Here at C-VILLE, we spend a lot of time thinking about design—how what we’re showing you on the page helps you receive the message. That’s most obvious in our weekly covers, where we have only a 9.25″x12.75″ space to relay to you, the reader, what we’re interested in this week. But we consider the design of each of our projects—from C-VILLE Weekly and Abode to Knife & Fork and C-VILLE Weddings, from our Best of C-VILLE party invitations to c-ville.com—as much as we consider the words.
And we’re no different than anyone in the design field. We’re all answering the same questions: How can we convey the idea in a way that helps shape the reader’s/diner’s/consumer’s understanding of it? And how can the design contribute to the community as a whole?
In this issue, we’ve spoken to design leaders excelling at those tasks locally in six different arenas—home design, marketing, weddings, food and drink, personal adornment and home goods—and asked them to tell us what it means to contribute to the user experience.
We also asked them to identify something they wish they’d created. And while everyone’s answers were compelling—from a coat rack to a whole city—we thought metalsmith Tavia Brown summed it up best: “I wish I could have designed one element of surprise among our environment. Maybe a quietly placed, delicately detailed garden gate. Or even the manhole covers we trudge over and barely notice, but whose design can sometimes be so intriguing. To have added a little touch of character to our city, that is what I wish.” Here, here.
KNOCK ON WOOD
Christina Boy builds furniture inspired by Scandinavian design
“I make a lot of dust all day long.”
Making furniture is much more nuanced than that, of course, but that’s the short answer when someone asks Christina Boy what a typical day at work looks like for her.
The longer answer is that the German native designs and builds one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture inside a woodworking shop that she helped build with her own two hands. At any given time she says she’s working on at least two or three different pieces at various stages in the production process, and she travels around the region selling her products and taking custom orders at craft fairs. Boy fell in love with high-end Scandinavian-inspired furniture while she managed an office and commercial design showroom in Germany, so in 2002 she moved to the U.S. to learn how to make it herself.
“We sold a lot of high-end designer items [in the showroom] and I think that sort of trained my eye,” Boy says. “Especially the Scandinavian architects and designers from the 1950s have a huge impact on how I look at pieces.”
After graduating from the Craft/Materials Studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2007, she spent two years at the Penland School of Crafts in western North Carolina. By 2011, with the help of her husband and father-in-law, she had built a woodworking studio in Madison County and launched her business, Christina Boy Design.
Having always been the artistic type—she describes herself as possessing “two left feet but two right hands”—Boy is in her element when she’s translating one of her original ideas onto paper and into a finished product. Her approach to design is simple and minimalistic “with some funkiness to it,” and she values a clean finish with a natural flow and no excess.
“Having to make things simple makes things complicated sometimes, because you’ve got to design in such a way that everything has a purpose,” she says.
Design and art go hand-in-hand, Boy says, and she can’t imagine doing one without the other. Whether she’s designing and building a piece she conceptualized herself or working on a custom order that a customer requested for a specific purpose, it all begins with a sketch.
“Often the final product looks a lot like my sketch, but my sketches always have lines that are never totally straight, and sometimes I kind of missed that quality of something being not perfect,” she says. “In the sketches I like how it has a little bit of movement to it, and when you nail a piece of wood, it’s very flat. So sometimes I feel like it loses a little bit of its personality, but I think the grain of the wood kind of brings that back, because that’s not super straight and has that natural quality to it.”
Boy hopes to eventually have the space to also use her steelworking skills, but for now she says wood is her preferred material to build with.
“Wood just has a warmth to it, and people seem to be very drawn to it,” she says. “Every time I have a show and people walk into my booth, the first thing they do is touch. They run their hands across the surfaces because they want to see how smooth it is and how it feels. There’s something about wood that really draws me in.”—L.I.
Monolith Knives joins the maker movement
A happy accident—that’s how one might sum up Zack Worrell’s foray into the knife-making business. Having designed and built furniture for more than 20 years, Worrell was participating in a pop-up shop when he noticed that a rolling kitchen island he had for sale needed something extra to really set the scene.
“I went to my shop and made a knife to go with it after watching YouTube videos on the process,” Worrell says. He placed it on top of the cart for staging. “That weekend at the pop-up shop, the only things that I sold were the two knives I had made for the island.”
Monolith Studio Knives, an offshoot from his furniture company, Monolith Studio, now makes knives for commission and custom one-offs as inventory. Worrell says that gives him a certain amount of creative freedom that the furniture business sometimes didn’t afford.
“Many times, custom furniture makers find themselves being pulled away from their own designs and having to make design changes and alterations for the customer,” he says. With knives, customers choose a type of wood and a profile and let Worrell and his business partner, Alan Bates, go to work.
Each of the Monolith knives is made from high-grade stainless steel alloys sourced from suppliers in the United States, but Worrell says they’ve also found steel from unusual places—like reclaimed steel from cars.
“We pick specific car parts, which we can identify through manufacturers,” he says. “Our favorite is the more storied and famed cars, like the ’67 Mustang.”
But for Worrell, good design actually goes beyond a product’s parts.
“I find that people love to make the human connection from the maker to the user, something that is dying out faster than it can be replaced,” he says. “People who buy our knives have a love of food, design, craftsmanship and even the age-old entrepreneurialism spirit that helped make our country grow and develop.”
Worrell believes the art of knife-making transcends time.
“It is the harnessing of steel, forming it into a beautiful piece of art that can be used as an everyday tool to live or even survive. It is so raw and base level to me,” he says. “I think people relate to this.”