Bend Goods: Wired for Creation
Was design always a part of your life?
My parents ran a community newspaper in Michigan; my sister created Clocky, the runaway alarm clock company. I think it was only natural I was meant to work in a creative field. My family set examples that gave me the courage to venture out on my own. They reminded me to do things that bring me joy. If you do work you believe in, you will succeed. When I was growing up, I was always making art—drawing, painting, sculpting. Once, I made a screen-printing machine, where I built a frame, stencil, and got a squeegee to pass paint through. This marked the beginning of my T-shirt printing business. Those early creative impulses proved to be instrumental in my professional life.
Lucy was your first piece for Bend Goods. Why do you think it was, and remains, such a hit?
The Lucy chair was the first of its kind to take the wire furniture concept developed in the 1950s and transform it into something fresh and edgy. The Lucy resonates with folks on so many levels. People love the intricate geometry, our color selections—from peacock blue to gleaming copper—and more importantly, are big fans of Lucy’s ability to fit in a wide variety of spaces. You can find our Lucy chair in several restaurants across the country, especially here in Los Angeles. It works indoors or outdoors, can withstand high-traffic areas, and it is very comfortable because of the closeness of the seat wires. People are always pleasantly surprised when they sit in it.
How would you describe the Bend Goods design process both pre- and post- prototype?
Our passion has always been to design the unexpected. The feeling of seeing it all come together is unmatched. The process starts with determining a need. We review our collection and see what is missing or we discover something in our own home or office that we’re lacking. For example, our shelving brackets were created because we needed some for our own closet and we could not bring ourselves to use standard hardware; we simply had to design something that you cannot find anywhere else. Inspiration can come from anywhere—a graphic illustration, the shape of a rock. Once I have some solid ideas, we build 3D computer and cardboard models. After a physical model is made, we make samples and go through extensive testing. The manufacturing process of our chairs involves a handcrafted method of shaping and spot welding, a process we like to call ‘bending.’ Each bend is carefully arranged to ensure structural strength, while the angles of the back, the curves of the seat, and the closeness of the wires are designed to encourage relaxation and utility.
At ICFF you would have introduced a sofa and new products to complement the Rachel and Wood & Wire chairs released last year. What are your plans now?
One of the main pieces we were going to debut was an outdoor wire sectional sofa. You can connect multiple pieces together and change the configuration to make it an L or half an oval. It’s also sensational as a simple lounge chair. We can definitely envision this sectional in an airport or a large administrative space. The Rachel Stool and the Wood & Wire Stool will both be available in bar and counter heights. We plan to launch these items this summer.
The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably sparked changes for the company. How?
We design pieces that often end up in public or communal spaces that may not currently be usable. This got us thinking: What are the new needs of our customers and how will we design products that meet those needs? It became clear that we have a tremendous opportunity to grow with our changing environment. I’ve prioritized honest conversations with other designers about how they’re affected and dealing with the challenges. We can all learn from one another. Overall, I think it gave me time to reflect on what Bend Goods has grown into. In remembering our early roots, I’m reminded that designing products that reflect our ingenuity and connect with us as artists will always keep us on the right track.
Where is that mind-set taking you next?
We are learning new skills and working with new partners. We’ve spent months working on an indoor upholstery line and a sectional sofa. Many designs were cool, some were horrible, and others were just boring. It has been a real exploratory phase. Maybe it’s premature to say, but Bend is moving toward ‘soft’ designs and materials we haven’t used before. It’s something totally different for us, and as we start to see these ‘rough drafts’ come together, we can’t help but feel excited.
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