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art & design
Detroit’s Jack of All Trades
June 7, 2012
Amy Devers takes jack-of-all-trades to a whole new level. A furniture maker, designer, artist and carpenter, she hosted Ovation’s Designer People, promotes sustainable living ideas on the web series Urban Eco, and judges international furniture design competitions. In short, her resume is insane. But first and foremost, she is a Detroit native, and we sat down with Amy to get her opinions on her hometown and its influence on her artistic career.
Growing up in Detroit, what influenced your career as an artist?
Even though I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, the auto industry really seeped in. The language of the automobile speaks to so many aspects of modern life. It is the vernacular of forward momentum, a continuing cycle of new growth and shedding of decay. I’ve found myself creating furniture and interactive sculpture from salvaged auto parts, like a love seat made from a bench seat scavenged from a 1971 Ford Hornet.
What’s your favorite Detroit museum or place to visit?
The Diego Rivera courtyard at the Detroit Institute of Arts. There are a series of murals about the Detroit auto industry that are phenomenal. They carved quite an impression into my brain.
What is the biggest misconception about Detroit?
People see Detroit as a bleak, industrial town, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even in hard times, the people have such amazing soul and pride. It’s like the town trains its people in the art of making something out of nothing, and it gives us a scrappiness. When I think of the enormous sculpture of Joe Louis’ fist to the elbow hanging as a pendulum, it is a visually powerful emblem of that attitude. Detroit fosters a hardscrabble creativity among the people that is conducive to breaking boundaries.
What are your thoughts on Detroit’s growing art scene?
It’s not new that artists often flock to cheap neighborhoods. But what is exciting is that with the economic downturn, the city of Detroit embraced this growth. They didn’t legislate it or try to control it. Instead they have recognized what a beautiful thing is happening and fully embraced this cultural growth. They let it be an organic thing, and it has created a great co-mingling of artists from all over.
For more on the current surge of the arts in Detroit, check out Motor City Rising, Ovation‘s original series chronicling the artistic revolution to take back Detroit! Airing Fridays at 10pm ET, only on Ovation.
Claudia Maittlen-Harris is a writer and comedian based in Los Angeles. She is the co-creator of the how-not-to dating/relationship blog, The Zeros Before the One.
Images: Courtesty of Amy Devers
What You Make of It
Pull Up a Chair, Then Fix It
Sadé Hooks laces a chair. More Photos »
By ANDREW WAGNER
Published: May 23, 2012
IT’S hard not to get swept up in the excitement of Design Week in New York, when the newest home furnishings are introduced at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, and related events happen all over town.
But what about all the old furnishings: those forlorn, broken-down pieces that are forgotten, cast off and kicked to the curb, seemingly destined for the landfill?
Not everyone, it turns out, has left them for dead.
Last Saturday, as part of a conference called MakeShift, Natalie Chanin, the founder of the fashion label Alabama Chanin, held a workshop to rehabilitate some of these castoffs at Partners & Spade on Bond Street. The event, which she called Crafting Design, was dedicated to resurrecting the bent, twisted and broken remnants of what the poet David McFadden has described as “the most ubiquitous and important design element in the domestic environment”: the chair.
But with New York’s bed bug scare still going strong, finding enough eligible chairs (more than 20, so that every participant would have at least one to work on) was more challenging than anyone anticipated.
Organizers finally decided that while steel and plastic chairs found on the street were fair game, wooden chairs were too risky, and only those found online were accepted as candidates for rehabilitation. Still, by the morning of the event there was a good-size pile for attendees to pick through outside Partners & Spade.
Amy Devers and Tanya Aguiñiga, Los Angeles-based designers who were in New York for the fair, each found a chair within minutes.
“We do this for a living,” said Ms. Aguiñiga, who specializes in furniture and jewelry design. “We know what we like when we see it.”
Inside, hammers, drills, nails and sandpaper were artfully laid out for participants’ use. The 20 or so people who showed up were given only one instruction: that there were no instructions. Even so, seasoned designers like Ms. Aguiñiga and Ms. Devers and several experienced craftsmen were on hand to offer help and advice.
