Reinventing Heirlooms: Blackman Cruz

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Blackman Cruz isn’t just one of Los Angeles’ most compelling furniture and art showrooms – it is also one of the city’s foremost design houses, best known for infusing age-old craftsmanship techniques with an offbeat point of view. Our content partner Stylus visited the core design team – Adam Blackman, David Cruz and Lika Moore – to learn more about their creative process.

BLackman Cruz

As Cruz puts it, BC Workshop pieces are designed to be future collectors’ items. “I want the pieces to have a history,” he says. “I would love to think that they’ll go from one generation to the next, becoming more valid as time progresses. That’s why we use so much bronze in our work – it will be here for centuries.” Yet although there is an undeniably classic air to Blackman Cruz pieces, many of them – like a hanging, bat-shaped incense burner, or the spiked Time Bomb desk clock – are also infused with a sense of humour and oddity

Blackman Cruz'

I like to think there’s heft to our design, whether it’s a little perverse or a little provocative or a little funny. Our clients are adventurous, eccentric and rather enlightened. We want the BC Workshop line to be as unique and curious as some of the vintage pieces we buy from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries,' says Adam.

In fact, many of the BC Workshop pieces are informed by the antique and vintage objects found in the Blackman Cruz shop. For example, the Horny Lamp – one of its signature items – was inspired by a bronze sunburst lamp from a Mexico City flea market, and a collection of found gazelle horns. Another popular piece, the sculptural Deliquescent table, has its roots in a baroque porcelain side table.

Blackman Cruz

Blackman, Cruz and Moore are constantly working on new pieces, adding one or two new elements to the collection every few months. For the most part, they all design independently, coming together to help each other solve specific problems.

They find inspiration everywhere, from LA’s Natural History Museum to other artists (Moore names Anish KapoorRichard Serra and Ned Kahn as some of her key influences). Travel also plays a major role in their design process. Moore recently returned from a trip to Marrakech in Morocco, while Cruz spent three weeks this autumn travelling throughout India.
 
Blackman Cruz
 
Once the initial drawings, measurements and prototypes are complete, the BC Workshop team outsources the making of each element to highly skilled and specialised LA craftspeople. They currently work with around 20 in total, ranging from carpenters to metalcasters to calligraphers. “We make it a point to support local artisans,” says Moore.
 
Most of the techniques used to create a BC Workshop piece are centuries old, from bronze casting to woodcarving. Each element is completely crafted by hand, down to the patinas on the metals, which are aged using a combination of heat and chemicals.

The typical BC Workshop piece changes hands several times before hitting the showroom floor. “The base of a lamp will be cast at the foundry, then it’s brought back here,” explains Blackman. “Then we’ll give it to someone else to wire it, and then the lampshade guy comes here to do measurements and put the shade on.”

The shop holds an inventory of popular pieces, such as lamps. Everything else is made to order, taking up to four months to complete, depending on the complexity of the item and any special customer requests.
 
Blackman Cruz
 
2012 is set to be an exciting year for Blackman Cruz. In addition to a host of new pieces (including a series of lamps and tables that incorporate crystals and minerals), broader change is also on the way.

“We’re trying to tighten up the collection and make a more cohesive statement,” says Cruz. “We’ve been very independent as designers, which has been great, but in the future we want to work together to make more sets of pieces, like living room suites.”

Cruz also notes that they’d like to start experimenting more with computerised design and manufacturing programs, though they “haven’t gotten around to it yet”. Lately, their focus has been on revamping the Blackman Cruz website, which will be relaunched next month. “We wanted to give people the full experience of being in the store – to see it online, then come visit us in person to see how magnificent it is,” says Blackman.
 
Along with a virtual tour, videos and e-commerce functionality, the product photos will be reshot in a highly stylised way, reminiscent of a magazine. “It’s going to be much warmer, less like a catalogue,” explains Cruz.
 
Blackman Cruz
 
No matter what’s on the horizon, the team vows to keep moving forward, despite the trends they may set. “I think tastes have changed since Blackman Cruz first opened,” reminisces Moore. “Adam and David started their own ‘industrial revolution’ with stainless steel furniture, doctors’ cabinets, military grade desks… Now, people have caught on to it, and it’s been done a million times over.”

“The thing is, once we’ve done something, we move onto the next thing,” adds Cruz. “You just have to keep making it fun for yourself, and hoping that other people think it’s fun as well.”
 
Blackman Cruz carry the work of London-based Clarke & Reilly, who curate similarly styled artefacts with historical resonance. 
 
This story was produced by Decorex Content Partner Stylus.com.