Robert: The majority of the furniture is made out of iron and it’s all fabricated steel. We’re really known for steel structures because we bring a sculptural finesse to the manufacturing process. And we use sculptural techniques in the finishing process that aren’t readily available to normal steel fabricators.
Alice: We also do fine woodworking. We have beautiful walnut tops.
Robert: We try to stick with traditional indigenous woods. We’ve been using black walnut almost exclusively for the past couple of years. We’ll do it in either a natural or ebonized finish – desk, dining tables and credenzas. It’s a nice juxtaposition with a steel structure that’s very modern with a traditional walnut element.
Alice: We’ve done work with different stones – slate, marble and sandstone. We have upholstered pieces and work in leather and velvet as well. When you have one of our pieces in your home, it adds so much more because it makes a statement. It’s a piece of fine art, but it’s functional, durable and strong.
bndd: What is your background?
Robert: Alice and I both have fine arts backgrounds. Alice went to New England School of Photography and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. So we’re very much hands-on design and manufacturing. We do ninety-nine percent of the manufacturing in our own shop with help from people in town. We design everything ourselves and take it to market as well.
bndd: Has living in Maine influenced your design style?
Robert: A lot of times we’ll go down to the antique stores. By walking through 10,000 square feet of antiques you get all kinds of design inspirations from items that have been created from the past 200 years. So we’ll take some of those ideas and put a modern and urban twist on it.
bndd: Would you agree that most designers who do their own manufacturing have to have a system in place for custom orders?
Robert: Yes. We were doing a lot of quantity production for stores, but since the market changed – five or six years ago – most of our orders are for custom pieces. Everyone wants something designed specifically for them. We’ll use our set designs, for example a dining table and change the dimensions. It takes us about six to eight weeks. We kind of back-ended into custom [work] because we can do it and there’s a demand for it.
bndd: What do you think it is about Run Run Studio that encourages customers looking for custom furniture?
Alice: Sometimes when you see steel or metal pieces, the rivets are heavy and it has crudeness to it. Robert’s work is very refined and beautifully finished. It’s cleanly done and that appeals to a lot of our high-end customers.
bndd: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Robert: That’s an active question. Everything is in such flux with the marketplace. We continually try to bring quality products and try to get as wide an appeal. We’ve been developing a lot of artwork pieces. Instead of just doing the furniture which is the foundation of the business, we’re bringing in softer items like pillows using some of the imagery within the artwork to help soften the furniture creating more products that reflect the same aesthetic. We’re also developing furniture storage pieces including our own line of knobs and door pulls.
bndd: Being an artist – and certainly one that oversees design + manufacturing is very hard work wouldn’t you agree? What is it that drives artists?
Robert: It is very hard work. I’m very active in the shop every day. If you don’t love it, it’s very difficult to do. When I started doing sculptures over 20 years ago, it was as if something clicked and said this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I love the creative challenges in coming up with a piece and thinking of a new solution to a traditional design.
Alice: There isn’t a choice sometimes. It comes out [of artists]. They’re compelled to create and produce and it’s a part of their essence; their being. From what I’ve observed of different artist, very famous or lesser known, they seem to have a day-to-day interaction with their art and the world. It’s a constant throughout the years. It’s not a part-time thing. Robert is definitely that kind of artist.
DISCOVER: Run Run Studio, Inc. steel furniture manufacturers.