American Design Hot List 2020
Asheville, North Carolina, caseyjohnsonstudio.com
More of a sculptor than a furniture designer, Casey Johnson started out making small curvilinear wood objects and more conventional furnishings five years ago, then slowly began exploding his practice into elaborate and extremely cool large-scale cabinets and tables that are sometimes Noguchi, and sometimes Noguchi on acid (in the best possible way).
What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?
When I think of the American Designer, I picture Evel Knievel or some other stunt person on a motorbike soaring over some kind of impossible stunt (cape and all). Someone who’s constantly taking risks and not afraid of trying new things. It’s that adventurous spirit I see when I look at other American designers I admire. I don’t think you can really nail down American design, and that’s what’s exciting. Since we’re such a diverse group with so many cultural influences overlapping and blending together, there are constantly new ideas emerging. There are no rules, but there IS dedication and commitment to craft. Pushing the limits. This is our strength.
What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?
2021 will hopefully be better for us all. I don’t think I can speak to the upcoming year without acknowledging how challenging this year has been for so many. We’ve all felt the burden of this year one way or another. Whether it’s been emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, or a combination of all those, we’ve all been tested in ways we didn’t expect. We could all use a year to heal from the present one.
My plan this next year is to have more fun and work more intuitively. There will be more sculpture coming out of the studio next year. I will continue to take on commissions but will also be focusing more attention on developing new sculptural forms and exploring new materials.
Outside of just plans for my work, I plan to be more present to the people around me. To spend more time walking in the woods, on the mountain, and sitting by the stream. To slow down, and focus on the things that I’ve learned this year are truly important to me.
What inspires or informs your work in general?
True inspiration for me comes when I’m not looking for it. Not to say that my eyes shouldn’t be open to see, I’ve just found that the more I try to find inspiration, the further I get from the honest stuff. It’s so easy to find yourself lost in an unlimited network of inspiration on IG and other social platforms, but the real stuff comes when I happen upon an interesting rock or stick on a hike, or when I stop to watch the wind dance through the leaves of the trees outside my studio. Or when my 6-year-old shows me one of his drawings when I get home. Or when I’m out running errands and come upon an interesting composition of everyday objects. It’s easy to get caught up trying to search for the next idea, but when I stop trying to have a cool idea, one normally presents itself, sometimes in the most subtle of ways. It’s being present to life outside the studio that gives me the true inspiration. The real stuff. This is what I strive to be better at.
This is not to discredit those artists who I truly admire and whose influences have set a stage for me to play on. Artists like Brancusi, Noguchi, Martin Puryear, and the late Wendell Castle, to name a few. These artists have greatly informed how I approach my work and have inspired some of my techniques.