IDS Vancouver: Brent 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 Combers, it’s something refreshingly simple.
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.”
Comparisons of the sensibilities of Vancouver versus Dutch design — as well 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).
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.
But the trio of events aren’t merely about international similarities and differences. According to Comber, the most important element of the 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.”
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.
It’s fitting that so many of his pieces have found homes close to the places where the materials were sourced.
“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 make the leap to acquire 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.”
The “SHELL” sculpture is carved from a maple tree trunk with two main branches mounted on naturally oxidized steel sheeting. “Shell” is an expression of youthful naivety and one of my earliest adventures into the wilderness of self discovery. It’s huge scale makes you feel small. This is important because when you were small your imagination ruled over pragmatism and everything seemed possible. Not worried about tomorrow because you lived in the “now”. Play came naturally, it wasn’t scripted or scheduled. When you were small you were constantly discovering miracles. How you could have perfect conversations with your dog to why everything in a bowl that was cold was always delicious. You were a sponge mopping up all kinds of memories. As we get older and bigger we forget how to get small, how to play and be playful. My days spent as a child in the summer months playing between the two tidal marks became my uncharted galaxy where I was like a little astronaut exploring strange new worlds. As an adult I can still smell the ocean and hear the crackle and hiss of the water rushing over the kelp and crevices as if I was 5 again. It’s the quality of those early memories that I try to instil in all my current work. Now when I actively practice design, I’m surprised how often I come back to these early memories of exploring on the beach. As a more functional example of work directly inspired by the intertidal zone is the set of three Seaglass pieces crafted from solid western red cedar, located at the bottom of the shell sculpture. I originally made these for Kelly Deck to display in her presentation at IDS West 2009 show. She displayed them as tables. You can see these forms are worn and smooth as if Mother Nature has softened them. I was amazed to learn as a child that she would take harmful sharp glass left on the beach and made the effort to change them into smooth soft jewels. I never questioned as a kid why she bothered to do this and actually I still don’t but thankful she still does. I am still constantly intrigued with these forms and soon we will be providing large-scale public seating using seaglass as my inspiration for a residential development in 2018. It’s observations like these that put into context what I do. The context of the global world in the grandeur of nature, it’s humbling. It helps me remember that life is ephemeral and I’m only a small part of something bigger. That people don’t need a lot of possessions but what they do possess must be intimate and meaningful.
Night of the Grizzly
NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY – Recently, Brent joined local charityGrizzly Bear Foundation for their event “Night of the Grizzly”. The Grizzly Bear Foundation is Canada’s only charitable organization dedicated solely to the long term welfare of grizzly bears. Funds raised from the evening support the preservation of grizzlies through research, public education and conservation.
“Grizzly bears are iconic and symbolic of the wild and are important to the well being of many creatures in nature. This foundation includes Canadians who identify with nature and our role as good global citizens. Everyone should get involved with the Grizzly Bear Foundation.”
– Brent Comber, founder of Brent Comber Originals.
We at Brent Comber Originals were proud to contribute and support “Night of the Grizzly” with the auction donation of a saddle bench. Saddle is Brent’s very first carved furniture design. The design concept for the bench was devised while he was designing gardens reflecting on the aesthetic of Pacific Rim.
At this year’s ICFF NYC, IFDA Selects Sponsor Leslie Young Zarra of Cliff Young chose Brent Comber as Best in Furniture. Leslie appreciated our sustainable pieces capturing the softer side of wood. It’s an award that we are thrilled to have won and hope to continue to hold the title! At the show, our booth showcased a few of our new products including glass table tops, new table bases and our Pesuta Chair. We will be launching these really soon so please check back for more juicy details on our new releases!
We hope everyone was able to stop by to take a peek at our new products. If you missed us, just make an appointment to stop by our Studio and we’d love to show you around.
Featured in April 2017 Issue of Wallpaper*
Wallpaper* has set the design agenda by constantly pushing into new creative territories since 1996. Covering everything from architecture to jewellery. We were thrilled to have our Robusta Dining Table be featured in the April 2017 issue of Wallpaper*. (more…)
ICFF NYC 2017
At this year’s 29th annual ICFF, Brent will be showcasing some new products soon to be added to the Brent Comber Originals collection.
