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.”
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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“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)
Green with Envy
|Story Keywords: 360, Professional Studies and Fine Arts, Alumni, College Area, Community, Faculty, Staff, Student, Art, People, California, Leadership Starts Here|
If her face looks familiar, you’re probably a fan of “Trading Spaces” or “DIY to the Rescue,” among television’s most popular home improvement shows.
Anyone who has witnessed Devers’ knowledge and fabrication skill on these series has got be a little in awe. The woman wields a mean power saw.
For Devers’ current role as host of the A&E network’s “Fix This Yard,” she is part entertainer, part expert craftsman and large part workhorse. It’s a combination that reflects her off-screen persona.
“Any time you see me digging a hole in someone’s front yard, that’s real,” she said. “Someone else doesn’t take over when the cameras stop. You have to work just as hard as the crew behind the scenes.”
What audiences may not appreciate is Devers’ talent and training as a conceptual designer whose work has been exhibited internationally. Television was not part of the original plan.
A native of Ypsilanti, Mich., Devers headed to New York City’ Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) after high school. She studied fashion merchandising—a safe career choice, her parents thought—but was always more intrigued by the projects assigned to her friends in FIT’s design programs.
After graduation, Devers dumped the New York fashion world for California, taking odd jobs and occasional art classes. A community college instructor encouraged her to apply to San Diego State University’s School of Art, Design and Art History. She chose to study furniture design after reading about department chair Wendy Maruyama, a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
“It was so exciting to see a female fronting this male-dominated field,” Devers recalled. “And not just a female, but an Asian female. Wendy was indomitable. I learned a lot about problem-solving and adjusting on the fly. Her classes empowered me.”
Maruyama’s recommendation helped Devers secure her own spot in the master’s program at RISD, where she quickly earned a reputation as an over achiever. While most students produced one or two individual pieces for their thesis projects, Devers designed and built an entire nightclub lounge using only bathroom materials and fixtures.
After RISD, Devers moved to Los Angeles and sought out jobs that would build her skills. Earlier, she had worked as a machine shop foreman at a design and manufacturing firm, where she fabricated environmental designs and streamlined production operations. Now, she partnered with another SDSU graduate to do finish carpentry work for a general contracting firm, all of which readied her for a television career she never anticipated.
“A friend of a friend told me about a casting call for a home improvement show. The producers wanted a female co-host with real credentials. I figured why not? It was part of the L.A. experience.”
After nearly 10 successful years, Devers approaches her television career as a design project that still needs tweaking. The challenge, she said, is to please the homeowners while engaging the wider television audience.
“I am proud of the information I put out there and I love seeing the light bulb go on, especially with women,” Devers admitted. “I can guide them to the place where they say, ‘Oh, I get it. I can do this on my own now.’”
Where her career goes next is anyone’s guess. But this much is certain: during the upcoming television season, you’ll find Amy Devers in the yard of some very lucky homeowners whose neighbors are sure to be green with envy.
by Amy Devers
STEP 1. Start with a happy childhood in Detroit-area Michigan, the offspring of an English professor and an accountant. Throw in a golden retriever, a green station-wagon and a healthy dose of rebellious teen-age years for good measure.
STEP 2. Then add in a ton of college, work and life experience, including an AAS from F.I.T. in New York City, a month-long road-trip with 2 hilarious friends, a poverty-stricken stint in Orange County with 4 people living in a 1 bdr apartment, an MA in Furniture Design from San Diego State University, attendance at more small-venue indie-rock shows than can be counted or remembered, a job as a machine-shop foreman, and an MFA in Furniture Design from Rhode Island School of Design.
STEP 3. After grad school in Providence, move to Los Angeles, work as a finish carpenter, and an art handler, then open a design/build studio. Do some big jobs and some unpleasant ones, engage in the never-ending hustle for work of a freelancer.
STEP 4. When the handsome and talented musician you’ve been dating asks, say yes.
STEP 5. On a lark, answer a casting-call for a home-improvement show. Go to the audition with rhinestone safety glasses of your own creation…. Read the blog post here
Full article and layout (click through the magazine below to pages 182 – 190)
Today we take a look at a new web series that’s all about living simply (with style). It’s definitely something we can get behind…especially this episode, which shows the many ways you can re-use corks.
Meet Your Judges for ReadyMade 100: Amy Devers
Our ReadyMade 100 contest is in full force. While entries come a-pourin’ in, we’d like to introduce you to our panel of judges.
