Chukk Bruursema Explores the Boundaries Between Fine and Functional Art
Innovation, creativity, and curiosity drive Chukk Bruursema’s work. The Asheville-based artist designs and builds custom wood and metal furniture for k2 Studio, but he also makes mixed-media artwork, explores the possibilities of photography, and creates memorable signage for some of your favorite places in town. Thank you very much to Chukk for his time in this interview and for sharing images of his work.
You’re a self-taught artist. Do you think that gives you more freedom to create in a way that is not restricted to a particular medium or style?
I am not sure if I completely identify with the term self-taught, it’s kind of an aloof term to me. But I can say that my curiosity sets me forth towards investigation and practice. This path is usually how things seem to unfold for me creatively. There are many internal and external inspirations I find, and no matter what the medium, if I am inspired, I usually delve into it. Sometimes when experimenting with new techniques or styles, it’s a crash and burn, other times I hit the mark when shooting in the dark. But to me the process of risk, investigation, and process usually is worthwhile, as there is always a take away from it.
You do custom metal work and also combine wood and metal in custom furniture. Which came first, woodworking or metal?
It was a close tie, but working with wood was first. When I was in my early teens, my father ran a cabinet shop and I learned a lot from him about woodworking sensibilities and craft.
Metalwork came in just a wee bit later, as I was an assistant to a brilliant machine builder, building process machinery for industrial/manufacturing companies.
You also do innovative signage. Please tell us about that work—what’s it like to take a company’s branding and give it your own spin?
I really dig creating custom signage. It’s a fun intersection of existing business identity, place making, site allowances, amongst other things. It often starts with brainstorming inspirations to get narratives of intentions to get an authentic take on how to develop composition and tonality. From there I design to bring a sense of originality in how the element can be expressed to showcase the venue, and hopefully be worthy of the handcrafted Asheville artistic environment. It is wonderful to bring a usually 2-dimensional business identity into a 3-dimensional sculptural piece. Some recent signs are here.
What’s new about your work that excites you as an artist?
Seems as though I am always trying to seek a balance of fine art and functional art, which always tugs me back and forth.
I have been designing some new furniture lately that I am excited about. It’s going to be kind of chunky-train-bridge-rivet construction-shipbuilding-style steel and wood furniture that I hope to get working on soon. I plan on having a few pieces available at k2 Studio.
On the other side of the spectrum I am working on a few new photography series, one of them a series of experimental long exposure photography made from steel contraptions that I make for the photo shoots.
My idea list is long and I look forward to bringing many new things into fruition this coming year.
Asheville’s a great beer town, and you seem to have worked with many of the local breweries. Tell us how you got hooked up with that community.
It has been a rather organic process of getting hooked up with a few of the breweries here in town. Asheville being a rather small town, I happened to personally know a few of the amazing brewers and brewery owners in town, some friends, some previous clients that became friends. From there, through a lot of creative collaboration and exceptional vision on all parties involved, these places seem to be thriving social venues. I suppose my work in many places throughout Asheville leads to my name being put out there further.
Please tell us about your relationship with K2; how has that evolved, and what does your work bring to the K2 clientele?
Collaborating with Kim for the last 5 years has been wonderful, I have always been impressed with Kim’s ability to highlight and support Asheville artists. Anyone that walks into k2 Studio will see her keen ability to bring elements together to create a unique interior.
We have worked together on several table designs and continue to challenge and modify them to keep them fresh. Also, I have had some of my mixed media art and steel sculptures series on display at the studio.
If there is a need for a custom sizing of any of the furniture that I make, I can build it to suit an interior’s needs. I can draft up 3D renderings of the exact sizing upon request, even place it in a digital recreation of the room in which it is intended for, if desired.
You do a lot of custom work. How do you and your client develop a shared idea of what the end product might be?
Every opportunity defines its own route. Defining factors of a project’s scale, complexity, and my role amidst that set the stage. At times I am making one element for a client, on the flipside sometimes I am designing/building/coordinating a whole interior. But whether I am making something based on a pen sketch drawn on a napkin, or making shop drawings for structural approval, I would say communication is paramount.
Generally speaking though, I like to start by drawing inspiration from a sense of intent, how the piece or place will be interacted with, preferred colors and materials that are exciting to a client, and any adjective deemed worthy. I can then begin draft concepts and ideas towards those goals.
Most of the time I draft up digital renderings to convey the designs, as I understand them to be, so the client and I can have a shared visual language. I work with Google SketchUp a lot, also Photoshop and Illustrator; I have found these to be amazing tools for design.
I usually present material and finish samples if required and sometimes even scaled models. From there, if the stars are aligned, then maybe the designs happen perfect the first time, if not things can be modified and adjusted.
All photos courtesy Chukk Bruursema. To learn more about Chukk, visit his Facebook page, connect with him on Google+, see his flickr stream for tons of photos of his work, or check out his youtube channel to see him action. And then there’s his website, too!