FRAME Minds in the Mix Featured in The Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER SUN: Comber gets into the Mix

What do Vancouver designers and artists have in common with their counterparts in The Netherlands? If you were to ask Brent Comber, it’s something refreshingly simple.

“Honesty,” he says. “I feel we both want to produce work that is fresh, and hits you in the chest.”

And the differences?

“Material choices, and articulation,” Combers explains. “My sense is we both approach our work very differently when it comes to conveying our own stories. Storytelling is one of the main focuses when it comes to the creation process for me.”

North Vancouver-based designer Comber
 will further explore the Vancouver vs. Dutch topic with Eindhoven-based design duo Oskar Peet and Sophie Mensen of Studio OS & OOS; Martha Sturdy will speak with Rotterdam-based designer Sabine Marcelis; and Bobbie Burgers is set to appear with the Studio RENS design duo Renee Mennen and Stefanie van Keijsteren, from Eindhoven.Comparisons of the sensibilities of Vancouver versus Dutch design — asell as varying sources of inspiration, and other assorted topics — will be up for discussion during three events dubbed FRAME Minds in The Mix at the Interior Design Show Vancouver (Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West).

But the trio of events aren’t merely about international similarities and differences. According to Comber, the most important element of the Mix is collaboration.

“Visiting the studio offers a look behind the curtains, something rarely seen. It’s an intimate space,” he says of the discussion location. “It’s also collaborative, which is something that’s also very important to me and the design industry.”

Comber has long been one of the Lower Mainland’s top creative minds, carving out a niche for himself in an area of interior design that plays up the power of solid wood.

“From a design perspective, wood offers warmth and a sense of humanity that other materials such as glass, steel, and concrete can’t offer,” he says. “The artisan wood industry, for the most part, offers accessibility to the maker and their process, which is important to people’s lifestyles.”

But it was the promise of a good story that first drew Comber to the medium.

“I was disappointed to see items such as plastic grizzly bear key chains and snow globes in gift shops when I would visit the notable attractions in our city in the early 1990s,” he recalls. “It didn’t seem to accurately symbolize what the Pacific Northwest truly meant to me. At the time, I was using reclaimed wood from local heritage buildings to renovate my house and thought I would try my hand at making picture frames and giftware from the offcuts and see if those stores would sell them instead.”

Comber’s first designs each included a sketch from Vancouver artist Hillary Morris of an original building or railcar. The pieces also included a brief story penned by Comber.

“They were beautiful, and it led me on the path of discovering that the stories were embedded in the material itself, not from the structures they were made from,” he says. “And here I am.”

It’s fitting that so many of his pieces have found homes close to the places where the materials were sourced. Comber has become known for large furniture pieces such as benches and tables, as well as sculptural designs that dot Vancouver and beyond, such as the Community Figures crafted from yellow cedar at University of B.C., and the Shattered Spheres of western red cedar at the Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island.

“The trees from the Pacific Northwest and the wood it provides captures the geography, climate and a warmth that resonates with me,” Comber says asked of his design inspiration. “I love walking among them, and when I work with its wood, I use it like a language that hopefully brings its story to light. I can appreciate forests, trees and wood from other parts of the world, but there is nothing that fills my soul more than our own rain forests.”

Sculptures aside, most people can agree they don’t need another piece of furniture or art in their homes — even if it is a super-cool wood bench crafted by Comber. So, what does an item need to have in order to make people take the leap to acquiring it?

“Soul,” Comber says, succinctly. Being from a local maker helps, too.

“Consumers are supporting well-designed products, especially by local designers/makers in a huge way,” he says. “I bet if you traced your daily routine carefully there would be several touch points where local artists and makers have been incorporated into your lifestyle. Whether it’s music, food, drink or fashion — being a Vancouverite now means being engaged. Especially on a local level.”

Source: Vancouver Sun