Cathy Bailey, an owner of Heath Ceramics, grabbed a drill and a plastic knockoff Eames chair and calmly set to work on it, weaving a zigzag pattern into the plastic seat using colorful scraps of T-shirt material provided by Ms. Chanin’s studio.
Ms. Aguiñiga quickly dismantled the weathered seat of her wooden chair. Then she grabbed a handful of T-shirt strips and began weaving them through the back of the chair, creating a soft multicolored backrest. For the seat, she used thin rope to provide structural support and then applied a layer of navy-blue T-shirt material on top.
Ms. Devers, a furniture designer and the star of “Fix This Yard” on A&E, was hammering nails into the seat and back of her old Ikea chair, piling T-shirt scraps on top and carefully threading them through the nail bedding, so that the material began to take on the appearance of a colorful shag rug. One lone, loose piece from the back was left to dangle gracefully to the ground.
Soon, two hours had passed, and it was time to assess the results. All the castoff chairs had been restored to life, and some could have held their own at the furniture fair.
But that was not their destiny. Instead, it was decided that they should be returned to the streets where they came from, to pass on inspiration to whomever found them.
And so, at the end of the day, they were back on the sidewalk. Several of them sat on a corner in Chinatown, beside a pile of trash, where curious passers-by could peruse them.
Perhaps some lucky person took them home.
I had an amazing time at ICFF and Design Week in NYC. I even managed to get in some hot, hands-on, DIY chair action. Check it out… (click here for the full article)
“…With some serious star-studded attendees including Los Angeles-based designers Amy Devers and Tanya Aguiniga, the affair produced some gems that would have been the highlights at any of the many galleries putting their best feet forward during design week.
But we had other ideas. While some attendees took their pieces home, we set Amy and Tanya’s contributions free in the wilds of New York—returned to the streets from whence they came. We are firm believers in what comes around goes around.”
Q: “I just moved to Austin, TX and bought my first place! Iʼm totally digging the thrift-chic look; do you know of any great shops or flea markets around town where I can pick stuff up?”
Congratulations and welcome to “the live music capital of the world!” I don’t live in Austin, but I have had the benefit of visiting several times for SXSW and to shoot my web series, Urban Eco. Austin is rad, I love it there. I’m sure you will too.
Thrift-chic is a look that must be carefully curated to reflect your personal interests and style. Because if it’s not, you will basically just end up with a garage sale in your living room, which is not a good look. In my opinion, the absolute best part about second-hand objects is that they come with their own personal stories and histories. Sometimes you can learn these stories through the acquisition process, like when the sweet and chatty gray-haired lady holding the yard sale tells you she got that tea set as a wedding gift when she married her first husband in …
Nice write-up on the lecture I gave at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou…
4 月 12 日,应设计艺术学院邀请,美国阔叶木外销委员会大中华区委员、我院客座教授方振华先生(香港)及著名设计师、 电视节目主持人 Amy Dever(艾美•德弗斯女士 美国)举办题为“创‘椅’无限 2011 美国阔叶木家居设计大赛”的主题讲座,得 到了设计艺术学院师生的热烈反响和高度评价。讲座由综合设计系黄斌斌老师主持。
Invited by the School of Design and Arts, members of the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) Greater China Office, Visiting Professor Mr Patrick Fong (Hong Kong) and famous designer & TV presenter Ms Amy Devers (USA) organized a talk with the theme of American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) Greater China (GRCH) Furniture Design Competition 2011 on April 12, 2012. The response of the teachers and students of the School of Design and Arts were enthusiastic. The talk received many positive comments and it was officiated by Mr Huang Binbin, teacher of the Department of Comprehensive Design. 方振华教授介绍了美国阔叶木家居设计大赛优秀作品的创作理念与设计思维的分析,以阐明创“椅”无限 2011 美国阔叶木家居 设计大赛的核心主张。然后,由艾美•德弗斯女士来讲述她对艺术设计的设计经历及其认识。艾美•德弗斯女士丰富的设计经 历以及艺术家、设计师、家具制作者、电视节目主持人的多重身份引起了同学们的浓厚兴趣,讲座现场座无席,气氛轻松热 烈。讲座围绕一系列自我拷问展开,通过精彩的影视 DIY 节目作品,独到深刻的观念、生动诙谐的语言、活泼互动的形式, 艾美•德弗斯女士诠释了设计师对事业、生活、他人和自己应该持有的态度,并详细回答了同学们提出的各种问题。讲座令同 学们受益匪浅,所带来的不仅是创意灵感的启示,更是思维观念的冲击,更开拓对“跨界”视野的认识。
