There is something so enthralling about Coolican & Company’s beautiful handmade furniture. Peter Coolican, together with his partners Chris Jackson, have created a line of furniture that pays homage to classic design and a clear appreciation for craft. I’ve spent hours exploring their shop and I must say, this is a stunning collection worthy of your consideration. Enjoy this expansive interview and then please take some time to visit the Coolican & Company shop for yourself.
Coolican & Company Handmade Furniture on Vimeo.
What inspired you to create your handmade furniture collection?
This collection is inspired by craft. When craftspeople build for themselves the result is often great design. By virtue of necessity, it’s usually honest, functional, minimal, well made, and unique. When creating this collection I wanted to make furniture that made good use of the materials around me, and furniture that I’d love as much now as I will many years from now.
How would you describe your style?
When you’re inspired by craft, your style follows suit. It’s been described as a contemporary take on traditional Japanese, Scandinavian, and Early American Shaker.
When craftspeople build for themselves the result is often great design. By virtue of necessity, it’s usually honest, functional, minimal, well made, and unique. When creating this collection I wanted to make furniture that made good use of the materials around me, and furniture that I’d love as much now as I will many years from now.
About The Collection – Peter Coolican
Is there a signature piece that represents your work? The kind that, if you had to point to only one, tells us the most about you as a designer and maker?
I think that the four pieces in the current line are all equally capable of speaking for me. They’ve all stemmed from the same inspirations and constraints and I’m equally proud of them all. But, if I had to choose just one, it would be the Palmerston. It was the first of the designs to come to fruition and as the simplest piece, it’s the clearest expression of my principles.
What’s your design process?
I usually start with a concept and do a whole bunch of quick sketches before progressing to full scale drawings and full scale prototyping. I find proportion so vital to design and you can only refine proportion so much in 2 dimensions or at small scale. The design really only begins to take shape after multiple rapid iterations. Building many prototypes also lets craft and materials naturally inform the design, rather than being forced on a design after the fact.
What challenges do you face as a maker and small business owner?
Cash is always the biggest challenge. Great design and great craftsmanship is just the foundation. To keep designing and making you need to find a way to support that work and there are a plethora of challenges that stem from that. I find myself wearing a lot of different hats and developing skills that I didn’t anticipate needed as a furniture maker.
What are your preferred materials and why?
Wood is hard to beat for its strength, versatility, and warmth. Lately white oak has been my particular favourite for its grain and durability. I’m very excited to see how these pieces will look when they’re aged, worn, and loved.
Great design and great craftsmanship is just the foundation. To keep designing and making you need to find a way to support that work and there are a plethora of challenges that stem from that. I find myself wearing a lot of different hats and developing skills that I didn’t anticipate needed as a furniture maker.
About The Challenges – Peter Coolican
How has your handmade furniture collection been received?
So far so good! Our new pieces just debuted at the 2016 Interior Design Show here in Toronto to a great reception, including praise from local and international designers and was featured in various local and national media. The collection was awarded best exhibit in its category at the show.
How are you using social media to promote your work and connect with your customers?
Social media is a great way to tell our story. In addition to showing off the goods, it allows us to bring our clients into the workshop to see what goes into making each piece. They develop a greater appreciation for the process and inevitably understand the value in goods that aren’t mass produced.
Who would you consider to be your design/creative mentors?
Our studio is part of a cooperative work space and I look up to everyone that works there. They all bring something to the table and I trust them all tremendously. I’m always bouncing ideas off them and learning from their processes and inspirations. I have a bunch of other famous designers that have inspired me, but it’s those closest to you that inevitably have the greatest influence: Heidi Earnshaw, Lauren Reed, Simon Ford and Julian Villasenor.
Whose work inspired you?
See above, but from the start it was guys like Wharton Esherick, Tage Frid, George Nakashima that sparked my initial interest in furniture and woodworking.
Do you have any dream collaborators?
Japanese designer Oji Masanori recently visited our studio and took an interest in some of our work. I’ve admired much of his work and would love to do something with him.
What’s next for your collection?
This year we’ve focused on seating, which is really what I love to make. If people continue to respond well to it, we’ll likely be making more chairs in the future.
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