In our new series 6sqft Studio Visits, we take you behind the scenes of the city’s up-and-coming and top designers to give you a peek into the minds, and spaces, of NYC’s creative force. In our first installment we meet the founders of Brooklyn’s Made in Americana. Want to see your studio featured here, or want to nominate a friend? Get in touch!
Many of us come to New York with certain goals in mind, but more often than not we’re at the whim of the city which has plans of its own. But this is not always a bad thing. Case in point: When college friends Jordan Johnson and Joey Grimm moved to NYC a few years ago, they wanted to be performance artists; now they’re running a burgeoning furniture business called Made in Americana.
Today, the pair work out of a massive industrial studio at the border of Hasidic Bed-Stuy and Bed-Stuy Bedford, designing custom interiors and building modern pieces meant to last for generations. But that’s not all, they’ve opened their very large and very well-equipped space to other newbie BK designers to create a collaborative environment that gives others the opportunity to not just get their works made, but refine them with top-of-the-line sustainable materials to get them showroom-ready—with their help, of course. Jump ahead to learn more about what Jordan and Joey are doing, exactly how they got to where they’re at, and of course to tour of their quirky, and quite cool, DIY studio space.
How did you get into furniture design?
Joey: Jordan grew up working in his dad’s furniture shop from about 10 years old to 20. The first piece of furniture he remembers building was a stool so he could reach the bandsaw and drum sander. I’ve been around the building process since I was a baby, growing up in a transitioning loft in downtown Kansas City. Being in a constantly changing environment and being surrounded by tools and artists who were always making, I gained a true makers sensibility and carried this all the way to grad school. I went to the University of Delaware where I focused on furniture as kinetic sculpture.
Jordan: Before committing fully to furniture design we made collaborative performance art and videos. Our last work was a video shoot spanning from New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico in which we “chased the horizon” by stretching a rope in tension between our waists to line up with the horizon line behind us.
© Made in Americana
Why did you choose to start something in Brooklyn?
Joey: Starting our business in Brooklyn was largely due to circumstance. Jordan had originally come to New York for an artist residency and I came up to teach woodworking and metalworking classes. After a short time we began working together, building furniture out of my basement. We worked this way for a while, dodging loose wires and leaky pipes, until we got a large-scale job that required we get a “real” shop and tools. The rest, as they say, is history.
Jordan: Starting a business and working in Brooklyn is an amazing and humbling experience. It is a true master’s course in “Life.” Our shop is sandwiched between the Marcy Houses and Hassidic Bed-Stuy, it is a very dynamic location and we feel very fortunate to be here. It is great for our shop because it’s on a major shipping and receiving route, we can be as loud as we want at all hours of day or night and we work with many of the other businesses in our neighborhood.
Joey and Jordan: We don’t wish anything to be different in the neighborhood.
Why the name Made in Americana?
Jordan: For us, the term Americana refers to the reinvention of culture, art and practices of the United States. By being Made In Americana, in a way, we are creating our own little slice of America. By doing this we hope to create an identity that emphasizes working with your friends and neighbors, producing goods that are made with quality and built to last for generations as well as identifying with a cultural worldview.
Do your pasts in Kansas City and Houston inform your work in any way?
Jordan: We both wear our pasts on our sleeves and feel ongoing encouragement and pride for where we come from. For our recent brand debut our lighting collaboration (Matt Jacobs), featured artist (Amanda Martinez), band and DJ (Henry Eddins) as well as friends who helped us on late nights and long days were ALL from Kansas City. We have a very strong and wide reaching network up here of which we are very grateful.
Where are you hoping to take your practice?
Joey: We are hoping to continue selling goods from our design line to online outlets, get representation in New York showrooms and stores, expand into an apparel branch, open a production facility in Kansas City, ship our goods nationally and worldwide and eventually create entire living spaces that can be assembled and shipped to a desired location.
Jordan: Ultimately, we want to physically grow into the philosophy we represent.
How does collaboration play into what you do?
Jordan: Collaboration is everything. We have been friends for over eight years now, have been collaborating artistically for seven of those years and been in business together for over two. Everything we do is a collaboration from making coffee to cutting plywood to designing and building our furniture. Our entire business model depends on seamless collaboration.
What’s project has been your favorite to complete so far?
Joey: Our favorite project has been the creation of our debut design line, Base Line, and the coinciding Shop Party to celebrate it.
Is there anything new you’re working on that we should know about?
Jordan: Base Linegoods are live on our web store now and will continue to be re-stocked and updated. We also just released our bi-monthly blog, Written In Americana by Henry Eddins. This will be a semiotics blog addressing design, art, food, music and all other things that inspire our practice.
Who’s who: Joey (left) and Jordan (right)
Photography by Angelica Vasquez for 6sqft unless otherwise noted
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