Professor Patrick Fong introduced the creative concepts and design thinking of the good works in the AHEC GRCH Furniture Design Competition 2011 in order to clarify the core idea of the Contest. It was followed by the presentation of Ms Amy Devers on her design experience and understanding of art and design. The multiple identities of Ms Amy Devers, profound design experience as well as artist, designer, furniture makers, TV show host, has aroused the keen interest of students. The talk recorded a full-house and the atmosphere of the talk was relaxing. Amy’s talk was started by a series of self-questions, following by the wonderful works of television DIY shows. With unique and profound concepts, lively and witty language in vigorous and interactive format, Amy Devers has interpreted the attitude of a designer should have on his/her career, life, other people and himself/herself to the students. She has also responded to the various issues raised by the students. This lecture benefited the students not only on creative inspiration, but also on the impact of thinking concept and open up their understanding of crossover possibilities. 讲座结束后,设计艺术学院的部分专业教师与艾美•德弗斯女士和方振华先生就一系列专业话题进行了沟通,为今后进一步的 交流与合作奠定了基础。
After the lecture, professional teachers of the School of Design and Arts communicated and shared ideas with Ms Amy Devers and Mr Patrick Fong which help to build up a foundation for further exchanges and cooperation in the future.
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Q:“My spouse and I just fell in love with a bungalow, but itʼs in major need of repair . . . how do I even begin the process of renovating. Honestly, I donʼt even know where to start!”
A: First, think about how you will actually use the space (i.e. the formal dining room as a storage closet for craft supplies, the living room as tv/dining room, the kitchen as central hub for entertaining . . . you know what I mean). Get honest with yourself because most houses are used differently today than when they were built. And think long term . . . are you starting a family or a work-from-home business? Or will your love for this house be just a five year fling? This way you can accommodate your current needs…
Q: “Do you have any cool ideas or projects for really old interior solid core doors? My brother is renovating a house and he was throwing them out . . . “
A: I a-door (sorry) old doors. Even when mightily repurposed they are still instantly recognizable. For all that history of service, letting good things in, and keeping bad things out, they deserve to have a place of honor in their afterlife. I’m glad you’re keeping them and planning to put them to good use. It’s what they would’ve wanted.
Upcycling old doors is a noble endeavor. Given their size, shape and heft, they are best suited to table-like applications, but that’s by no means the limit. Here are a few ideas off the top of my head:…
Q: “I live in SW Florida and recently moved into a new home. I have absolutely NO green thumb . . . what is a good plant that has color, is pretty, and can survive with minimal care IN constant sunlight? Secondly, my yard is full of sand spurs. Have any suggestions as to HOW to get rid of them so I can let my pooches play outside without putting boots on them? ” ~Micky Rae
A. Ok, fortunately for me, but unfortunately for you, I have no experience with sand spurs. I’d like to keep my distance from them too, because those things are pure evil. For those who don’t know, sand spurs are an annual grass type of weed that produce a very spiky
torture device seed pod that hitches a ride on anything it can in order to spread its reign of terror seed and reproduce. What makes them particularly diabolical is that they can hold on to bacteria from animal feces (and what not) and then inject it straight into your bloodstream when you accidentally step on one and get impaled by its tiny hypodermic needle-like spikes. They inflict their torture…..
“Everyone else was seeking out the most lavish materials– beautiful upholstery fabrics and exotic woods,” says Somerson, “and Amy brought in these really mundane materials from Home Depot, which she then repurposed with an incredible level of both craftsmanship and ingenuity.”
Full article and layout (click through the magazine below pg. 12 – 21)