Commissioning Work: Micklish Part 1

Over the past 5 years editing YD, I’ve noticed a clear divergence between two kinds of furniture designers – the ones who are pure creatives that rely on manufacturing partners and the “old school” kind – the ones who were craftsman long before they ever thought of themselves as designers. Last year, I embarked on a scary, yet exciting project to create several custom pieces for my home. I met a guy name Curtis Micklish – young, talented, gifted even if he didn’t know it.

He comes from the old school, built my hand and methodically perfected to suite the needs of each customer. I want to share my experience working with Curtis over the course of several months, from what started as a simple sketch of a sideboard, to a complete piece inspired by and named after the retro 35 mm Belomo – it was incredible to witness the entire chain of design executed from the hands of one person.

The early stages of design was exciting. I didn’t give Curtis much direction. I believe in letting a designer play whenever possible. My only restrictions were height and width to ensure the new sideboard would fit. He also quickly picked up on my minimalist aesthetic and a few weeks after our initial conversation he came to my office and showed me a sketch. It was long, streamline and stark in appearance. Made entirely of poplar wood with a light white wash, the yet unnamed sideboard became less austere. Complete with a set of tripod legs that gave it personality and a cubby hole for show & tell opportunities.

The construction begins. Out of his restored mid-century home (which he did himself), there’s a garage filled with dangerous looking machinery of which he obviously mastered. I watched him route the doors of the sideboard and listened to him tell me about his childhood. He comes from a family of craftsmen. He and his father are contractors but his eye for design eventually led him away from construction into doing his own thing. I could sense that infant creative spark surrounded by uncertainty and a bit of self doubt. Bigger than that was his passion. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. It’s just a matter of taking it day by day to get there.

By the end of the day, the frame was finished. The steel shelves were in and the doors routed.  Me? – completely excited! Come back tomorrow for part two.

Designer: Micklish