBuild 2011

Thanks to everyone that stopped by to chat and see our work.  For those of you who couldn’t make it check out this  Flickr page of photos from our booth.

Filming & Working

I absolutely love to film footage of almost everything I make.  Finding the right framing for an object is something that seems easily repeatable…. but it isn’t. I always have such a clear thought in mind of how much time it will take me to finish a commission while filming..but it always takes twice as long.  I should learn by now, but I haven’t.      I have been blessed with a client in NYC who has ordered several pieces from me due to being on the cover of CA +Home Design magazine last year and below is some early footage.   I am filming the birth and ultimate completion of the Atomik Series No.1 chair that will serve as a new whyrHymer commercial for all to see.  You’ll even see it go in the box!

http://vimeo.com/whyrhymer/atomikmadness

 

Friends.

At the risk of sounding hokey, I’ve been thinking about friends recently.
It started with Riiska, just before Christmas. We decided, spur of the moment, and really last minute, to make a table for Divine Design 2010, which benefits Project Angel Food. In retrospect, this idea might have a been ill-advised. We were both overworked, and late on a couple of paying projects, let alone making something completely new to donate. But we found a way to make it happen. The thing about Andy is he shows up, every day with a smile on his face, ready to laugh, ready to roll with whatever he finds. And that is something that shows in the work. If you haven’t take a look at what Andy makes, you should. It’s technically excellent, it’s playful and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
I’m really proud of what we made for Divine Design. As collaborations go, it’s a real grand slam because it has quite recognizable elements from both of us, and it’s also an object completely its own. I was reminded as we worked that good collaboration requires sense of humor, humility, and endless patience. And as we worked, and rejected ideas, and dealt with schedule, and came up with other ideas, Riiska just kept coming with positivity and laughs. It made what could have been a real grinding last minute project a delight. I think our table demonstrates that.
But thinking about working with Riiska puts me in mind of the BoxCo. And here, I’ll take the hokiness a little further. There’s something about working with wood, working with clients, trying like hell to do right for the environment and feed your family, something to making a conscious effort to rein in on consumption and, through example remind ourselves and others that there is wealth in reuse, and simplicity, and functionality that makes you nice. There I said it: what we do makes us nice people. We probably wind up taking it on the chin for that sometimes, but life’s just better when you’re nice. So there’s my love note to the BoxCo. I’m glad to know you people. You make life better. Thanks for making what you make, the way you make it.