One on One with Randy Bader
By Gina Dostler
Both sexy curves and smooth lines of Randy Bader’s furniture evoke a symbiotic relationship with space and time. They grace each room with a form that is both functional and artistic. In his Laguna Beach studio on Laguna Canyon road he has succeeded in making one-of-a kind pieces, each imbued with a life of its own. From shelves, clocks and mirrors to furniture, the idea of building with wood was a simple brainstorm from his days as a young surfer riding the waves.
Q: Two years into college you completely changed your major to art. What happened?
A: I was living at home and my surfing buddy and I decided to move out into our own place. I was 20, a pre-med student at the time and we had nothing to put in our apartment, no furniture, nothing. My dad had a little workshop. I went there with a sketch pad, designed and built a couple of sling back chairs and a dining table. That’s when it struck me. I wanted to make furniture that was art. I had not one lick of art training, so I dropped all my classes and took every art class I could find: art history, general crafts, beginning sculpture, three-dimensional designs. It’s then that I learned mathematics and science are much easier!
Q: Who were your mentors?
A: I found my mentors all over the world. One day, about a year before graduating I went to Australia with my surfing friends and ended up going around the world for two years. I went by plane, train, bus, yacht, cruise ship, hitch-hiked and even rode elephants! I got to see so much. In India, I watched the repair work on the Taj Mahal and the beautiful inlay work. In England, I visited the Royal College of Art and their fine woodworking department. I met this guy in Turkey who made sofas with one tool, a type of bow that sanded back and forth. Visiting different countries was an incredible learning experience that taught me so much. When I got back I finished school, got my B.A. and suddenly found myself an “artist.” Well at least according to my degree. I knew I needed a plan, so I went back to school, got a master’s and decided that if I wanted to do my art full time I needed to learn how to make a living from it.
Q: When you were first starting out, cleverness was your tool to success.
A: If you mean making chopsticks out of a wooden milk crate, then yes. I made $5,000 from that crate. Another time I had a pile of small scrap wood that had tortoise shell like markings. And after a week of staring at it I came up with a simple idea. I sanded then polished and ended up selling every piece of those scraps, as bookmarkers. It can be difficult to sell at the Sawdust, and when I was just beginning I had made it a point to never have a “0” dollar day. And my cutting boards were a hit. Though hard work went into them, they paved the way financially for me so I could spend time building my furniture. I haven’t had to make any since the ‘80s.
Q: How would you describe your pieces?
A: My pieces are inspired from within. I’ve never been excited about other furniture and what’s out there. When you look at my furniture, you see the shadow from what it originally started as. The art forms itself. If you must put it in words, then I’d say it’s a cross between art nouveau and art deco, with some utility and industrial design. So sometimes within my art you see bridges and buildings.
Q: Are your clocks timeless as well?
A: Ah-ha! No numbers on my clocks because it’s not about telling time. It’s about a kinetic sculpture that resembles the count of time. Or my mirrors. They are what I call “wall jewelry,” sculptures that just happen to reflect back to you; yet if you shrink them down far enough, they become sparkling jewels that can be worn. Though I have to put names on my pieces I want people to look at them and see more than just a clock or a mirror. One of my clocks spirals up, swirling into a double helix, time and DNA combined into one. But at the same time, it’s functional.
Q: How many do you make in a year?
A: For the small pieces like the desk clocks I do about 80. The medium size ones such as mirrors, shelf, wall clocks are anywhere from 20 to 40. And depending on the year, I do two to 15 large pieces. I just finished taking orders for the small to medium pieces. And about this time of year I take the furniture orders. Though people can chose from my portfolio, each one comes out slightly different. The last wall clock I built is the spiral one. And each clock before that helped manifest it. Each piece evolves with every creation. It’s funny, when a new idea for a piece starts to work its way inside my head, my wife always knows and asks, “Do you have itchy brain again?”
2375 Laguna Canyon Rd,
Laguna Beach, CA 92651