A Peek into the Keyhole of Architecture/Design — Q&A Style

In today’s world of design it is nearly impossible to assign a distinct definition to any of the rapidly changing job titles. Depending on the business context and stage of career, designers can find themselves with a number of different job titles. A typical first-job the aspiring artist may come into contact with is a junior designer; nevertheless, it is common for there to be room to grow alongside the business’s endeavors as long as the commitment is there. Networking is an important element to any industry, including this one. Although, time is a key component too.

Becoming an architect, as well as an interior designer, is one of my longest living ambitions. It was a computerized simulation game by the very name Sims that sparked my interest for design at an early age. Realistically, imaginative gameplay can only teach so much that will be applicable to real world scenarios. Now, looking for guidance to develop a foundation strong enough to build a lasting career in both the arts and business, I interviewed Jeff Canham — an independent graphic designer — who loves arts such as letterpress and design; and Luke Bartel, a devoted painter and sculptor of wood. Both of these artists work side-by-side in a workshop by the name of Woodshop; which is based here in the bay area, more specifically in Ocean Beach.

Woodshop, 3725 Noriega Street, San Francisco, CA 94122

INTERVIEWS

Luke Bartel

Q1) How did you come to the realization that design and/or woodworking would be an area of interest? And had this passion of yours unexpectedly diverge into other areas of expertise?

A) Growing up we built a lot of sheds and stuff with my dad who loved to garden. I was first exposed to woodworking in a college sculpture class, and loved that I could use the facilities to make furniture as I moved around during my college years.

Q2) As a developing artist, where did you choose to invest your time so that you could learn as much possible in your desired field?

A) After college, all my jobs were in shops building things, largely based around woodworking, but dealing with all manner of materials. I actually thought that I would start a part-time furniture business to create a space where I could pursue sculpture & painting.

Q3) What was your first job like in the field of design, and how does it compare to where you are now?

A) I worked for a couple of brothers who work in glass and metal and are both extremely talented artists and that gave a strong sense of the marriage of art/craft/business. then, when I went back to art school in Chicago, I met a lot a really talented artists expressing themselves through their crafts and business. all these experiences got me thinking about craft as a sort of living art.

Q4) What does a normal workday for you look like?

A) Get to the shop, get sucked into some ongoing project, though usually I should be taking care of a bunch of more administrative stuff, like responding to emails, working out bids, etc. The challenge everyday is really keeping on top of various projects and making sure that potential future projects get enough attention, but still finding time to focus and work on the project(s) underway.

Q5) Could you say there is an immense amount of competition prevalent in today’s world for designers, and if so, in what way?

A) I am sure there is a lot of competition, but I have a great shared space where none of us really do quite the same thing, so there is a lot of camaraderie, without a lot of competition. outside of the shop, I have found that other builders/designers tend to be really open and sympathetic. in some ways, this type of work, at least at our small scale, is so personal with clients/designers/etc, that I rarely feel like I am competing with others. who knows how long this little fantasy will last, but it has been great so far.

Q6) How does one gather proper resources needed for the construction of a particular piece?

A) Some parts are a matter of dreaming up/designing your idea, and the other 75% is experience and the generosity of others who know things and are willing to share. (the yahoo group sf3d is great for people sharing resources).

Q7) Describe the efforts necessary to facilitate a collaboration with another artist. What are the risks?

A) I like collaborating, so I find it usually feels natural, and a collaboration is like any relationship in that it develops with its own rhythm, pace, etc. As collaborations take on more responsibility, especially monetarily, things get more complicated and expectations need to be laid out clearly to avoid feeling out of balance…

Q8) How do you handle projects that may not have worked out in the way you initially envisioned?

A) Does anything ever work out the way you envision? To some degree, you try to hold onto the concepts/ideas that you feel most passionate about, but I guess you also try to remain flexible and have the openness to adjust your sensibilities to whatever a project is becoming, rather than what you wanted it to be.

Q9) Tell me about a time when you had a certain design (possibly a favorite) of yours endorsed and used for production.

A) I don’t think I have…

Jeff Canham

Q1) How did you come to the realization that design and/or woodworking would be an area of interest? And had this passion of yours unexpectedly diverge into other areas of expertise?

A) When I was in school I wanted to be an artist, but graphic design seemed like a more practical field to pursue. The more I studied design, the more I fell in love with it. And I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and sign painting and woodworking were skills that worked well with the design and artwork that I’ve been doing.

Q2) As a developing artist, where did you choose to invest your time so that you could learn as much possible in your desired field?

A) When I moved to San Francisco in 2005, I was just beginning my career as a freelance designer and didn’t know too many people in the city. I started volunteering at The San Francisco Center for the Book because I loved letterpress, design and book arts so I figured it would be a good way to meet people and get involved in that community. Around the same time I started apprenticing at New Bohemia Signs again because I loved painting and lettering and knew I could learn a lot there. New Bohemia ended up being a lot more fruitful for me and I ended up working there for about five years.

Q3) What was your first job like in the field of design, and how does it compare to where you are now?

A) My first real job in graphic design was as the Assistant Art Director for Surfer Magazine. I got to work with type and great photography. It was a dream job for me. I still do a lot of work for the surf industry so in some ways things haven’t changed all that much, but the jobs I take on and the style of work that I do now are completely different.

Q4) What does a normal workday for you look like?

A) Because I do graphic design, sign painting and my own artwork, there really is no typical day for me. My projects are almost always different so my approach to completing them varies. I may be behind a computer all day or I may be pouring through books looking for ideas or painting in my studio. The variety is one of the better parts of my job.

Q5) Are there any specific institutions that you could recommend for an aspiring architect/designer?

A) I think the Public Library is an amazing resource that not enough people take advantage of. The Special Collections room at the main branch of the San Francisco library has amazing books and periodicals on lettering and design and the staff is helpful and knowledgeable. They’ve also have great exhibits.

Q6) How does one gather proper resources needed for the construction of a particular piece?

A) I’m always collecting references for lettering, design and illustration. I take a lot of pictures and save a lot of images I see online. If I need an idea for a layout or a letterform or anything else, I’ll flip through them until I find something that resonates and sparks an idea.

Q7) Describe the efforts necessary to facilitate a collaboration with another artist. What are the risks?

A) In order to have a productive collaboration you really need to be able to trust your collaborator. When you can allow someone else to change, amend or alter your creations you can see them through their filter and hopefully learn something about your work. The process can be educational and / or aggravating depending on the results.

Q8) How do you handle projects that may not have worked out in the way you initially envisioned?

A) As a designer I’ve learned that the client’s happiness is what ultimately matters. I may not always agree with the choices they make, but as long as they are satisfied with the final product then I’ve done my job.

Q9) Tell me about a time when you had a certain design (possibly a favorite) of yours endorsed and used for production.

A) Most of the commercial work I do is created specifically for the client, but there have been times when I’ve made artwork for myself that later gets used elsewhere. I made a silkscreen print a while ago that said The Coast is Clear and the Surfrider Foundation asked if they could use it on a t-shirt. It’s an organization that I support so it was nice to see my work end up on one of their products.