Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What's a bespoke?

A term I’ve heard used for tailors, for the most part, it’s a word one of my favorite clients likes to use for the work I do, and I think I love this word. It basically means “custom-made,” but it carries with it so much more, at least for me. As an example, a good friend turned me on to this wonderful Saville Row tailor’s website, which has become a model for how I’d like this site to progress (with my own silly/appalled/passionate twist, of course).

Many people/businesses in my trade do custom work, ranging from architectural elements to cabinetry to furniture. It’s not unusual, especially in a city where space is at such a premium, and people’s homes are arranged in odd ways, to need something that’s made to fit in a particular space. What makes me different? I’m so glad you asked, it saves me from ruining a perfectly good chair with all the duct tape I might have otherwise needed to strap you in.

Most often, people come to me because they want something made especially for their home, not because they need a thing that must fit in a pre-existing space. Engineering an efficient way to utilize an existing space is a skill that hundreds of custom cabinetmakers posses, if only because they’ve been asked to do it so many times, they can’t help but learn. While I feel fairly confident that I’m about as good as the next guy, it is not a skill that I would use to sell myself, ever. I have to confess that I hate to do math, and will frequently draw full scale on the wall or the floor with chalk or crayon, before I’ll think to grab the calculator (in his initial interview, my assistant told me, “I love to do math,” and I stood up on my chair and shouted, “say that again!” immediately followed by “welcome aboard!” [ok, I never actually said, “welcome aboard,” that would be too cheesy.], and I often ask him to do much of the actual engineering.). What I am especially good at, if I do say so myself, is mixing my own opinions and tastes with those of my clients, finding a design that we both love, carefully selecting incredible materials, and building a piece using traditional techniques that would bankrupt the most efficient of manufacturers. People come to me because the style or the lines of my previous work speaks to them, or because they trust that I will make something for them that will last forever, or because they fall in love (as I have) with the methods or materials I use to make a thing (more on each of those in future posts), or any combination of those.

Hence, “bespoke,” rather than “custom made” – the other term I’ve used is “commissioned,” if only because it’s a more universally understood word. But bespoke says so much more, it implies the opulence and luxuriousness I’ve come to love, it carries with it the textures and the colors, the shapes and the curves and the depth of the materials that make it impossible not to run your hands over the surface or to sit across the room letting your eyes glaze over as they pore all over the thing, wondering how delicious it might be if only you could eat it…


So. Bespoke. I’m a bespoke furniture designer/maker. That’s kind of a mouthful, I guess, but so be it. If it helps people to understand what I do, and what I can do to make their lives more interesting,* then rock on with the mouthfuls of awkwardness.

*I realize that is a seemingly preposterous claim to make, but think of it this way: if you buy an original painting or sculpture by an artist who's work touches you, and you place it in your home where you can gaze upon it often (please excuse the old world cheeseball dorkiness), it makes your life more interesting, no? It improves your awareness, it alters your moods, it fills you with emotions, simply with its presence in your life. Now interact with that thing on a daily basis. Sit in it, or sleep on it, or eat dinner at it, or put your belongings inside it, touch it and move it around or use it as a place to put your favorite bowl or to do your taxes or take that well deserved nap.

That’s why it’s called “bespoke furniture,” and it’s what I get to think about while I make it, and when I get that wonderful moment, that little piece of time when it’s late at night, and everyone has gone home, and the shop is empty and the buzzing of the fluorescents is mixing with the Motown that’s likely to be playing, and I can stand back and look at the thing, and walk around it, and feel like trying to make a living doing something this ludicrous is a really, really excellent idea.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home