California to Paris... Home.
Adrian Rubi-Dentzel is part of Projectory, the second installment of Phillips de Pury's pop-up program in Saatchi Gallery, London. Originally from California, Adrian now lives and works in Paris, as well as spending time in Marfa, Texas. Thank you Adrian for taking the time to have this conversation about why you design, and your current work in Paris and Marfa.
" Paris has an incredible appreciation for antiquity. People aren't as concerned with having the newest, best thing possible at all times. There is more focus on quality and pure, personal aesthetic. However, I miss the nature and the sunset-watching, beard-stroking culture of California. It's my true home."
What's your first memory of making something?
When I was about six, I made an "earthquake detector" out of Fimo clay. It was a four-sided box, open on two sides, with a pencil hanging in the middle over a pad of paper. If there was an earthquake, you would know because the pencil would mark the paper. Considering it now, you might also know if an earthquake was happening because of the violent shaking of the ground under your feet.
The Glass Slipper, 2010, what is the idea behind this? "Glass Slipper", I immediately think of Cinderella, looking for her prince. Any connection to this fairy tale?
The concept came to me during a time when I was doing a lot of work at UFACTO involving acrylic and other plastics. I was also conversing a lot about skateboard design with Yong-ki Chang and Geoff McFetridge who have the skateboard company in California called Solitary Arts. Among other things, they make what I think are the best light-up risers out there, Moonlights. Rummaging around in the workshop, I found a scrap of thick acrylic Plexiglas about the size of a skateboard, and the idea just struck me: if I can recess some Moonlight risers into this, I can make a clear, glowing skateboard. Once I had pictured the thing in my head, I had to make it.
As for the name, it almost feels like the Glass Slipper named itself. When I looked at the first finished prototype, I knew that was the name. The actual story of Cinderella and the prince is not that significant. But the idea of a mysterious, magical, transformative, clear object is definitely something I associate with the Glass Slipper skateboard.
Is the “Glass Slipper” in production, and if so, by who?
I hand shape each Glass Slipper at UFACTO in Paris, France. They are available at the Philips de Pury design space at Saatchi Gallery in London. They are signed, dated, and numbered serially in an open edition, the way surfboard shapers number each board chronologically.
What kind of studio is UFACTO?
UFACTO is the workshop of David Toppani, a master craftsman who produces prototypes and small editions for many of the best designers in Europe like the Bouroullec brothers, Pierre Charpin, Jasper Morrison, Marc Newson, R&Sie, etc. He produces a great many pieces for Galerie Kreo here in Paris. I did and internship there a few years ago. Erwan Bouroullec, who I met in CA a few years before that, originally put me in touch with David Toppani. I ended up moving to Paris to work at UFACTO. These days I work for David part-time on a project to project basis, as well as prototype and fabricate my own pieces there.
You have a family history of carousel builders. Do you have any early memories of this? Did you know early on that you would follow in those footsteps, and become a "builder and designer" of objects. Also, are carousels still around, and if so, where?
I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandparents, my mother's parents. My grandfather, William Dentzel, was a lawyer, but made carousels on the side. From as far back as I can remember he would sit me on the workbench while he was carving. I would sand things with him, and eventually, he let me help carve a lion's mane. He made mostly half-scale carousels, but did a few full-sized animals as well. There was a half-scale carousel he built at the Zoo in Santa Barbara, where I grew up.
My great, great, grand uncle on my mother's side, Gustav Dentzel, brought the first carousel to the U.S. A. from southern Germany around 1860. The family set up workshops in Germantown, PA. They became known for making very elegant and ornate carousels. In the middle of the 20th century, the majority of the carousels were dismantled and sold in parts. It seems like there are a lot of individual animals in the Midwest. I know the San Francisco Zoo has a complete, carved, wooden Dentzel carousel, and there are some in Chicago. There is a great book called The Pictorial History of the Carousel with great photos and information about the carousel's development in the U.S.A. Frederick Fried, the author, spoke extensively with my grandfather while writing the book.
