How A Chance Meeting Inspired An Entire Furniture Collection [NY Design Week 2012]

Brad Ascalon and Frederick McSwain had a concept, but no manufacturing partner. The Neal Feay Company decided to branch out from their typical business-line to help make their sketches a reality.

 

Designers Brad Ascalon and Frederick McSwain recently debuted the ‘AM Project,’ a collection of anodized aluminum furniture and accessories, with the exhibit Reinvention; Writing History Through Aluminum during the 2012 New York Design Week. The NYC based duo have been friends for years, but readily admit that they don’t agree on much when discussing design approaches. But in creating AM, they found inspiration when they started sharing stories and experiences with each other. This inspiration developed into sketches for a series of concepts, but they needed a manufacturing partner to make the concepts a reality.

Luckily, a chance meeting between Ascalon and the president of the California-based Neal Feay Company, Alex Rasmussen, led to the perfect partnership. Rasmussen was looking to expand Neal Fay’s offerings–the company was a well-known fabricator of aluminum components for high-end audio gear, but Rasmussen wanted to utilize the company’s heritage of experimentation and precision craftsmanship in a new way. Ascalon and McSwain needed a skilled manufacturer to bring their concepts to life, and a partnership was born.

The next challenge was figuring out a way to actually manufacture the complicated designs. All of the pieces in the collection started out as solid blocks of aluminum. Computer programs were developed to instruct machines how to sculpt the pieces, but the trick was in the computer program design- some of the original designs couldn’t translate to the machines, and the programs had to be reworked and modified multiple times so the machines could actually produce them. For example, the ‘Turntable’ piece (featured below) was originally designed to have much deeper slots, but given the mechanics of the machinery, the machine couldn’t cut the deep slots without ruining the piece. The computer program was modified, resulting in shallower slots–a design decision that actually projects the optical effect ring in the table top much more clearly.


Photos:Kate Glicksberg for Design Milk; Turntable was inspired by the Techniques 1200 and has an optical ring pattern that emerges when viewed from different angles.

Despite the design challenges, everyone involved in the project spoke highly of the experience, with Rasmussen and his team saying it was an opportunity to push their capabilities and try to essentially accomplish the impossible. The collaboration with Ascalon and McSwain represents the Neal Feay’s first venture into collaborative product development.

Scroll through images of the collection below:

Timber table has wooden legs that ‘push’ through the table top. Inspiration came the from plants and trees that reclaim the parking lots and sidewalks of abandon suburban retail stores.

Photo: Kate Glicksberg for Design Milk

Henge is a a bowl that can be constructed and rearranged from individual magnetic blocks of aluminum.


Photo: Kate Glicksberg for Design Milk

Bonnie Bracelets come stacked as a linear sculpture. The name is derived from a vintage bracelet bearing the same name that was manufactured early in the Neal Feay Company’s history.


Photo: Kate Glicksberg for Design Milk

Lumen is a vase, candle holder and ash tray that looks like a small modern sculpture when empty.


Photo: Kate Glicksberg for Design Milk

Achilles is a weighty yet sleek shoehorn, designed mostly as an excuse to create a beautiful object.


Photo: Kate Glicksberg for Design Milk

Brad Ascalon

Frederick McSwain

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