When city dwellers dream of their dream apartment, it is a place completely devoid of mismatched, shabby furniture. The pieces have sleek lines, flawless craftsmanship, and somehow feel both modern and timeless. In other words, the furniture is probably all from TOKEN.
The Brooklyn-based furniture company, founded by Will Kavesh and Emrys Berkower, has its design and manufacturing operations in one room, which means designers can optimize and improve the parts throughout the process. We met with Will to learn more about the process and get his advice on what to look for when buying furniture.
What inspired you to start your company?
There wasn’t a specific moment when TOKEN emerged as a fully conceived idea. The process of starting my own design company developed through teaching sculpture, engineering and industrial design, as well as working with other designers. Manufacturing and engineering for someone else’s vision helped me realize the importance of my own statement. I had to do my own work on my own terms.
Your pieces seem to celebrate the materials, like the pattern of the wood and hardware. Do you focus on the details?
Yes, in any case. My design process is a bit relentless. I like to look at pieces that we’ve been making for years and think about how they work better or can be made faster. The way I design involves integrating drawing, prototyping and manufacturing into one process. It is important to have a production facility in our studio. During manufacture, I often make changes that affect both the design and the conception of my ideas. Each piece is a product of the entire process.
Do you have a favorite piece?
The collection (as we called it marquetry pieces) definitely catches my eye. They allowed me to explore painting and visual art in a sculptural way. These pieces are very personal and very driven by my own interest in markings and shapes. Working with these parts and creating our contract seating designs (like our Catenary bar stool) created an interesting contrast to our process. Since the general public often uses the contract pieces because they are used in restaurants and public spaces, the design is informed about it because the contract seating is often more of a multi-person design than something for a residence or personal space.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I see myself as a studio artist who works in an active studio practice. Designing and then working with materials in the studio is why I started this business. For me, the hands-on studio work is the best part, be it fixing a production problem or making a prototype.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
For me as an artist and designer it is very difficult to know my limits. I’ve learned that one person can’t do everything a company needs. While the main focus of our business is creativity, we could not grow or prosper without the advice and experience of all members of our team, including business development, finance, and accounting. I learned how to use good advice to make our business successful.
What inspires you creatively?
I draw on a variety of sources from the world around me – from painting, sculpture, architecture, handicrafts, history and science. I’m interested in both craft and art, which examines the reduction of form to the essentials and strengthens the emotional and physical connection of materials. I admire the sculptures by Robert Erwin, the paintings by Bridget Riley, the ceramics by Lucy Rie and the furniture by Poul Kjaerholm as they express certain truths about the world around them through the innovative manipulation of materials. In areas other than the fine arts, I am inspired by people like Michael Faraday, a self-taught physicist who through research and exploration revealed the hidden nature of the world. Much of my design is about inventing, learning, and exploring. This is what I strive for in my work – understanding and curiosity about how things work, their function and their presence.
Do you have any tips for people buying furniture?
Look for things with materials that speak to you. Don’t focus too much on what’s trending or in style right now as this piece will be yours for a long time to come.
Dorothy Dry Bar
Will Kavesh and his dog Henry