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Featured Shop: Jonathan January

Nov 16, 2012

by JonathanJanuary handmade and vintage goods

My name is Jonathan and I live in Oregon, where I design and make a wide range of furniture and other interior items for my shop, Jonathan January. I specialize in reclaimed materials, particularly architectural salvage, with a view toward responsible production and finishes that consider both environmental and home health.

My workshop is a great industrial space that includes nearly every phase of design and production, and I have a separate brick and mortar retail store as well. I make a very wide range of items using different materials, but there are some common threads throughout. For one, I try not to over-design, but I tend to overbuild my items; they are industrial-strength and meant to last. I have always made an effort to stay close to designs that show character and features already present in the materials, rather than attempt grandiose constructions mixing too many elements. Skill does not necessarily imply beauty, and many things are beautiful that require no skill. I hope that my designs and products show a happy medium of both.

I have always found it very satisfying to have my hands on an idea from start to finish; to see a grain of thought to its end as a finished item. I am involved every step of the way in the design and fabrication process of the items I offer; from sourcing logs and sawing raw lumber to final shipping, and all the little bits in between. I believe my sensitivity to issues surrounding interior and environmental health, the range of items offered, as well as the fact that my process is rooted and holistic makes me stand out.

Since nearly all of my materials are local and I am hands-on every step of the way, I have firsthand knowledge of every product’s source and history. Especially with historic lumber products, it is very satisfying to see an antique material take on a second life as a piece of furniture. We can all probably agree that responsibly produced items are preferable, but the addition of story – knowing who milled a piece of antique lumber and where it came from — lets some pieces come together in a comprehensive way.

I consider the health aspects of each item I make. What this translates to is an almost exclusive use of local materials, and special considerations for everything from raw material sourcing practices to finishes that surpass the health standards of many larger brands. Home health for consumers, preservation of natural resources, and a meaningful product that outperforms those of competitors makes for a purchase decision that customers can feel good about, and one that I am happy to offer.

On some level, we have to consume; we don’t have a choice. Instead of compromising what we want in an effort to mitigate that fact, I would hope that my products surpass customers’ expectations. Making a responsibly produced, beautiful product that performs extremely well is a conscious and constant goal of mine. I want people to enjoy my products; they are meant to be used.

It probably wasn’t so long ago that it was the norm for people to be directly involved in producing something on a more individual basis. Now, that is less and less the case. There has been a real overall decline in people who actually produce tangible items themselves, and I just can’t see this as progress. Etsy provides a highly functional venue for so many unique makers. If you came across a sprawling open-air market full of different products with many different cultures represented, you would think it was something special. Etsy is very much the same way, in that there are so many makers and genres from every part of the world represented, in one common area, in the same market, on one site.

Finally, just putting it out there: I want to make some furniture for Tom Waits. His music is on in the shop a lot. So, Tom – call me.

All photographs by Jonathan January.

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