We were stoked when Amy Devers—the furniture designer, home improvement expert, and TV personality—kindly agreed to join us as a contributor a few months back. Now, on top of her Hands On column for ReadyMade, hosting “Designer People” on Ovation TV and “Fix This Yard” on A&E, and a ton of other cool projects that keep her running around constantly, Devers will be joining our illustrious panel of judges for ReadyMade 100. Read on to find out what sort of projects will impress the do-it-yourself extraordinaire.
Hey there Amy Devers. What are you up to?
No good. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. I’m juggling a lot of open projects at the moment, which is great. But 2010 is almost over and I have a serious urge to skip town for a bit, change my scenery and reboot in prep for 2011. Not sure if/where I’ll go but I’m gassing up the getaway car just in case.
Do it! You deserve a vacation. Since you do encounter DIY projects and rad design every day, what sort of creative endeavors have really impressed you?
I think Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers in LA is one of the greatest DIY projects of all time. I’m still impressed every time I go to see them. One eccentric’s backyard sculpture endures to tell his story and serve as a symbol of hard-work, passion, and possibility, wow.
You’re all about helping out new DIYers in your ReadyMade column Hands On. What advice could you give to newbies who are interested in entering this contest, but nervous of what others would think?
Winning is fun and all, but the lasting satisfaction comes from the knowledge that you can use your brain and your own two hands to make something beautiful and useful and necessary—and therefore manipulate your/our world for the better. And like any new endeavor, there is usually a learning curve. But if you don’t enter the contest then you lose the opportunity to benefit from the feedback of this illustrious panel of judges (this is the real first prize, y’all), and you lose out on being a part of the ReadyMade collective—obvious radness. But the best reason to enter is because of what you will offer the collective: we all benefit from seeing your idea, what you came up with, how you executed it, its successes and failures… it adds to the discourse and enhances the experience for everyone. If you don’t enter, we all lose. And that’s when you should be nervous about what others think.
What are your criteria for a “good” project?
A good project has a reason for being, and whether that reason for being is utilitarian, to provoke thought, or both, it should be expressed in a manner that is uniquely you and supported as best as possible through aesthetics, functionality and craftsmanship.
Do you consider yourself a soft judge or a hard ass?
I am a sensitive and encouraging, constructively critical, brutally honest hard ass.
Anything you’d like to propose as a challenge, in terms of material, time, or purpose?
Yes. Make something that no one will ever want to throw away. Ever.
What sort of creative projects are you not interested in seeing?
No more antlers, please, and pornography would probably not be appropriate.
What projects are you currently working on?
Personally, I’m in the woodshop making Christmas presents for my nieces and nephew. Professionally, I’m making some new work in the studio, writing the column for ReadyMade, gearing up to shoot season two of Fix This Yard for A&E (look for it in April), master-minding a genius plot (TBA), and beating myself up for not being able to rock a rhyme that’s right on time, even though it’s notoriously tricky.
Want to read more from DIY Master Amy Devers? Check out her most recent Hands On column, where she rethinks an old futon frame. And stay tuned for her column on our blog every week. If you have a home fixin’ question you want her to tackle, shoot us an email at articles@readymade mag.com.
Artist/designer Amy Devers MFA 01 FD is becoming an increasingly familiar face on TV, always ready to remind viewers of the value of good design. A veteran of cable shows Trading Spaces (TLC), Freeform Furniture (DIY), Blog Cabin (DIY) and DIY to the Rescue (DIY and HGTV), in spring 2010 she began co-hosting Fix This Yard on A&E and hosting Designer People on the contemporary culture channel Ovation TV. Devers describes her Ovation TV gig as a “dream job” since it allows her to interview a different cutting-edge designer each episode. Already, she has had fascinating discussions with Australian furniture and product designer Marc Newson, multifaceted Dutch designer Marcel Wanders and Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid on the show.
In addition to her TV work, Devers runs a design/build studio in Los Angeles, is working towards earning LEED certification and is writing a book. She also continues to sculpt; design, make and exhibit furniture; and do finish carpentry. She loves to work with wood, upholstery, metal and plastics, among others, and has a particular interest in making something from nothing – working with unexpected materials and found objects to underscore her fundamental belief in recycling.
“We love working with Amy because she’s not only a fantastic host, she’s a designer in her own right,” says Kris Slava, senior VP of programming for Ovation. “We’re always looking for credibility along with on-screen talent and Amy is that rare and wonderful combination of both. She is an essential part of the series and manages to bring substance and knowledge to every design topic covered.”