SR: So where do you source your wood from?
DP: It comes mostly from local vendors, I mean we get some trees that are felled from people’s backyards. So that goes to the timber mill, and we cut it up and we’ll send it back to the people as a table, or sell it back to them, sometimes that happens.
SR: So they kind of commission you?
DP: Yeah, they can commission tables that way, just depending on what kind of wood it is, and how difficult the tree is to get, what condition the tree is in. That’s a very, very small part of the business and I think there’s a limited growth potential for that side. We source wood from two places here in San Francisco. Everything that we use is FSC-certified, so it’s all sustainably grown and ecologically harvested. Some wood, like the wood blocks, are recycled products, so those are cast-off, they are basically waste which we take and clean up. And you know, essentially these [slab benches] are, too; those would end up as wood chips or firewood, so we make furniture from them.
Have you seen that before? That’s an example of the print furniture. (Referring to a wood headboard with a printed photo of a naked woman?s silhouette) We did that for the 7×7 sex issue, but then they said it was too sexy. You know, when there’s pillows, it’s hard to make it out, but, I don’t know.
SR: Is that a transfer?
DP: No, it’s printed. We print on the wood with an inkjet printer. That’s what we got a lot of play with in New York at ICFF. That was the front page of The Times and then it’s been getting a lot of magazine coverage. And we’ve just scratched the tip of the iceberg with that, because once you start using graphics and photographs, the possibilities are endless.
SR: Who does the art?
DP: That piece is from a friend of mine, James Chaing. He’s a fashion photographer here in San Francisco. Very well-regarded, does a lot of good work. We started at ICFF; we worked with a company called One & Co. owned by Jonah Becker, they’re an industrial design company, but they have a really firm hold on graphics, so they started helping us with graphics. I worked with them, but basically they did the output. And then Mona Kuhn, the whole process started with Mona Kuhn, she’s a good friend and we tried to figure out for a couple of years how to work together. I went through all these different tests basically, and found this process that worked the best.
So that’s where we start to get to this point where we’re moving away from the very simple, kind of modernist aesthetic, and start to add value. So the trick with this design, what I like most, is taking things that haven’t been mixed before, and those always seem to get the most play. You know, the Ghost Chair, Louis XIV chair plastic and a 17th century chair?you?ve never seen those together, but once you put them together, you’re like, “Oh, wow, that’s incredible!” That’s one of the things that I’ve historically done with fur. I used to collect taxidermy. And in a modern environment that contrast makes both things stand out a little bit more.
SR: So most of those [photos] are just samples, then, and you could put them on anything?
DP: Oh, you can put them on any of our case designs, we have a whole line of case goods. Anything up to 1.5′ thick, we can print on. Headboards, we’re doing a table right now, a coffee table. These clients went to Africa for a month and a half and brought back all these amazing photographs, so we kind of abstracted one of the images of a Kingfisher bird, and we?’ll print it on their table. It’s just kind of a way to have some pop-y element, which is relevant to what the piece is, or where it is in their house, specifically. The termite (photo) is a reference; you know, a termite on a piece of wood furniture; and then the taxonomic description was the other one we showed at ICFF. It’s that contrast, it catches your eye, makes it interesting.
SR: It’s cool that you can do custom, also, I mean it gives each piece a lot more meaning for the client.
DP: Yeah, and the idea there is also corporate branding. W Hotels, we talked to them briefly; you know, people can come in and say ?Oh, we want to make this chest of drawers for the bathroom,? and we can print water on it with a little ?W? and it makes sense for everybody.
SR: Yeah, that?s really cool. I haven?t seen that very much.
DP: You haven’t seen it at all! You know, it’s really strange, we hit on something at ICFF, that’s why we’re still trying to figure out how to communicate this to people, because I think people still don’t quite understand what it is. And we have yet to put it out where I feel completely 100% about it. The stuff at ICFF was great, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I think once I have a chance to talk to people about it, then they start to see it and say, “Oh, wow, that’s amazing.” We can print a whole photograph and wrap it around a piece of furniture. I like the form of my furniture; it’s very simple and straightforward, but it does have to have some kind of element, you know? I like the quiet aspect of it, but there is something nice about making it stand out, too, and that quiet element is kind of like a blank slate for something pop-y.
And just as an aside, I think one of the things that’s interesting, you know, after ICFF I was completely expecting that other people would start to do this, and figure out this process, but the one thing that I feel comfortable about is that we have our own aesthetic. So our aesthetic will always be our own, and I think for big companies maybe smaller companies can compete with us?but I think big companies don’t have the wherewithal to do it the way that we do it. We can actually turn on a dime, and we have small production runs so we can offer a lot of different things really quickly, whereas bigger companies are manufacturing overseas.
One of the issues that we have is that our prices are pretty reasonable, so you have to communicate the quality to people, and kind of educate them about why these pieces are inexpensive: you’re buying direct from the manufacturer, there’s no middlemen, there’s no catalogs going out, all that marketing expense. So that’s a challenge; thinking of the business side of it is challenging.