The path to becoming a successful furniture designer is rarely a straight line. It zigzags between talent, blind luck, hard work, twists of fate and opportunity. There are times in your career when you cannot hesitate, and other times when you have to hesitate. Some things must be given up on while others must be pursued. And the decisions one makes often have results that would have been impossible to predict.
California-based designer/builder Jory Brigham, who recently won Spike TV's "Framework," has a stranger story than most. Prior to learning he'd won the TV show, we were interviewing Brigham for our article series on the Domino; and the more we talked and learned of his unusual, design-school-free career, the more we realized we ought to bring you his story.
Brigham's career arc would be every bit as impossible to duplicate as Tom Sullivan's or Hellman-Chang's, but we hope it may inspire those of you seeking to forge your own design path.
Here's Jory's story.
In the blink of an eye, Jory Brigham's entire world has just disappeared. A second ago he was in the Kentucky wilderness, following Daniel Boone down a trail; now he's staring at a shrinking white dot in the middle of a grey rectangle.
Despite the coonskin cap on his head, five-year-old Jory is not in Kentucky at all, but sitting cross-legged on the floor of his family's modest home in Hawaii. His mother has just shut their small black-and-white television off; henceforth, TV is banned.
But on a trip to the lumberyard, Jory is staring through a different glass rectangle, the side window of the family station wagon. He's transfixed by a forklift motoring around the lot. As soon as they get home, he grabs some cardboard, scissors and a glue gun and gets to work. Watching over his shoulder, his mother is astonished to see he's recreated a model of the forklift from memory.
"We never had much money growing up," Brigham, now 35, remembers. "But both of my parents wholeheartedly encouraged creative pursuits. They knew it was better than having me sit in front of the TV, where I would just space out. So anytime we needed art supplies, they'd somehow scrape the money together."
And there was some solace from the TV ban: Brigham's father, a gifted builder trained as an architect, recreated Daniel Boone's rifle in wood and presented it to Jory. Jory decided he needed the matching Bowie knife and set about making one, out of wood, in his father's shop.
With no TV to occupy him, Jory was forced to create his own entertainment and became adept at using tools. As he was home-schooled—at the time, Hawaii ranked 50th out of 50 in United States education standards, and the Brighams were keen to keep him and his sisters out of those statistics—depending on the day, he was given the option of either hitting the books or accompanying his dad to work. He often chose the latter.
"My dad built houses from the ground up, including a lot of the stuff inside of them," Jory explains. As a boy he watched his father pour concrete, erect timbers and create structures and furnishings where previously there was nothing. His father brought these things into existence with his own hands, and Jory learned that he could do the same, if on a smaller scale.
Lack of a formal education aside, Jory began to figure things out on his own. He became consumed with creating a machine, out of wood, that would dispense a stick of gum if a quarter were placed into it. After several days in the shop he'd worked out the mechanicals and successfully built it. He'd still sneak over to a friend's house to watch his TV favorites, reruns of Daniel Boone and videotapes of Disney's Davy Crockett movies from the 1950s—ironically both characters were played by the same actor, a big Texan named Fess Parker—but by the time he'd reached the age of ten, he'd spent more time changing drill bits than changing channels.
I asked him how he was able to figure out how to build the gum machine. "I've always been one to try and just learn through failure," he explains. "You kind of get the vision in your head of what you want to happen, and you just try a bunch of different things until something works."
By his teen years, Jory was spending less time in the shop and more time on a surfboard. Hawaii was easy to get by in if you didn't set your sights too high, and Jory found that working in a surf shop and waiting tables at a resort was pleasant enough. Woodworking fell by the wayside. "I had no notion," he says, "of ever going into furniture as a career. Messing around in the shop or going to work with my dad, that was just something I did as a kid, you know?"
But in his late teens, a family trip to America's East Coast made Jory realize that there was a huge world outside of waiting tables in Hawaii. He decided he didn't want to spend the rest of his life setting appetizers down in front of sunburnt tourists and picked up stakes for the mainland. "At eighteen I moved to California and enrolled at a community college," he says, "but it didn't last long. School really wasn't for me.
