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Paul Loebach on American Primitives

Two hundred years ago, when American pioneers were streaming across the country making homes for themselves in the uncharted wilderness, anyone who needed a corn grater or a mouse trap had to knuckle down and make one. “Everyone was a designer,” says Paul Loebach, who’s long been fascinated by such primitive, purpose-built objects, typically hand-carved in wood or crudely forged in metal. “Whereas Europe had a network of goods trading, for the settlers it was like, we’re limited to these five square acres. They had to be really clever to make the most out of what they had, and that kind of ingenuity is inspiring to me.” Already knowing this about the Brooklyn designer after interviewing him last November, Sight Unseen invited him to choose his favorite objects from the 1972 book American Primitives, which we found at an Ohio flea market for $2 and which contains several dozen annotated selections from Norris, Tennessee’s Museum of Appalachia.
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"The guy I bought these bottles from has a serious collection of glass from the 1910s and '20s. But behind his booth, he had these bottles ‘in dug condition,’ and I loved that. Many are old elixir bottles from the early 1900s. I bought eight, including the big brown and white ones directly in front of me in the photo. They’ll definitely inform my designs. Hypothetically if I was designing a candle holder, I might look at 10 to 15 round objects and collage them together in my mind, drawing on just the lip of that brown bottle — the thickness and proportion of the top rim in relation to the neck."

Paul Loebach at the Brimfield Antique Fair

Once or twice a year, Brooklyn furniture designer Paul Loebach gets out his straw hat and bandana, ties on a pair of crappy old sneakers, drags out his huge canvas tote, and drives up to Massachussetts, where dealers from all over the Northeast gather every spring, summer, and fall for the Brimfield Antique Show.
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