We’re excited about collaborating with a local company, Interstyle Ceramic + Glass, and creating beautiful glass table tops using 100% re-purposed glass. Also being showcased, two of three new table base designs that would pair perfectly with the glass table top or wood table top options we have. (more…)
Brent at Gray Conversations
In February, Brent was part of a panel that was moderated by Jaime Gillin from Gray Magazine. The topic of the discussion was wood as a material used for art, furniture, architecture and interiors rather than talking about its use as a building material.
Here at Brent Comber Studio we put sustainability into practice, and we use wood that is undervalued and refused as “unmarketable” in the eyes of the industry. Our material primarily comes from fallen trees or wood that otherwise would end up as wood chips or waste. While we do our best to utilize every single piece of wood and to minimize any negative impact on the environment, a certain amount of wood is turned into sawdust. (more…)
Brent Comber Studio spring sale: April 8-9th
We’re happy to announce our spring sale on the weekend of April 8-9th. Our studio will be open with a variety of art and furniture for immediate sale.
In addition to our regular product range we will also have our “almost-perfects” at 40% off Canadian retail prices, and some extra unique one-off pieces. Please bring cash, cheque or credit card.
Mark your calendars and be sure to arrive early as they will not last. More details to follow.
Gray Conversations: A Living With Wood Design Forum
Gray Magazine and BC Wood will be hosting a forum on wood design on February 24th at the Museum of Vancouver, moderated by Jaime Gillin, editor of Gray Magazine. Brent will be part of the panelists alongside with other designers and industry experts to discuss the “softer side of wood” and its creative applications for interiors, furnishings, architecture and art. Hear about the process of design as it relates to the products we live and interact with, rather than the structures we inhabit. Bring your questions! Register and purchase tickets online.
As we are rounding up 2016, we look back at some of the highlights and projects completed during this year. It’s been a very busy and dynamic year at Brent Comber studio. Over the last 12 months we have made hundreds of items that have been delivered worldwide to private and corporate clients, for art shows and for installations. We launched our new website, collaborated with exciting new partners and made work that we are so proud of. Thank you for joining us on this exciting journey! (more…)
While Douglas Fir receives most of its attention only around Christmas, it is part of our daily lives here at Brent Comber studio. Douglas Fir, part of the hemlock family, is one of the wood species native to the Western parts of North America, ranking as one of the tallest wood species in the world.
Saddle is Brent’s very first carved furniture design. The design concept for the bench was devised while he was designing gardens reflecting on the aesthetic of Pacific Rim. (more…)
Japanese Web magazine Independ have published Koichiro Sato’s interview with Brent about creation of his artworks and specifically about his works featured at Living&Design show in Osaka, Japan. Read the interview on Independ website.
Shattered Sphere in Shanghai
Earlier this year two of our shattered spheres traveled all the way from North Vancouver to Shanghai for the annual JISP Art Show. (more…)
Brent in Conversation with Telus
Interview with Brent at his Studio about his work and approach to wood.
Shattered Light by Rollout
Rollout is a Toronto based company, established in 2005, specializing in one-of-a-kind wallpapers for use in retail, boutique, hotel, office and other commercial applications. They provide architects, interior designers and clients with an immersive, boutique wallpaper design experience. (more…)
Living & Design 2016 in Osaka, Japan
Brent just visited Osaka, Japan for the Living and Design 2016 Tradeshow where he gave the opening speech and presented his work. The show mostly featured Japanese artists and designers, including homebuilders, furniture makers and producers of household design products from Thailand, Italy, North America and other parts of the world. (more…)
Yukio Hashimoto at IDS West
From his start at Super Potato, Yukio Hashimoto has become known for his concept of designing “atmosphere,” rather than focusing on materials in commercial spaces such as hotels, restaurants, and retail facilities. With his design team in-tow, Hashimoto will be giving a presentation on his work and experience as a contemporary and prolific architect, product and interior designer in the Asian market and beyond. His talk will take place Friday, September 23 at 8:30am on the Ceasarstone Stage. For more information, click here.