"I figured whatever I did for a living, it would be something with my hands. I thought I'd be a chef or something. But in the short term here I was in California, and I needed to make some cash. My uncle had a furniture shop nearby, up in Carmel. At this point I hadn't used tools in years, but I headed up there just to make some extra money."
This decision, of course, changed everything.
Jory's uncle, John Brigham, ran a furniture shop in Carmel, California, selling his self-built creations through a local store. The designs were rustic—reclaimed barn wood and the like—and the style was popular enough to keep him in backorders. Jory went to work in the shop, building stepbacks (a type of buffet). He wasn't doing it long before he started getting some ideas for modifications, which he approached his uncle with.
"Hey, what if we bow the top a little here, and do this to the front, and do this to the sides?"
His uncle looked over the proposed changes. "Well, if you want to put in the time [producing a variant like] that, I'll send it to the store and we can see if it sells," he said.
Jory made the piece, John sent it off, and the store owner deemed it good enough to put in the front window of the shop. It sold a week later.
Encouraged by this, Jory began producing more original pieces, which John was happy to pass through to the store. And Jory found making furniture more fulfilling than anything he'd done to date. "I was making a lot of credenzas, buffets, coffee tables," Jory remembers, "looking back, still pretty entry level. I wasn't quite at the level of making chairs yet." Even so, the items he was making were selling. It occurred to him that this might be a doable way to make living, if he could some day save up to get his own shop.
By the time Brigham was 19, he'd been producing furniture for his uncle for a year and change. Then something strange happened, a coincidence so peculiar that if it were being written up as part of a movie script, any studio executive would edit it out for being too unrealistic:
Jory got a call from his uncle one day about some pieces of his that had just been sold. "The guy who bought these, he likes your stuff," his uncle said. "He wants to talk to you."
"Great," Jory said. "What's his name?"
"Do you know who Fess Parker is?" his uncle said. "The actor?"
Jory couldn't believe it. Of course he knew. The Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone characters that Parker played were his favorites as a child. Why Parker wanted to talk to him was a mystery; he hoped that Parker wanted to commission some custom pieces.
Jory took the hour drive out to Parker's place outside of Santa Barbara. After retiring some years ago, the actor, now in his 70s, had done well for himself; he'd opened a 700-acre vineyard and winery, among other ventures. Jory met him at the winery and tried to control being starstruck. "I tried not to gush too much about how much I loved his shows as a kid," he says, "but couldn't quite help myself." He remembers the towering Parker, who stood some six-and-a-half feet, taking it in stride and being kindly.
As to why Jory was there, Eli Parker (Fess' son, who managed his affairs) explained: The winery needed furniture and a wine-tasting room. And they were building a house nearby, and that needed to be kitted out too. They liked Jory's style, and as far as they were concerned, he was their guy.
Jory was elated, but started thinking about how he was going to find room in his uncle's shop to build this stuff, not to mention truck it for the hour drive over to the winery. Then Eli went into greater detail:
"We'll set you up here," he said. "You can live out here, we'll build you a full shop, whatever you need."
Jory couldn't say "yes" fast enough.
After relocating to the area, "Eli took me shopping," he remembers. "I got my first table saw, chop saw, all those things that I'd been using in my uncle's shop." The Parkers were planning on building a structure to house the shop, but it had yet to happen; for the time being Jory would be working outdoors on a concrete slab, outside of a house they were in the midst of renovating. But he didn't care: He had an entire shop to himself, even if it was somewhat makeshift.
"It was perfect," he says. "At night I'd just pull one of those big blue tarps over everything, and in the morning I'd just pull it off and get to work." The only downside was that his shop lighting came courtesy of the sun, so he had to quit when the sun went down although he'd have preferred to work later.
And there was a lot of work to do. "There was the stuff I was doing for his home, and then the wine-tasting room alone—I mean I did the whole back bar, the whole front bar, a little side bar, the furniture, the countertops, the little pieces, you name it."
