Interview: New Breed Furniture

January 31st, 2011 by Margot

New blog feature! Interviews with our vendors, collaborators & friends! People whose work inspires us so much we have break out the microscope for a look into their process. This week’s offering is from the store’s newest furniture-makers, John Lindsay & Alessandro Paradiso, of New Breed Furniture.

What’s a typical day like for you?
John: When I arrive to the shop, I usually pan across the workspace with a subtle sense of paralysis, being reminded of all the desperately important projects that are waiting for me to get on with. Fighting off the pleading procrastination, I like to start with some mindless manual labor, like working behind a tablesaw or boring holes into wood components. I have learned that the body has an amazing ability to focus once it is put to good use. The ultimate goal is to experience the sublime sensation of Flow, in which you loose all self consciousness, and you become one with your machines, the materials, and your hands, arms, and back, achieving super human production levels. Sadly, this bliss is fleeting and often unattainable, leaving the humble woodworker with the mundane tedium of toil. The biggest threats to this glorious concentration are the numerous phone calls, texts, email messages, and occasional visitations that invade the working life. There are many different types of workdays depending on whether the focus is on design (drafting, model making, prototype building, or jig making) or production (millwork, dimensioning, boring, shaping, joinery, assembly, sanding, and finish). Both types of workdays are rewarding and frustrating in equal measure. Designing can be magical, but is also a big time suck, sloppy, and fraught with failure. Production is when I can get closer and closer to being an expert of efficiencies, except when a tool breaks down, a dimension is wrong and a whole batch of pieces become firewood, or the marathon of physical labor fatigues the body. The life goal is to toggle between both worlds keeping everything in balance, a goal I have yet to enjoy.

Alessandro: I don’t have a typical day. I juggle many hats which include, architecture, teaching, furniture making, property management, and father of two teenagers. I never know what I will be doing before 8:00am that day.

What’s one old-school tool you can’t work without? New-school tool? Anything non-traditional you can’t live without?
Old school: Yates 20 Bandsaw
New school: Dynabrade Orbital Sander
Non-traditional: Custom built Dual Table Saw Sleds

Old school: Stanley Block Plane
New school: Delta Unisaw. The table saw is the heart of most woodshops.

As you look past to your body of work, do you notice any trends or themes? How has your perspective with your craft evolved through the years?
John: From the beginning, I’ve had an adverse response to any kind of fakery in woodworking, which woefully is ever-present in the industry. Most manufactured furniture or casework has its own dirty little secret, what is on the surface is not what is inside. I have consistently chosen to design and build pieces that maintain a strict integrity, working with solid wood or engineering my own panels that bridge the gap between veneer technology and more traditional woodworking. Another ambition that is consistent through out my career has been to have the structure, especially the joinery, used as ornament, letting it express itself along with the natural beauty of the wood grain. This Chicago maxim/philosophy has been a guiding principle.

I have spent the last twenty years mastering a singular concentration, woodworking. I have stayed with using only natural clear finishes on fine hard woods. My evolution has led me to now start to experiment with color, using pigmented lacquer. Soon, I hope to experiment with upholstered cushions with our wood structures. Next, will be incorporating graphic elements in the furniture. And finally, God forbid, I may find myself opening my mind to include metalworking into the repertoire. Turning forty causes a person/artist to feel an energized urgency and willingness to take risks and jump out of long warn ruts.

I always tend toward the most simple solution to any design problem. All the best design becomes ubiquitous, like the paperclip.

What was the worst job you’ve ever had?

John: I worked for Domino’s Pizza as a deliveryman, at age sixteen, for forty-five minutes. After dawning the customary blue cap and shirt, and strapping the cheesy sign on my Datsun 310 (stick shift), I set out to make my first delivery, only to find myself waiting at a stop light behind my girlfriend and all her friends. I pulled a U turn, returned the uniform, and got the hell out of there.

Alessandro: My first job after architecture school. A crazy Argentinian who sat behind me threw a punch at the back of my head because I refused to forge a tax document for him. That was his last day on that job.

And to finish, tell us about a favorite childhood snack.

John: The original Fruit Roll Up! It probably first appeared on shelves in 1977 or 78. Not the imitations, but the large, round, thin, brittle suckers that were packaged in little plastic sacks. Strawberry and grape did it for me.

Alessandro: As a native pure bred Italian this may sound funny, but I really liked SpaghettiO’s in a can. Especially with the little meatballs.

Thanks guys! Check out their pieces in the shop here.

One comment

  1. Angela said:

    So happy to have the NewBreed line of furniture at Post 27! Thanks John and Alex!

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