Spotlight: Jonathan Nesci

Jonathan Nesci is an industrial designer based in Columbus, IN. He started designing furniture more than a decade ago. His interest in design and its history was further developed when he served as restoration manager at Wright Auction in Chicago. Jonathan works with various fabricators in the Midwest in materials such as aluminum, bronze, titanium, wood, glass and concrete and uses processes not typically found in furniture production to create precise digitally produced forms. Nesci’s work has been featured in solo shows at Chicago’s Volume Gallery, New York’s Patrick Parrish Gallery and numerous group exhibitions with Casati Gallery. Jonathan was also the recipient of the annual Wallpaper Design Award for his Library Bookcase, a minimalist shelf sculpted in aluminum and commissioned by Ugo Alfano Casati Gallery in Chicago.

Jonathan Nesci headshot copy

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I’m 34, I’ve been married for 14 years, have two boys ages 10 and 12 and I’m from Oak Lawn, IL. I now live in Columbus, IN. I launched my first collection in 2007 in New York at ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) while I was working at Wright Auction in Chicago. I design furniture, lighting, and exhibitions for a wide range of clients. Utilizing variously skilled craftsmen, I manage the production of all these projects which mostly use a combination of skilled tradesman and digitally controlled industrial processes. I don’t manufacture the work myself but work closely to manage the production with talented people throughout the Midwest.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Since the 100 Variations project last fall at Eliel Saarinen’s First Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, I’ve been working on a wide-range of projects and exhibitions. Most recently were back-to­-back shows in New York this past May at Collective Design Fair and my second solo exhibition at Patrick Parrish Gallery showing a new range of geometric mirrors, tables and vases called Present Perimeter. I have a lot of individual projects in process right now including new works for Casati Gallery and Patrick Parrish Gallery for Design Miami.

What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other designers are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? I have had well over 100 different designs made in the past nine years with various vendors in various cities. One challenge that I face is the demands of the production process. I would like to eventually delegate more of the engineering and project management. I enjoy the entire process immensely and am very grateful every time a work can get produced.

How did your interest in art or design begin? The secondary market, more specifically the auction world, is what opened my eyes to design. Wright, Philips, Sotheby’s, and Christies have been excellent resources at marketing and educating the market. They have opened the collectible design to a broader audience.

How has living in Columbus affected your design practice? When I’m home in Columbus, I feel more relaxed than I had been living in larger cities. I absolutely love Chicago and will always be a Chicagoan, but this little design utopia is really special and has done a lot for my family and me. It has connected me to a true community and has turned me on to a slower pace of life. I have a good portion of my designs still produced in Chicago and I can get a lot done having work produced in both locations.

What products or companies are you interested in right now? I like what Herman Miller is doing. For a few years now, they have really humanized the company by its art direction and its attention to its historical design arsenal. Abroad, I’m in love with the Bouroullec brothers’ new TV for Samsung that was exhibited in London last month. I also like the designs and direction of E15.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I design pieces that are usually produced in metal (aluminum, bronze, steel, stainless steel, titanium). I have a good understanding of how a design is going to be executed and spend a lot of time getting the digital production files ready so that there is little room for error and the design is apparent to the maker. During the design process I’m in correspondence with the fabricators and they inform me of nuances to best construct the idea. Most of my work is cut/formed/milled using some form of computer automation; this is very important to me as I want my work to be a product of it’s time.

Tell us a joke. Not really my forte… so I deferred to my sons for this one: A woman walks into a pet shop and asked the clerk for a puppy for her daughter. The clerk said, “Sorry ma’am. We don’t do trades.”

What artists or designers are you interested in right now? I love the work of Scott Burton; I really like the metal and glass work of Roni Horn. Olafur Elliason’s work always amazes me. The fabrication techniques of Tony Craag, Jeff Koons, Marc Quinn, and Richard Serra are amazing. Contemporary designers Ayala Serfaty, Mathias Bengtsson, Martin Szekely, Weiki Somers, Max Lamb, Jonathan Muecke, Chris Schank, Ro/Lu and Jack Craig are all super talented and it is fun to watch their trajectories.

What’s your favorite thing about your city? In Chicago, I love that I can be driving in my car, riding my bike or taking a walk and that there is important design all around me. My favorite thing about Columbus, Indiana is that there is always something new to discover and I really enjoy quizzing my wife and children on who designed what as we continually pass by these beautiful creations. I can’t name one favorite thing — the community is beautifully diverse and many have embraced not only myself but my whole family.

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? As an adolescent, I rode a BMX bike and was deeply ingrained in the culture. I was a super fan of many of the professional riders. I subscribed to BMX Plus and Ride magazines and I had a 30’ BMX box ramp in my driveway; I literally lived and breathed it all. Right after I launched my first furniture collection in 2007, one of the legendary riders Brian Castillo reached out to me about one of my designs…years later I still think about how cool that was.