To have a functional, fully-funded shop provided for him at such a young age is one kind of opportunity. But the other, greater opportunity is one that designers of all ages always vie for: Almost complete design autonomy. "For the most part I was working directly for Eli, who also did a winery of his own, and a house. And he just kind of let me go wild. They really allowed me a lot of freedom. I remember coming up with these ideas, and thinking about how I was going to pitch them—and the pitches didn't take much, they really accepted them pretty easily.
"That was great because it allowed me just to have the confidence to come up with stuff and design freely. Of course, within the process, I failed at a lot of things, and wished I had done stuff differently, but I think that was the best way for me to learn."
Which is not to say there weren't any dues to pay: Brigham's quarters, if you can call them that, were in the house that was being renovated. Half of the house was being torn down; the carpet in Jory's room had been pulled up, his bed was a mattress on the floorboards. His meals came out of a toaster oven on the floor, and whether or not he had running water depended on what the plumbers were doing that day. Sometimes he was washing off with a hose in the yard; other times he'd shower at the house of one of the Parkers' neighbors. He had no local friends and nowhere to go after quitting time.
Still, he says, "I loved it. That time, all of it, I loved it." He was being paid to design and build, he had a roof over his head, and there was nothing else to worry about.
Good times don't last forever, and after a couple of years, Jory had successfully built just about everything the Parkers were going to need from him. He got a few referrals—folks who have wine tasting rooms tend to know other folks who have wine tasting rooms—and got a few similar projects going, some of which spilled over into guesthouses and kitchens. "I had a good amount of wine-tasting rooms under my belt, then got hired to do a lot of kitchens for a while," Jory says. "I actually hate doing kitchens."
Part of the problem was his unwillingness to compromise. Something that drove Jory nuts was slaving, sometimes for months, over an elaborate kitchen, then having the client come and drop an off-the-shelf sink right into the middle of it. "Like sometimes the design of the sink they had bought would just totally not fit with what I had been trying to do," he says.
His solution: He started doing the sinks, too, fashioning them out of copper.
He'd learned to work copper under his dad, among other skills. Brigham senior had presciently started pouring concrete countertops back in the '80s, before it was fashionable, and knowing how that was done gave Jory a leg up when it became trendy in the '90s. He'd also picked up welding from a local builder while working for the Parkers. The result was that in his average kitchen job, "I'd do the cabinetry and the countertops; I'd make the range hood and the sink; I'd do the flooring and finish the windows." You get the sense that if he knew how to build a refrigerator and oven, he'd have tried to do that too.
The problem was that this approach, as aesthetically pure as it was, was not practically sustainable. He'd spend up to eight months working on a single kitchen, which is fine for a rich client who can spend that time at their villa in Tuscany or penthouse in New York, but not for someone who wants a quick turnaround time. And as the referrals began to dry up, Jory realized he was going to have to find a roster of new clients to get by.
This did not go well. "I'd hear about someone who needed a job done, or they'd hear of me, and we'd make contact and arrange to meet up," he says. "And then I'd get to their place, hop out of my truck, they'd take one look at me and their faces would just drop—like Aw man, he's just a kid.'" Brigham was driving a 1978 Datsun pick-up truck and was barely old enough to drink. With no portfolio under his arm and websites not a big thing at the time, new clients had not seen his work and required persuasion.
Another problem, he discovered, was that he was a terrible salesman. He likens his experience in this arena with something every male who has ever been a teenager can relate to: Trying to talk to a girl and striking out. "You know, like you sense that it's not going well, and you start talking a lot, you start overcompensating. When you give off that…sort of desperation, it just devalues you in their eyes."
One woman he hadn't struck out with was Ali, a girl he'd met at a wedding. They hit it off and began dating. She lived in San Luis Obispo, about an hour north on California's Central Coast. Brigham shortened the travel time by moving there, figuring he'd see what work was to be had in the region.
Jory's father had also relocated nearby, and had found work doing custom furniture and remodelings. The two began working together.
It's not difficult to see where Jory's urge to build entire kitchens came from. He'd grown up watching his father build houses both inside and out, and now he was working with his father on things like this:
If his time working for the Parkers was his undergraduate studies, this was his graduate school. Jory brushed up on his skills under the watchful eye of his father and learned a few new tricks, like working bronze.
