Recovering the past
Joshua Pfenning of Proper Furniture is quietly adamant that he is a craftsman, not an artist.
It’s just sitting there in the alley. Joshua coaxes it into the back of the van. Takes it to the studio and sets it down in the corner. Is it going to be one of those instant attractions or are they going to have to get to know each other slowly?
In an age of short lived dalliances with disposable furniture, Pfenning entreats customers to “resist the temptation to purchase ‘disposable’ furniture”. Over the course of the next few days, weeks, even months, Pfenning will set aside time in his busy furniture atelier to strip back the armchair that he found in the alley and fully rebuild it. The end result finds favor with a market of furniture collectors holding an appreciation for both the artistry and quality of his work.
Art theorists frame Pfenning as a ‘recontextualizer’ who disrupts the commercial production life cycle. Reinventing furniture into objects that are often stylistically self referential while incorporating modernist details, Pfenning creates a visual and theoretical contrast between modernist functional art and the mass produced object.
An upholsterer by trade, Pfenning completed an 8 year apprenticeship in Nebraska before setting up shop in California. His company Proper Furniture is based around designing, building and reupholstering furniture with an aim to reduce waste and recycle. Where possible Pfenning uses low impact, environmentally conscious materials. While Pfenning acknowledges that there is an extant theoretical framework, he sees his role and product differently.
“Though the results are sometimes artistic, I don’t call myself and artist. I’m a craftsman. I have some philosophies about consumerism and those ideas are present in my work, but that expression doesn’t make the work art. “
Pfenning received Platinum, Gold and an Honorable Mention in the 2009 Upholstery Journal Awards, as well as winning Ebay’s 2009 Creative Reuse Competition. This year one of his custom beds was featured at the 2010 Dwell on Design Show.