The Story of Bower
So how did Bower Studios and the design ecosystem that it inhabits evolve? Danny outlines the studio’s beginnings.
“Tammer and I met while working as fabricators at Uhuru, a furniture design company in Red Hook, Brooklyn. We got on really well and started to do side projects together after hours. It was mostly commission work, but the things we were being hired to make weren’t really our cup of tea – the aesthetic, the style. I think that is how we learned that we liked the same things, in agreeing about what we didn’t like. Eventually we decided to make our own stuff, so we designed our own collection and shared it at our first trade show and Bower was born. It’s interesting looking back at that first collection, because we were the only two who knew of ourselves, and once we put ourselves out there we got some press and some feedback, and it was all positive, but there were descriptors like ‘young’ and ‘playful’, which was nice, but not at all what we were going for. It was a really good lesson in how sharing your work early on when you are trying to work out your identity is difficult when you are so close to it. We took the feedback and it motivated us to elevate our brand by using finer materials, toning down the bright poppy colours and taking a much more subtle approach overall. I don’t think that would have happened as quickly without putting ourselves out there early. I think we needed to get a lot of pent up energy out of our system and we have been maturing ever since.”
It seems for Bower, like many other companies, the value of a calendar of international design events is being able to hold up a mirror to work, especially early on when companies and designers are still developing. It seems very relevant now in relation to the fact that none of us really know the future of these kinds of large scale events. For Bower, regularly exhibiting work allowed them to refine their approach to materiality and to how things were made.
“In the early years nearly all our work was in wood, partly out of financial and practical necessity. We didn’t start to outsource other types of fabrication until we had met more people and saved up some money. Now even within our building in New York, there is metal working, CNC capabilities, there is a stone shop. It is very expensive to use New York fabricators, but it is very good for prototyping and the early stages of design.”
So did the company develop organically, or has everything been planned?
“I think it’s been a mix. Going back to the cadence of the trade shows that used to exist. I think that was always a motivator to come out with a collection a year, during design week. I think as we grew and people got to know about our brand opportunities presented themselves. At first we said yes to everything and learnt a lot about what we do and don’t want to do as a company. Now we are much more selective of the opportunities that come our way. We always want to be open to being adventurous, but with some solid clear goals along the way.” Explains Danny.
Jeffrey adds: “We are open and free flowing, but I think it was maybe three or four years ago that we sat down and made a conscious decision that the public face of the company would focus on reflective surfaces and mirrors. I think we found an opening in the market and also a deep personal interest that kind of merged together. Since then mirrors have definitely taken over our lives and that of the studio.”
“When we showed our first collection of mirrors we did it alongside a collection of furniture. We didn’t really see it as the main highlight, but at the time it definitely was a differentiator between us and other people in our world.”