After several years of this, "I started to get bored," he confesses, and began working on pieces that weren't for clients, just making stuff to go into his own house. And as these pieces took shape, something happened: He began to develop something he finally felt was his own, cohesive style. It started with this credenza, which combined zebrawood and stainless steel:
For subsequent experiments he began playing around with asymmetry:
Aesthetically—and particularly compared to Jory's current-day designs—these pieces are a bit of a stylistic jumble, between the Sam-Maloof-inspired clasp mechanisms, the vaguely Asian elements, the lines that start off Scandinavian and then wander in a different direction. But it didn't matter: These were pieces that he wasn't designing for a client, but were instead coming purely out of his natural inclinations. And unlike his earlier work, this was the first time where, if you imagined the pieces scattered throughout a warehouse filled with the work of many designers, you could pick these out as the work of the same man.
I have to point something out here, something that those of us that went to school for industrial design/furniture design will recognize. In these programs we study History of Furniture Design 101 and 201. We look at slides, memorize styles and are expected to distinguish between them.
That means that depending on the school/program/instructors, experimentation is only rewarded up to a point: Trying to mix, say, Queen Anne legs with a Mid-Century Modern top often means one will be lambasted at the final critique.
There is a chance that if you continue to pursue an unlikely jumble of styles, you will eventually arrive at something new and cohesive, but in my own limited observation, these experiments meet resistance early on—often enough to quash the ambitions of a student who is told that their work will not be saleable, that it "doesn't make sense" stylistically.
Brigham was beholden to no such indoctrination. He'd pass a Scandinavian chair in a store window, see the work of Vladimir Kagan in a magazine, spot a photo of something Sam Maloof had done, and the things would combine in his brain, absent the warnings of a professor. He could mix unlike breeds of wood that broke aesthetic convention, and he was happy with the results.
These pieces provided the boost of confidence Jory needed. "Up until this point, I was really learning, kind of getting to know my own style," says Jory. "And my end goal was for my work to be different from anybody else's. There were a lot of people making cabinetry; a lot of people making furniture. And I now felt like I finally had my own style that would set me apart. And once I felt that, I became confident."
Hanging Out the Shingle
At 28 years of age, in 2008, Brigham started Jory Brigham Designs and began developing his own pieces in earnest. In addition, he'd take on the occasional retail installation or private commission to pay the bills.
He also attracted the attention of power tool manufacturer Festool, as we pointed out in our piece on their Domino, and was featured in their marketing materials in 2012.
But while gaining the respect of fellow craftsmen and builders is noteworthy, it does not necessarily translate to more clients; it's something like what stand-up comics refer to as being a "comedian's comedian." In some sense a furniture designer has the same priority as a comedian--to put asses in seats--and to do that you need to attract people willing to pay for your work.
By 2014 Brigham was operating out of a 3,000-square-foot shop in San Luis Obispo. While he's managed to make enough to support his family—Brigham is now married to Ali, and the couple have two kids—"I feel like we're always broke," he says. "After covering expenses, any time I manage to save up any money, it's all got to go back into the shop or I'll need to spend it [to front the money] on materials for new builds."
That year an interesting phone call came in, one that hinted at possibly enabling him to break out of the vicious financial cycle. Even as an adult, Jory had retained his no-TV habit, and was only vaguely aware of who a woman called Ellen Degeneres might be. But apparently she had a television show, and her people were calling. They were looking for furniture designers to enter an unusual sort of competition, and they wanted to know if he was game.
Jory was intrigued, and agreed to put his name in the hat for Ellen's Design Challenge. The concept sounded great: Contestants would be asked to design and build furniture within a set timeframe. A large group of designers were being considered, and as the pre-production weeding out process continued, Jory's name was consistently staying on the list while others fell off.
But the show was also beginning to take more concrete shape, and the producers were changing the format. Perhaps they couldn't find enough qualified designer/builders in all of America; but for whatever reason, it was decided that the show would bifurcate the designer and the builder. Designers would thus be required to sketch out their concepts in great detail and present those drawings to a builder, who would then execute the design.
