An Interview with Volume Gallery
Claire Warner graduated with a BA in Art History from Denison University, with an emphasis in Decorative Arts. She spent several years at Wright Auction in Chicago as a specialist and appraiser in 20th century and contemporary design. While at Wright, Claire had the opportunity to help organize exhibitions by contemporary designers such as Arik Levy and Martino Gamper. She has also spent time working at Luminaire, Chicago.
Sam Vinz graduated with a BA in Art History from UW-Madison with an emphasis in 20th century European architecture. He completed his MA in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute in London, writing his dissertation on an analysis of the contemporary design market. Sam has spent time working at Phillips de Pury, Carpenter’s workshop gallery, Wright Auction, and Chase Art Companies. Other than art and design, his interests pertain to anything loud and fast – rock n roll and Nascar being at the top of the list.
How did you get into your field?
CW: I studied Art History and found I was more interested in the sociological aspects of objects than anything. There was no established department for Decorative Art History, so I expanded my knowledge by focusing on folk art. After graduating I stumbled into working for Richard Wright; and after handling thousands of 20th century designed objects I really found my passion.
SV: Two parallel paths, really. As a kid I worked rehabbing Victorian mansions - giving me an interesting perspective to see how something is literally constructed and learning how things are made, which has been an ongoing learning experience. Then, like Claire, a degree in Art History focusing on early 20th C. European architecture. These two paths have managed to collide nicely in Volume Gallery.
What influences your work?
CW: The history of design. Much more in the fact that I can see pieces in the context of history - although design and fashion are cyclical in nature, the advancements in technology are rapidly changing our culture. With such an intensive knowledge in 20th century I am looking for designers who are pushing boundaries in architecture, material, technology and challenging ideas, not simply channeling the past.
SV: People that have come before us, the designers we work with, the manufacturers we work with - many things influence the work we show. Luckily, Claire and I have a similar eye and context for what we think is new and interesting.
What role does design play in your work?
CW: Not sure about how to answer this question in relation to our field, it is everything.
SV: Design is central to what we do - but I would go further, and say that it is a considered designed object that is central.
What is one of the biggest challenges in your field?
CW: The biggest challenge is getting a new wave of interest in design and communicating how influential it is in our everyday. People resist change and resist it even more in their environment, which is extremely personal. By pushing the boundaries in the work we show, we hopefully open our clients minds to possibilities and their world to something new.
SV: Explaining the importance of supporting and encouraging young designers, and the impact it will have on the future. New thinking in design is in short supply and we try to showcase it as often as possible. Without these types of outlets, I am afraid contemporary design will be redundant, derivative, and fail to get out from the shadow cast by the 20th C. greats.
How do you personally view design and it’s role in our lives today?
CW: Design seems to be an afterthought for many, often only recognizing it when it is bad or nonfunctional. There are some people, like myself who are constantly aligning their furniture and looking for better solutions in their personal space, whether it be in relation to the design or environmental impact.
SV: Design plays a far different, and more central role in my life than it does in regular citizens. The biggest difference is that I am aware of, and try to avoid, planned obsolescence (as I type on my Apple!).
Does location play a role in your work, why?
CW: For us yes, it is everything on a very basic level. It determines the installation of the exhibit and who it will impact.
SV: Many aspects of what we do rely heavily on our location - Chicago. We could weigh the positives and negatives of being in Chicago all day long, but in the end I would rather talk about the pieces; with the hope that they transcend location.
What do you see as the future of retail?
CW: I see it returning to the tangible- especially for design objects. I think you really need more information than the internet provides, in regards to touching, feeling and experiencing a piece.
SV: Hopefully brick and mortar. I totally agree with Claire - when dealing with objects that, in theory, are to be used daily, there is a tactile quality that should be experienced!
What do you see the future of local manufacturing to be?
CW: This I also see returning to the tangible in a different way. The designer needs to be close to production - it is imperative to have a designer collaborate with an artisan if they are not making by hand themselves.
SV: It is vital. It is not a question of quality, it is a question of cost. The economy has shifted to such an extent that in order for a struggling manufacturer to keep the doors open they need to remain open-minded and malleable in order to survive.
How do you see design contributing to the economy?
CW: I see a potential impacting of local economies in purchasing and production. We have exported both and are loosing a strong artistic tradition here in the States. It is important we balance a largely service economy with production (of more than buildings) for stability. Hopefully an increase use of green technology production will fully integrate into our cities, resulting in less environmental impact than decades before.
SV: On our scale, we create micro-economies. In some cases craftsmen do work for us on the side of their daily jobs as a way to make extra money, that money is in turn spent. So, the answer is yes I do see it contributing. But as a broader more general question, there are too many answers to cover here!
What advice would you give to young designers?
CW: My advice would be to balance between production, experimentation and continual education. You need all these aspects to support your growth as a designer and have a financially healthy career.
SV: Work hard, look at everything and synthesize.
What is a favorite object you own?
CW: Jacobsen Egg chair + MacBook Air. The world at your fingertips while sitting in one of the world's best designed chairs.
SV: In the last month, Black Forest Cuckoo Clock. In the last five years, Vadar shelf by William Newhouse. In the last fifteen years, Eames Aluminum Group lounge chair.