I’ve been designing some projects in my head for months that I plan—no, need—to finally dive into. They’ve been sitting on the vine long enough. Plus, I’m out of room. Yes, even with several shipping containers at my disposal. I’m surrounded by inspiration. And it’s bulky.
There’s an old but never used (which qualifies as new to me) Bell Telephone booth that I’m going to convert into a cabinet with adjustable shelving and wire it with a phone-charging port. That’s near the top of my list because it should come together fairly quickly. Actually, if I can preserve my personal space over the next few weeks, I may be able to create a handful of pieces by the spring.
The timing got me thinking initially that maybe I’d roll them out in a show, but I decided against it. I really don’t want to make anything under the pressure of expectation—my own or anyone else’s—right now. As long as I can, I want to take my time, see where all this goes, and begin to figure out who I am again, what Bret Cavanaugh Modern Design looks like.
Crafting modern furniture has always been a kind of meditation for me. I lose myself in the process, struggling and overcoming and always learning something about myself in the end. Everything I’ve made, clearly as I saw it in the beginning, slipped out of my grasp at some point along the way. I needed to do something that I didn’t think I could do, sometimes more than once, to get a handle on it again and make it a reality. So when I look at one of my pieces, I see more than furniture. I see anxiety, frustration, perseverance, and hard-earned skill, all of it tied together in a tight knot.
With the Trophy Series, I took all of that to a new level—for better and for worse. That collection is my crowning achievement (so far), but it also almost swallowed me whole. At every phase in the creative process, a furniture designer asks himself, Is this good enough or should I do more? Every time the question came up with the Trophy Series, I answered, Do more.
For the better part of two years, I devoted myself to the creation of that collection, always upping the ante, never settling. It became a test to see what I was really capable of. If that was my only agenda, I’d still be beaming, proud as a new dad. But it wasn’t. I needed the Trophy Series to put my stamp on the world, to announce BCMD as a contender to all the modern furniture galleries and national media editors.
When the reaction didn’t match my investment (as if it ever could), I started to question the point of all that effort, even though I had this shining collection, not to mention all the personal growth, to show for it. I continued making furniture while I sorted it out, but it was almost exclusively commissions. These pieces, what I’ll be working on during my hibernation, represent my first real attempt to go rooting around my imagination for any significant length of time since I unveiled the Trophy Series. Which is why I’d prefer to do it without expectation.
The Trophy Series defined what I was capable of, but it’s by no means my legacy. I didn’t stop growing as a person or an artist. If anything, I’ve matured more over the last year-and-a-half than I had over the previous several years. Adversity will do that to you.
Starting with some recycled furniture--my brand of recycled furniture—is my way of easing back into the creative process. The inspiration’s already established and, after so many months stewing over the designs, I have a pretty clear idea of what these particular pieces of modern furniture will look like. It’s everything in between that I expect to inform much of what I’ll do for the foreseeable future.