Merging Form and Art
Artist Profile — Jo Roessler
When does a useful object become art?
I think you know it when you see it. Take for example the furniture designed and handcrafted by Jo Roessler of Nojo Design in Easthampton, Massachusetts.
“My initial attraction to furniture was how people interacted with furniture,” said Jo. “What is more intimate than bedroom furniture?”
As a kid Jo observed design and building through his father, the architect. But the idea of creating beautiful, functional furniture didn’t click for him right away.
“I saw it as more utilitarian,” said Jo. “In college, I pursued photography. While there, I started to learn about the studio furniture movement and the more I learned, the more I struggled with the two-dimensionality of photography.”
“I quickly realized furniture was an excellent way to merge form and art.”
What other furniture artists’ work does Jo admire?
“My main inspiration is Gerrit Rietveld, for whom my son is named. I also find inspiration in some of the more contemporary designers; Sam Maloof, Judy McKee — the fact that they have managed to succeed while staying true to their visions is an inspiration.”
The forms found in architecture, other man-made objects and in nature stimulate Jo’s creativity. “Inspiration is everywhere, just keep drawing and you will find it,” said Jo.
“My studio is located in a 1920’s vaudeville theater that ran into disrepair and disgrace (it was an infamous porn theater in the 1970’s),” said Jo. “Once video came out, the building sat vacant for twenty years.”
“After renovating the theater into a multi-use building, I ended up with 3,000+ SF studio,” said Jo.
“I consider the space to be my most valuable tool. I can have multiple pieces in various states of production set up at once. This is an incredible asset to me since I can see and assess work in progress.”
Designing and building fine furniture is labor-intensive; Jo spends many hours in that studio. I wondered what keeps him motivated.
“Seeing what comes next,” said Jo. “…some of the work that used to be ‘classics’ are no longer my benchmarks.”
Jo’s work goes beyond the bedroom. Here’s a hint of his other pieces:
“One of my clients ordered a bed for
her son as a wedding gift. Two years after delivery she called to thank me. When asked why now, she said, ‘I got two grandkids out of the deal – the bed worked!’ ”