This didn't appeal to Brigham at all. "I'm a terrible sketcher," he reveals. "I don't work things out on paper; I see things in my head and I just start building them." And he hated the thought of having someone else build his pieces; to him the best part of the work was being in the shop.
Then another phone call came in—this one from Spike TV. They were putting on a furniture design competition show, too. They pitched the concept to him and it sounded much better: Singular designer/builders only. The time constraints would be very tight, they warned him, but "That didn't scare me," Brigham says. "Coming up with stuff on the fly is no problem, I've got no shortage of ideas, and I know I can build fast."
Some of you may be wondering how Brigham got onto the radar of both networks' producers, and to this day, Brigham has no idea. "I asked them how they'd heard of me," he says, "but the people making the calls were not the folks who put the list together."
In any case, he had a decision to make. Ellen's show was gearing up for production, he'd cleared the vetting hurdles, and they gave him an ultimatum: Do you want to be on the show or not?
He told them no.
This was a bit of gamble, as his position on the Spike show wasn't guaranteed--he'd have to go through the whole vetting process from the beginning, his was just one name on a preliminary list of hundreds--but he felt he had to do it. "Based on how [Ellen's show] was structured, it didn't seem like a good fit," he says. "If I made it onto [the Spike show] I knew I'd at least have a shot."
At last the call came in: Jory had been selected to compete on "Framework," Spike TV's show. The winner would receive a $100,000 cash prize, $20,000 in credit with show sponsor Ace Hardware, and the opportunity to have their work featured at CB2. All they had to do was beat the other twelve contestants.
He headed to L.A., dead set on winning. Before he left, his parents and his wife had each sat him down. The gist of both conversations was "We know you're good enough to win, but we don't want you to be too upset if you don't. It's a reality show, you never know what's going to happen, there's politics." He told them he had to shut that thinking out of his mind, that if he was going to do this thing, he had to be convinced he would win.
The show didn't begin promisingly for Jory. For their first assignment, they stripped boats in a boatyard for their raw materials. Brigham didn't like the idea of having to build stuff from boat parts. "I hate that kind of kitschy look you get when a piece of furniture is built out of something else," he says. "The only way I could reconcile it in my head was to make something for children. So I told the judges I was going to build a children's chair."
Unfortunately, the part where Jory pitches it as children's furniture was edited out of the show! To hundreds of thousands of viewers, it simply appeared that Brigham had built a very tiny chair. Did he have no sense of proportion?
By the second episode, where the contestants were tasked with building ping pong tables, Brigham hit his stride. Although he was paired with resident bad boy Freddy Hill, Jory was able to push his design through (as opposed to co-designing something) and this was the result:
Pretty stunning, particularly considering it was built in two 12-hour sessions.
By the third episode it was becoming clear that Brigham could deliver. The same could not be said of the other contestants. To create the hammock below, he dipped into bentwood laminations, cutting and gluing 3/8" strips of walnut, making a form, and gluing them up to get the curved sides you see here:
As the show progressed, even as Brigham was occasionally forced to work with substandard partners in a bit of gamesmanship, he continued to deliver, even on the challenges he didn't win. And one thing was becoming clear: Uniquely among the contestants, all of his pieces—different as they were—were all clearly the work of the same person. None of the other designers were able to consistently push their own style through the obstacle course of random ingredients.
However, Jory misstepped badly in the eighth episode. The contestants—there were now just five of them left—were tasked with working an entire tree trunk into a workable piece of furniture. This required working with chainsaw operators to hew the rough shape. Brigham made the horrendous mistake of showing the operator where to cut, then disappearing into the shop to retrieve something.
When he returned, he found the operator had cut to the wrong side of the line. This was more than a question of accounting for kerf: The massive tree trunks required the operator to make a series of cuts, coming in on angles, taking out huge chunks to get to the line. The side of the trunk that Jory wanted to work with had been destroyed.
As he wracked his brain with what he could make out of the wrong half, "I hit really bad designer's block," he says. "I couldn't think of anything. I thought I was screwed." He pushed through, coming up with a bench design with precious little time to spare, and in the resulting time crunch made a terrible error with leg placement—the enormous tree trunk was now unstable and easy to tip over. Even worse, he did not notice this error until it was too late to do anything about it.