Despite the carousel history, and my father designing and building recording studios, I didn't think I would go into design or craft. I studied literature and music at UC Santa Barbara. Some time in my early twenties I started building things and experimenting with fiberglass and resins via repairing and making surfboards. I have always been around craftsmanship, so it felt very familiar to get back into it.
Where in California did you grow up, and do you prefer Paris to California? Are there any must-visit art/ furniture galleries in Paris you can recommend?
I grew up in Santa Barbara but always spent a lot of time in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. I lived in Oakland for several years after college. It is hard to compare life in Paris to life in California. There are aspects of both places that I love. Paris has an incredible appreciation for antiquity. People aren't as concerned with having the newest, best thing possible at all times. There is more focus on quality and pure, personal aesthetic. However, I miss the nature and the sunset-watching, beard-stroking culture of California. It's my true home.
Display cupboard by Eugéne Gaillard presented
at the international exhibition held in Paris in 1900.
The most impressive design and craft I've seen in Paris is at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. They have furniture and furnishings from every era going back to the stunning inlay work André Charles Boulle did for Louis XIV. My favorite furniture is the art nouveau work by Hector Guimard and Émile Gallé. The deceptively simple natural forms in wood are incredible. The Musée D'Orsay also has an impressive permanent collection of art nouveau furniture and glassware.
The landscape of Marfa, Texas
Fact:Outside of Donald Judd & modern art, Marfa may be most famous for the Marfa lights, visible every clear night between Marfa and the Paisano Pass when one is facing SW.
Do you live part time in Marfa? What is the allure of Marfa?
I spend as much time in Marfa as I can, a few weeks per year these days. Before deciding to move to Paris, my wife and I were going to live between Marfa and Mexico. I have an old adobe house there that I'm slowly rebuilding. It's kind of a testing ground for my ideas. The appeal of Marfa is hard to sum up in a few words. There is an amazing community and natural landscape there. Some of our dearest friends are there. The appreciation for art and design is very strong and you also have true, old school West Texan culture. It's also nice to be truly removed from the metropolitan world; the nearest airport is a three hour drive away.
Why do you design?
My initial impulse to design came from wanting to make something absolutely personalized for myself. I'm very into solving specific problems and creating things that don't exist yet. These days I'm trying to refine the expressive aspects of crafting something functional. It's important for me to see the character behind every detail.
I get a sense that you are musically inclined. Anyone in particular that is musically inspiring to you these days?
I played music frequently and with many bands when I lived in Oakland, and my father is a musician. My listening habits have been all over the place lately. Just looking next to my record player I see some records by Wings, ELO, Gabor Szabo, Vetiver, Michel Berger, Mulatu Astatqe and the Beach Boys. I think Teen Dream by Beach House is an excellent recent album. Aptos by the Moore Brothers is incredible; they must be one of the most overlooked gems of the last few years.
I've also recently heard some very loose and interesting acapella covers of Stevie Nicks and Smiths songs by NilsBech. Back to old stuff, the performances from the 1970s British TV show, The Old Grey Whistle Test, are great. There was such a great standard of musicianship in the 70s. One current band that plays with incredible musicianship is the Phenomenal Handclap Band, certainly one of my favorite bands to see live.
Thank you Adrian Rubi-Dentzel!
Original photos by Danielle Rubi, go here to see her portfolio!
(all other photos are sourced from the internet)
the first photo I altered from one of Danielle's photos.
I hope you don't mind! Go here to see original.
"Adrian Rubi-Dentzel (born 1980) is a Californian designer and craftsman who lives and works in Paris, France. Coming from a long line of carousel builders and raised in an atmosphere of craftsmanship, hand fabrication is an essential part of his design process. In handling, cutting, and forming a material, he finds the best way to draw out its attributes. "
California to Paris...