Spotlight: Vonnegut/Kraft

Vonnegut/Kraft is a design studio founded in New York City in 2011 by Katrina Vonnegut and Brian Kraft. Working in their Sunset Park, Brooklyn studio/workshop, Vonnegut/Kraft design and produce furniture, lighting, and textiles. Utilizing local and regional resources, they focus on maintaining a balance between contemporary technological manufacturing and a tradition of hand-made craftsmanship.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do? We design and make furniture, lighting, and textiles. We started collaborating in 2011, not long after we happened to meet on the G train. We’re really focused on the composition within pieces. Our work tends to be graphically minimal with sculptural details.

What are some recent or upcoming projects you’re working on? We’re finishing up our studio expansion & buildout, which includes a new office and more workshop space, and, most importantly, improved dust collection. We’re also in the early stages of designing a group of pieces that we’ll be releasing in 2015.

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What is one of the biggest challenges you and/or other designers are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? Making the transition from the long and abstract arc of drawing/prototyping/problem solving to the realities of production and commerce. It’s also always a challenge to find the balance between functionality and sculptural elements in our pieces.

How did your interest in art and design begin? Katrina: My dad’s an architect and my mom was an antique dealer growing up. I was always exposed to a lot of art and design history through them, but it wasn’t until I went to RISD that I realized I wanted to pursue furniture design.

Brian: I’ve been at least peripherally working in and revolving around art and design since moving to NYC in the early 90’s.  And though I’d always been a carpenter by default, my eventual focus on design really developed when a friend and I started our own shop downstairs from where I was living about a decade ago.

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How has living in New York affected your design practice? Being in NYC affords us the easy accessibility of not only a diversity of materials resources, but other fabricators, and most importantly our friends who are predominantly artists and designers too.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? We use mostly wood, but also metal, glass and textiles. We usually start sketching and model making and do a lot of samples of joinery that we’re interested in or want to use in a piece. We experiment a lot with proportions in full scale mock ups of various proposed details. A lot of our ideas stem from materials we’ve seen or a composition of shapes.

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What artists or designers are you interested in right now? Ken Price, Eilleen Grey, and Rudolph Steiner.

What is your favorite part about your city? We’ve recently moved our whole operation from our long occupied northern Brooklyn neighborhood to the relatively outpost zone of Sunset Park. Though it was daunting and much delayed, it’s reinvigorated our lives and work and feels like a new city.

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What is your snack/beverage of choice while working in the studio? Tacos. Green tea, seltzer and strong coffee.

What are you listening to right now? Cleaners from Venus, Cass McCombs, and Peter Tosh.

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