He managed to avoid elimination, not because his piece was the best, but because someone else's piece was worse. For the first time in the competition, Jory was rattled. "I starting thinking, Oh man, all it takes is one mistake and I'm out. I was so close to being eliminated. I tried not to let that get into my head."
Two episodes later he was back on top, in the final. The assignment was to produce a custom collection of furniture pieces, and Brigham knocked it out of the park with a credenza, an endtable and an experimental coffee table where he riskily combined a concrete casting with wood.
The gamble paid off. The judges deemed his work the best and Jory was announced the winner. To anyone who watched the show, there was no question that Brigham deserved it. For one thing, he was the only one who consistently expressed his style, the only one who clearly had a visual "brand:"
On top of that he had the imagination and enough experience to quickly and competently execute the designs, and recover from mistakes, with the exception of one misstep out of the ten challenges. He went above and beyond to put in the work (see #7 in "Behind the Scenes," below). He took a bold risk in the final that paid off, and expressed enthusiasm throughout the competition.
Speaking of which, in many of the episodes Jory can be seen literally running from the shop to the materials room and vice versa. One of the other contestants derides this in a cutaway: "Jory is that guy who runs around the shop," he says. "I am not that guy who runs around the shop."
I asked Jory about this afterwards. "That wasn't the time crunch," he explained. "I run around in my shop back at home, too. I'm not running because I'm in a rush--I'm running because I'm literally excited to build."
In our interview with Jory, we learned about some behind-the-scenes stuff on the show, things that the viewers would not have realized by watching:
1. All of the contestants were forced to live in the same house and shared rooms, dorm-style. Brigham recounts the horror of waking up at 5:30 in the morning to the sound of grunting and the sight of one of his fellow competitors, naked except for tight underpants, doing crunches on the floor.
2. The daily schedule was grueling. "We'd get up at 5:30 in the morning, and be in the van by 6:30 to get to the set. ([One contestant] was always the last to arrive, always kept us waiting, never apologized, and was really rude to the show staff, I had no patience for [this person].) We wouldn't be dropped back off until like 10 o'clock at night.
3. The contestants rarely had days off, and at one point did 17 days in a row. The two build days were always followed by a third in-studio day where they shoot the interstitials; the contestants sit in a room with producers who prompt them with questions to generate the commentary for the cutaways.
4. Brigham describes the shop environment as friendly; in the show, Freddy is shown helping Jory twice, but in reality "Everyone helped everyone out. We were all lending each other our tools, people would ask each other for opinions, that kind of thing."
5. Jory describes his sketching skills as "terrible," and the network brought in a professional illustrator to render his concepts (sometimes inaccurately) for the on-camera presentations.
6. ID students will recognize this: When the designers needed to order random parts for their pieces, they went through the McMaster-Carr catalog. (And just as we experienced in school, there was no guarantee of availability; if they were out of something, you just had to make do.)
7. The house itself had a hot tub; in the evenings, Brigham says, most contestants would hop into it and crack some beers to unwind. But not him. "In my own shop back home, I'm really disorganized and easily distracted," he says. "I knew that would hurt me here. So at night I'd skip the hot tub and sit down to lay out a schedule for the next day, figuring out the build order, what needed to be glued up when, et cetera."
8. What distressed Jory most about the time crunch was not the building, but the finishing. "We only had time to put on one coat of oil," he explains, "and as a woodworker that just kills you. The finish can really make the piece shine. It killed me to not be able to put another two or three coats on there."
9. Brigham describes fellow competitor Freddy Hill, despite the latter's on-screen machinations, as "actually a nice guy."
10. Brigham struck up a friendship with fellow competitor Jason Radcliffe, and the two will be showing at this year's Wanted Design in New York.
Furniture design fans among you may have been frustrated that the show did not reveal as much of the build process as we'd have liked. For those in that camp, Jory details how he built each of his pieces for the show on his blog.
