When city dwellers fantasize about their dream apartment, it’s a place completely free of mismatched, hand-me-down furniture. The pieces have sleek lines, impeccable craftsmanship, and somehow feel both modern and timeless. In other words, the furniture is probably all from TOKEN.
The Brooklyn-based furniture company, which was founded by Will Kavesh and Emrys Berkower, has its design and manufacturing operations in one space, which means that designers can tweak and improve the pieces throughout the process. We caught up with Will to learn more about the process and to get his advice on what to look for when buying furniture .
What inspired you to start your business?
There wasn’t a specific moment where TOKEN emerged as a fully-conceived idea. The process of starting my own design company evolved through teaching sculpture, engineering and industrial design as well as working under other designers. Fabricating and engineering work for someone else’s vision helped me realize the importance of making my own statement. I needed to make my own work, on my own terms.
Your pieces seem to celebrate the materials, like the pattern of the wood and hardware. Do you focus on the details?
Yes, definitely. My design process is a bit unrelenting. I like to look at pieces that we’ve been making for years and think about how they can function better or be made faster. The way I design involves integrating drawing, prototyping and fabrication into one process. Having a manufacturing facility in our studio is important. I often make changes during fabrication that influence both the design and how my ideas are conceived. Each piece is a product of the process in its entirety.
Do you have a favorite piece?
The Collection (which is what we’ve taken to calling the marquetry pieces we’ve made) definitely stand out for me. They’ve allowed me to explore painting and visual art in a sculptural way. These pieces are very personal and very driven by my own interest in mark-making and form. Working with those pieces while also creating our contract seating designs (like our Catenary Bar stool) has created an interesting contrast for our process. Since the general public often uses the contract pieces because they’re used in restaurants and public spaces its informed the design since the contract seating often provides a design for many people rather than something for a residence or a personal space.
What’s the best part about your job?
I see myself as a studio artist, engaged in an active studio practice. Designing and then working with materials in the studio is why I started this business. For me, the hands-on studio work is the best part, be it troubleshooting a production problem or fabricating a prototype.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
It’s very hard for me as an artist and as a designer to know my limitations. I’ve learned one person cannot do every single thing that a business requires. Although the primary focus of our business is creative, we couldn’t grow or thrive without the advice and experience of all of the members of our team, including business development, finance and accounting. I’ve learned how to apply good advice in order to make our business run successfully.
What inspires you creatively?
I draw on a variety of sources from the world around me- from painting, sculpture, architecture, craft, history and science. I’m interested in both craft and art that explores the reduction of form to its essentials, amplifying the emotional and physical connection of the materials. I admire the sculptures of Robert Erwin, the paintings of Bridget Riley, the ceramics of Lucy Rie and the furniture of Poul Kjaerholm as they express certain truths about the world around them through the innovative manipulation of materials. In fields other than fine art, I’m inspired by people like Michael Faraday, a self-taught physicist, who revealed the concealed nature of the world through investigation and exploration. Much of my design is about invention, learning and exploring. That’s what I strive for in my work–an understanding and curiosity about how things work, their function and their presence.
Do you have any tips for people when they’re shopping for furniture?
Look for things that have materials that speak to you. Don’t focus too much on what’s on trend or in style now, since you’ll be living with this piece for a long time.