Coast to Coast Continues! Colony Lassos up Great Design in Austin

Special thanks to Emily Rae Pellerin of Colony for the following post.

01.18.19 | By
Coast to Coast Continues! Colony Lassos up Great Design in Austin

Saddled up with Design Milk, we – Colony, a NY-based community of independent furniture, lighting, textiles and objects designers – have developed this series of trips and editorial “city snapshots” to explore the United States in the name of design, discovery and inspiration. We’ve been to Detroit, Nashville, New Orleans, and the Santa Fe region of New Mexico. Austin, long lauded for its music, film and food scenes, felt like a natural next destination to find where design fit in with these other creative circles.

We kicked off a whirlwind trip hopping between studios, homes, workshops and retailers with a visit to Yucca Stuff. The furniture maker behind the brand, Daniel Morrison, launched his line when he was living in Brooklyn.

Yucca Stuff’s Lavaca Table, whose name nods to the Texas River and whose limestone legs are sourced out west.

Texan-born, Morrison returned to Austin a little over a year ago and now shares a massive woodworking and fabrication shop with other makers. His show-and-telling of different types of limestone – a Texas specialty – really rocked. (*We’d like to thank Design Milk for letting us get away with that pun.)

Rachel Wolfson Smith’s studio, our next stop, is located in Canopy, a complex of creative spaces in a redeveloped warehouse. (Architected by Michael Hsu.)

Rachel Wolfson Smith working on one of her large-scale drawings, whose content originally reflected her fascination with automobiles and motor vehicles, but has since leaned toward local natural landscapes and flora.

On the walls of her sunlit room were tacked or hung large-scale graphite drawings, carrying palimpsests of illustrated objects, written messages or glyph-like shapes. One recent piece was a field of weeds she’d been drawn to when a home in her neighborhood had been torn down — her ode to the complexity and aliveness of the gentrification of her adoptive city.

HATCH Workshop

HATCH Workshop, our third-of-the-day stop on the east side of town, we visited their fabrication and design studio. You can grab a coffee at Flitch, its onsite coffee shop, while touring the stock at its neighbor, Harvest Lumber Company, with whom it shares a lumber kiln, a workshop, and some client projects.

We loved HATCH Workshop’s wooden playscape. (Dying for a ride on that slide!) Their projects range from more left-field designs like this one, to collaborations with the city, commercial institutions, and other private product designs for the home.

Past projects’ work speckles the site, with renditions of a bench design used along Austin’s hike and bike trail set up for guests to lounge at Fetch. Coffee and construction. A perfect pair.

After some inevitable taco time, we capped the first day of our Austin design tour with Cavu Design, whose designer Cindy Goldman welcomed us into her home to the far southwest of town. She represents a wonderful digression from the East Side-based contemporary studios we’d seen: her craftsmanship is older world, and her work more traditionally inclined.

In addition to her artistic marquetry work — which she gorgeously practices on home furniture pieces and custom works for institutions and private clients — Cavu Design’s Cindy Goldman shared with us her first-ever design piece. Here’s a close-up of the dresser’s secret lock box.

She was introduced to a world of master woodworking and marquetry through her rolodex of contemporaries and mentors, who collectively make up some of West Texas’s most prolific woodworkers and custom furniture makers.

With the city limits in our dust, we headed out early to Smithville, a small town an hour outside Austin, to visit the home and studio of the couple behind Era Ceramics. Starting with custom gazpacho bowls for one restaurateur, Era now works with handfuls of restaurants around town and beyond, developing customizable, finely crafted serving ware.

The couple behind Era Ceramics, Dimitar Karaytchev and Lindsey Wohlgemuth, split the artistic and operational responsibilities of the company. Whatever works to bring these beautiful designs to the table.

The creative couple has also built out their new home, which naturally features a beautifully displayed kitchen shelf of their own plates and bowls. Bon appétit.

A trio of stools by Jobe Fab. Photo by Casey Woods.

Heading back into town through a small bit of the famed Texas hill country, we visited with Bryan Jobe at his home, shared with (and co-built out by) his wife, Camille Jobe of the women-owned Jobe Corral Architects. What began as an inclination to build bike frames turned, eventually, into Jobe Fab, a steel and woodworking furniture practice.

A powder-coated steel and wood bench by Jobe Fab. Photo by Casey Woods. 

A passion gig for Jobe, a full time construction project manager, his work sleekly interprets traditional shapes and joineries with its steel incorporations — at times subtle, other times striking. The symbiotic relationship between those two focal materials fully complemented the Jobes’ fine-crafted, minimal home design.

On a tip from UX and visual designer Sam Reicks, our final visit was with Broad Studios, an all-female collective of artists spanning the mediums of ceramics, painting and graphic design, and fabric and textile art.

A snapshot of open studios at Emily Eisenhart’s colorful pocket of Broad Studies. Photo by Ellen Bruxvoort.

Painter-designer Emily Eisenhart shared the story of the collective, and how they’ve recognized the Austin community’s thirst for all the art and design it can get. That’s lead them to host workshops and classes out of their sunny, ground-floor studio space at Springdale General, another makerspace. For Emily and her colleagues, it’s all about the kismet connections Austin has granted them, and the creative work those connections and communities continue to fuel.

What we found of the design narrative in Austin is that it’s one greatly involving its transplants; it’s one that’s marked by creative selflessness, and is inevitably informed by the city’s changing, booming population and its needs. Most important, it’s a narrative that’s filled with a true-to-Austin relaxedness, a pure love for making, and an investment in the community of maker comrades that Austin both home-grows and that it attracts.

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.