I ask Jory what he's going to do with the $100,000 award when it comes in. The first thing he points out is that depending on how the cash is classified by the Federal government--is it prize winnings, like at a casino, or legitimate business income, as furniture design is Jory's livelihood?--the money could be taxed at up to 46%. He'll need to figure that out with an accountant, who will presumably take a slice.
So I ask him what he'll do with 50 grand and change. He runs down the list of worn out or improperly-functioning machinery in his shop, stuff that has broken down over the years and that he never got around to fixing. The big machines aren't cheap. Then there's the income he lost during the months he was participating in the show, when he wasn't in his shop, earning.
There's also the question of how he should proceed to capitalize on the short period of fame that television appearances bring, and how he can use that to grow his business: Should he invest in a publicist? Dump money into marketing materials? Hit up the big trade shows and splash out on a booth, which can easily run five and six figures? Hire a salesperson to make up for his shortcomings in that area?
All told, he doesn't envision the money lasting long, and he's got a lot to think about.
I attended the CB2 event in Manhattan's SoHo, where two of his winning pieces were shipped and set up for display, and Jory himself was flown out for a meet-and-greet. The credenza in particular is stunning, seen up close; the way he's carved the wood into undulations that follow the line of the grain is something that cannot be appreciated in two dimensions. The overall fit and finish would be impressive for a one-week build; the thought that he completed this—and two other pieces—in two days is mind-blowing.
"It still kills me," he says, just before the event begins, running his hands over the top surface of the credenza. "I'm dying to put another two coats of oil on this thing and they won't let me."
Spike has sent a couple of representatives and a photographer, and as he talks to them I open one of the drawers. He sees this out of the corner of his eye, and mid-conversation his hand automatically goes to rub at a saw mark he missed in the final sanding, as if he could make it disappear. I wouldn't have spotted it.
As a small crowd begins to materialize, drinks and food are served. Maybe it's New York City's density or the sheer reach of television, but the demographic spread is noteworthy; fans of the show who have showed up to chat with Jory include an older white guy with a grey beard, a young black female interior design student who can't seem to take her starry eyes off of the credenza, an Asian couple circling it as if considering buying it for their apartment. (It's not for sale).
Brigham's pieces are being displayed in the center of the store, which is still open for business; shoppers are milling around unconcernedly, and a blonde woman is partaking of the free food and wine. I'm guessing she's never seen the show; having drained her wine glass, she walks right past Jory and sets the dirty glass directly on the credenza, wipes her mouth with napkins, throws the crumpled napkins next to the discarded glass, and walks away.
I can't believe it. Jory is standing there with his hands in his pockets, looks at me and laughs in disbelief, but makes no effort to remove the glass or dirty napkins. I get it; the saw mark he rubbed at was his mistake, the wine glass, the woman's.
After the cameraman goes home and the event ends, Jory's on-camera time is finished. Brigham, his wife and some of their local friends are heading to a local bar to celebrate, and I'm invited to tag along.
At the bar I again ask Jory about his future plans and what his involvement will be with CB2. As a writer I'm seeking a neat bow to tie up the profile, some concrete future plans I can write about; but he can't say, partially because some things are up in the air and partially because there are contractual obligations.
I can't stay at the bar long and cut myself off after one cocktail, as I've got to get back to start writing this piece up. I stand up, we say our goodbyes and I'm heading for the door when I spot something unusual:
The cocktail joint we're at, The Randolph on Broome Street, has an artifact behind the bar. A small black-and-white tube-style television, tucked on a shelf for kitsch value.
It occurs to me then how ironic it is that Jory was not allowed to watch television as a child, yet would gain his first shop from someone he watched on that television, and that he'd later go on to win a competition on television using skills he'd gained in the absence of television.
Funny how that worked out.
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Great article..interesting and inspiring
Really awesome work
Great article what an incredible talent he has!
This is such a cool story, and he has such a cool style. Thanks for this long, interesting, and incredibly inspiring article.
Thanks, great piece on someone I would have never known about.
Great profile of an inspiring designer and maker. Props to Jory for his artful work and for remaining grounded through what sounds like a crazy process!
This was such an interesting story. Jory's work is really impressive.