WHY DESIGN NOW?: A WEST COAST CONTEXT
WHY DESIGN NOW?: A WEST COAST CONTEXT is partly inspired by New York’s Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Museum’s 2010 National Design Triennial entitled Why Design Now?, which focused on how innovative design globally has addressed significant social and environmental issues.
The upcoming Interior Design Show West takes place from September 24-27 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West Building. At this years show, Brent Comber will be displaying newly designed Lounge Chairs. See these works for yourself at booth #1225. For more information on IDS West, click here.
This summer, Brent Comber’s work will be on display in a show titled “Elementals” at the Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island. His new sculpture, Taiga, is reminiscent of the maoi of Easter Island or the Olmec colossal heads. Standing next to these towering pieces is an unforgettable experience, dwarfing those who stand near them. Elementals will be on display until August 12 at the Duthie Gallery, located at 125 Churchill Road on Salt Spring Island. For more information on the Duthie Gallery click here.
The Gulf Islands Driftwood did a great write-up on the show which can be found here.
Modern Makers features multiple works by four established artist/designers whose conceptual work draws on their roots as exceptional designer/makers.
The exhibition will present functional and installation works by Brent Comber, Heidi Earnshaw, Gord Peteran, and Brian Richer. The exhibition will be on display at Idea Exchange from May 30 until June 27. Click here for more information.
At this year’s HD Expo, Brent will be showcasing select pieces from our Alder collection. The HD Expo is a world renown trade show for the hospitality industry. The newest and most innovative products and services are on display for architects, developers and the interior design industry.
HD Expo takes place at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas from May 13-15. For more information or tickets for the show, visit www.hdexpo.com
Brent will be part of a discussion panel in the first of a five-part series at Seattle’s historic, newly updated Sorrento Hotel. In the revamped lobby Fireside Room and the penthouse-level Top of the Town, GRAY editors will moderate dynamic panel discussions with creative thinkers and top design talent from all corners of the Pacific Northwest—providing a more intimate, face-to-face experience for both trade and design enthusiasts.
The first panel will be titled “Pacific Northwest Design Now” and what does Pacific Northwest design look like right now, and where is it going? And whether “regional design” even exists anymore in today’s hyper-connected, globalized world. The event will take place April 9th @ 7pm in the Sorrento Hotel Fireside Room, 900 Madison St., Seattle.
The Fund for the Arts on the North Shore Society (FANS) has recognized Brent, along with musician Shari Ulrich, as their 2014 distinguished artists. The award is presented annually to outstanding artists from the North Shore that have achieved national or international recognition for their body of work. It is the only public arts event of its kind on the North Shore and is a unique opportunity to recognize artistic achievements by local artists. Read more about the awards here.
Andrew is a local documentary and portrait photographer from Vancouver. He occasionally stops by the studio to capture moments of our work in progress. His beautiful composition and ability to capture beauty in the seemingly simplest moments of our day-to-day workings is something to behold. His website can be found here.
Vancouver Convention Centre West Building
The upcoming Interior Design Show West takes place from September 25-28 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West Building. At this years show, Brent Comber will be displaying pieces from the Ikebana line as well as a never before seen sculpture! See these works for yourself at booth #1113. For more information on our Ikebana line, check out our Ikebana Collection page.
Our friends at WALRUS are celebrating the work of 5 inspiring Canadian wood designers, and Brent is proud to be one of them. Each designer has carefully selected and handcrafted pieces in limited quantity for the show. The show will be up through the summer but some of the pieces are limited editions, so if you want to see them all don’t wait.
As part of his participation in ‘Touch Wood’, the landmark exhibition at VanDusen Botanical Garden, Bent is showing some of his interior work in the discovery Room of the Visitor’s Centre. Don’t miss the large sculptures and installations in the garden as well. The exhibit showcases Sentinels, Shattered Sphere, and Pale Shadows.
We recently acquired some new timber at our shop. A grouping of Cedar trees had to come down in West Vancouver, and Brent was fortunate enough to get his hands on the material. While we always prefer to see a tree standing, it’s impressive to witness the skill and craft required to harvest this magnificent wood.
24 young students recently got their hands dirty in our shop while collaborating on a piece that was auctioned off at a Gala event as a fundraiser for Ecole Pauline Johnson elementary school in West Vancouver. We hope the experience was inspiring for the student, as it was certainly educational for us!
