It may only have been October, but when I finally caught up with Dayna Gedney the Christmas craft-show season was already in full swing; she’d been to five shows in September, and was anticipating at least that many again in November and December. Of course, it was one of those early fall shows that brought Gedney to my attention when her furniture design team JB+DG won the Richard Silver Special Award for Arts and Crafts at this year’s Cabbagetown Festival. Despite what sounded like a frantic level of activity, she took the time to answer my questions about her useful but little-regarded craft.
You work in partnership with Joe Bauman as the furniture design team JB+DG. How did that get started?
Joe and I actually met at school; he was a year above me at Sheridan, and we started hanging out, and then collaborating. And once we started collaborating and dating, we started buying our materials together, and at school everybody just puts their initials on their materials, so it was always JB+DG on all of our material. So we started doing that at school and then, just never stopped. It became what we did.
You first starting making furniture just for yourself, and liked it enough that you entered a furniture crafting program at Sheridan College. What led Mr. Bauman to that same program?
Joseph got into the furniture program when he lost his job at a framing company. He was building and framing art in Toronto when the recession hit in 2008/2009 and he applied for the program and started in 2009. The way he tells it was he didn’t really get “into” it until he met me and we started collaborating.
How exactly does that collaboration work? Who does what?
We’re still sorting that out. It’s definitely a learn-as-you-go. We both have the same training, but I think because I have sort of taken over the admin side of things, and the online sales, and the photography, and a lot of the background stuff, Joe has definitely been our shop guy. He likes to call himself ‘the shop guy’. He’s definitely in the studio, building things a lot. And I get in there as well, but we also have a expanded our practice a little into ceramics, so I’m splitting a lot of my studio time between the ceramic studio and the wood studio. Generally I do the finicky little things, and Joe does more of the building.
While a lot of your custom order business consists of altering your existing designs to fit a client’s specifications (a different wood, say, or a different size), what happens when they want you to design a completely new piece from scratch?
Usually we will visit a client’s home and take photos of the space that they’re looking to put a piece in, and listen to what they are thinking they want to go in that space. I will look around at what else they have in the space, and we’ll also take pictures of colours and finishes in the room, and then, once we have a meeting where we kind of go over all of those ideas, we’ll talk about it all the way home, and we’ll sort of pin down a couple things to focus on.
So from that conversation we’ll come up with a whole bunch of sketches, and we usually present two or three. The client will make changes. We’ll make changes. We’ll come back again. We’ll do that until the client’s happy, and then we’ll start to get into the nitty-gritty of production design. Sometimes we even make models. We treat that as a sketch as well; we’ll make a 1/4 scale or an 1/8 scale model of a table or a chair, and look at the design in three dimensions, in the materials , and that’s a big help, because that helps the client too; they can visualize the piece really well from that.
How would you describe your style?
I think, modern. We work with clean lines and simple forms. I think some of our pieces could be considered minimalist, and some have a pretty distinct mid-century influence.
What inspires you?
For the art side of our practice, it’s definitely a lot of nature inspired. We’ve got the wood feathers that we do. And wood itself kind of inspires that naturalistic feel anyway, so it’s not too much of a leap to start applying that look and that feel to the material we’re using. A lot of the work we do is based on simple geometric form. So I use a lot of circles and rectangles and squares. And just the interplay of line and space between those shapes.
What are the materials that you tend to use?
Generally, we like to use local woods, so if somebody wants a dark wood we’re using walnut. If somebody wants a light wood; white oak or maple. Walnut is very popular.
You mentioned branching out into ceramics earlier. Are you involved inany other creative endevours?
I’m definitely in the ceramic studio a lot. I went to an arts school for high school, and when I graduated I went to Ryerson. I did a few short years in the fashion program. It wasn’t quite for me, but the parts of it that I really liked I did continue with. So I did a lot of print-making and pattern design, and that’s coming back soon… I’ve been experimenting with block printing for the last little while.
And you’re also teaching woodworking as well now.
I don’t know how much more creative you can be than that. We have to come up with new programming for kids in the wood studio constantly. That’s been Joe’s focus mostly, and he’s been doing a great job coming up with really great kids’ programming. The eight-year-olds get to use all the hand tools, and the sixteen year olds are actually using the machinery.
You’ve moved around a bit. Where are you currently located?
We’ve just recently moved out to Hamilton, and we actually work out of a community centre. So we’re still not set up with our own shop. We’re using the community centre that we teach out of to build our work. So everything we do tends to get shipped out or delivered. We don’t have a showroom or anything at the moment.
But you still have connections to Toronto?
I come here all the time. My family’s here. I grew up at St. Claire and Dufferin, and my grandmother’s down at Dufferin and Bloor, and my other grandmother’s at Runnymede. We’re definitely a West End kind of crew. But when Joe and I graduated from Sheridan we moved out to Leslieville. So we were in Leslieville up until May [of 2016]. I loved it there. I miss it terribly.