Beautiful Visions, Skillfully Crafted

Meet five artisans whose work gives unique expression to universal values, by Gary Inman

Artisan Makers have been an integral part of architecture and interior design from antiquity to the present day. With the vision and skill to transform everyday objects into works of art, they can serve as the design professional’s muse, close collaborator, and even co-designer. In High Point, three artisans stand out for me as ones whose work will always elevate a space.

Jeremy Kamiya, Furniture Maker, High Point, NC

The moment I met Jeremy Kamiya during High Point Market, I knew I was in the presence of a true artist. Unburdened with historic references, he spoke about his work in a very poetic, almost spiritual, way. His pieces honor the beauty of the wood, and express the joy of working it by hand. Using no screws, no nails, and no stains, he relies on the intrinsic character of different wood species to delight us with their unique grain patterns and hues. I felt a connection to the Arts & Crafts Movement in his creation of joinery that blends Japanese and Anglo-American aesthetics in a way that is both functional and beautiful. Akin to the work of the Green brothers of southern California and E.W. Godwin, the father of the Anglo-Japanese aesthetic, his pieces nevertheless transcend categorization and are simply beautiful and soulful. You can see Jeremy’s work in his COHAB.Space showroom.

Keia McSwain

“I am greatly honored to share in this work with African artisans whose amazing skills are a gift to the world of design.”

The synergy between designer and maker reminds one of an elegant dance in which the partners create a vision of beauty that neither could create alone. While all designers love supporting local artists, there are times when a designer desires a different cultural aesthetic to enrich a composition. Sometimes, this creates opportunities for artisans that need a champion. Keia McSwain, the owner and principal designer at Kimberly + Cameron Interiors, as well as CEO and president of the Black Interior Designers Network, has accomplished both in her collaboration with Ngala Trading Company of South Africa. Her stunning lighting fixtures perfectly illustrate the fertile possibilities when designers and makers join hands to create unique objects.

Jill Seale, Textile Designer/Maker and Author, Charlotte, NC

“The magic for me is in the process, embracing the element of chance in how the materials interact and being present to capture the unexpected.”

The ability to take an ancient art, such a marbleizing, and make it relevant for the contemporary market takes both artistry and skill. Jill Seale has accomplished this by first studying the technique with a master artisan in Florence, and then engaging in years of attentive practice. While she welcomes bespoke commissions, she has also flourished as a product designer. She has partnered with leading home décor companies such as Norwalk Furniture and Port 68, and has licensed her designs with rug and bedding companies. Through these partnerships, her products have been sold worldwide at Nordstrom, Macy’s, World Market, Hallmark, Pier 1, and Target, bringing the beauty of her artistry to a broad spectrum of clients.

Every Market, I make a point to visit the exhibitors who are showing Jeremy, Keia, and Jill’s work. Other talented artisans, working in a broad range of mediums, can also be found at Currey & Company, Norwalk Furniture, and other showrooms. At Spring 2022 High Point Market, Jeremy and Jill will discuss their work in a panel discussion to be hosted by Norwalk Furniture on Sunday, April 3, 3-4 pm. I will serve as the moderator, with North Carolina potter Ben Owen and High Point based architectural element designer and installer Justin Stabb rounding out and enhancing our conversation.

Ben Owen, Potter, Seagrove, NC

“My approach to working clay is inspired by many influences. Tradition and vision merge to forge the future.”

Ben Owen is a 6th generation master potter from Seagrove, North Carolina. He has taught and spoken about his art at workshops and conferences throughout the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and China. Numerous museum collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Smithsonian Museum of Art have chosen to display his work. Owen’s commissions adorn the lobby of the Ritz Carlton Tokyo Hotel in Japan, as well as The Umstead Hotel and Spa and the historic Carolina Hotel at Pinehurst, both in North Carolina. Owen loves partnering with interior designers to create one of a kind pieces for their clients. His prolific body of work can be viewed and purchased at his shop in Seagrove.

Justin Stabb, Stabb Designs

Craftsman of the fusion between engineering and design, Justin seeks to push the boundaries of possibility for clients whose needs extend beyond the offerings of major manufacturers or local vendors. Pursuing a concept he calls “dream making,” he solves unique problems in engineering design, fabrication, and installation by testing the limits of technology while implementing a palette of materials.

Doug Frates, Glass Maker, Springfield, Ohio

Doug Frates is a maker who often shows at Market, but events have conspired to keep him away this April. Be on the lookout for his return. Through the magical combination of the glass blower’s skills and 2100 degrees of heat, Doug transforms ordinary sand, soda ash, and lime into objects of breathtaking beauty. After serving his country in the Iraq War, he studied glassblowing at the Sonoran Glass Art Academy in Tucson, Arizona. His first mentor, Fritz Dreisbach, joined forces with Dale Chihuly to found the American Art Glass Movement. It is inspiring to watch Doug’s artistic vision evolve as he works with designers to create bespoke installations for homes, hotels, and restaurants.

To see some of the finest work by artisan makers at Market, be sure to visit Jeremy at COHAB.Space, drop by the Ngala Trading showroom, and seek out Jill’s work at Norwalk Furniture and Port 68. And mark your calendars now for our Makers At Market panel discussion, in the Norwalk showroom, on Sunday, April 3, 3-4 pm. I look forward to seeing you there!

About Gary Inman

As Designer In Residence at High Point University, Gary Inman provides his students with a firm foundation in the rich legacy of the design profession, as expressed in the work and ideas of the giants in the field. Pursuant to the university’s mission to expand academic training into practical application, he maintains an active and successful design practice, Gary Inman Interior Design. His work for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Duke University, Pinehurst Resort, and in many of America’s finest homes has been recognized with 18 ASID-IIDA awards, and the Elevate Award as the Top Luxury Hospitality Designer.