Hugo França, the word renowned artist, was in British Columbia this past week participating in the Vancouver Biennale. For an Artist who works only with naturally felled or burned trees, he has found an abundance of inspiration here on the West Coast. Through live demonstrations in Squamish and on Spanish Banks, the Brazilian artist worked for the first time in cedar. Brent shares França’s love of wood, and enjoyed seeing him work in a material so familiar to us in Vancouver.
A great admirer of the world-revered ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, our newest collection which riffs on this highly disciplined approach to sculpting with flowers. Join us for the launch event of our latest series at Kozai Modern. With Flower arrangements by Hideki Shimizu and featuring photography by Andrew Querner.
Our team recently installed Brent’s latest custom table in the Four Season’s Vancouver’s Yew Restaurant. Made from a tree removed by the city of Nanaimo over 10 years ago, the two-inch thick maple tabletop spans an impressive 27 feet. This latest dining table compliments a number of tables previously commissioned for this space, and adds another piece to our existing collection of custom dining tables.
We are putting the finishing touches on our latest Cedar Panel Wall, and making preparations for its journey to Shanghai. This will be Brent’s second commission for the outdoor retailer Chums. His first commission, Symbol Tree was the inspiration for this latest work and is installed at Chums Shanghai’s sister store in Tokyo.
We are pleased to be participating in this year’s Interior Design Show West (IDSwest), Western Canada’s annual premiere residential design show. Come visit us at booth #1038 to see our latest dining tables, Aperture and Serene, and our newest benches, Tafoni 1 and Tafoni 2.
Thank you to Western Living Magazine for awarding Brent Comber with the 2013 Designer of the Year Award in the category of Furniture. The magazines 6th annual award is a celebration of the best and brightest design stars that are shaping the way we live in the West. Brent is among good company; congratulations to all the winners.
Thank you to The City of North Vancouver, Mayor and Council, who recently presented Brent Comber with a Public Art Award of Excellence. This award is for demonstrating a commitment to the cultural spirit of the City of North Vancouver through the creation of public art, through his sculpture Fallen Tree – New Beginnings.
Though each stylistically and conceptually distinct, the 12 artists participating in Touch Wood share an enlightened sensibility to their materials; much of their work uses salvaged, recycled or scavenged wood and as all the artists are local they know and express the spirit of here, the particular genius locii of the West Coast with its abundance of woods. The exhibit will showcase Sentinels, Shattered Sphere, and Brent’s newest work, Pale Shadows.
Preparations are underway to install Brent’s latest piece, Pale Shadows, in Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden. The work is returning to a primarily antiquated building material; 12” x 12” Douglas fir posts. We recently broke ground at the gardens in anticipation of the upcoming exhibition, Touch Wood, which will feature 12 artists in the spectacular backdrop of the lush botanical garden.
The 19-foot cedar trunk originally found on site during the construction of SFU’s newest daycare was finally returned; only it was transformed into Brent’s newest installation, Nightswimming. This piece is designed to evoke a sense of discovery. It’s made for sitting on, playing on, climbing on, hanging out on – even perhaps meditating on. Nightswimming was unveiled at the one-year anniversary of the opening of the daycare facility, which is expected to be the first building in Canada to meet the Living Building Challenge.
The Kozai Modern gallery finally re-launched February 16 with its new tightly edited collection of the very best of local West Coast studio furniture and artisan lighting. Featured among the new pieces was Brent’s recently launched dining table collection. Aperture in black walnut and Robusta in maple can be seen at Kozai’s newly expanded showroom.
We’ve been invited to show some of Brent’s work at the upcoming opening of Liquidity Winery’s new tasting room and restaurant. Located in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, the new facility is both open and contemporary, and will merge seamlessly with an expansive patio and water feature. The building will be open to the public in June and will feature Brent’s Shattered Sphere and Sentinel.
Brent will be attending this year’s CONTEXT Art Miami Art fair, the largest and longest running satellite art fair surrounding Miami Art Basel, and he’ll be bringing along a 60” Shattered Sphere. You’ll find Brent and the Sphere at the Jennifer Kostuik Gallery exhibit space.