Bishop’s arty furniture has been collected by John Legend and Jennifer Aniston.
Los Angeles-based artist and designer Stefan Bishop transforms inanimate raw materials into dynamic, moving truths that often function like furniture, even dancing, shimmering, even exploding in static space. His labor-intensive designs aren’t spontaneous, but they look like it.
Represented by tastemaker Ralph Pucci since 2019, Bishop’s craftsmanship has landed in the homes of stars like John Legend and Jennifer Aniston, along with dozens of others he doesn’t know, not just because the contracts require nondisclosure agreements, but because deep down he is still a child among the redwoods on the family’s 50-acre farm in southern Oregon.
This is where Bishop believes he attained his original love for wood. “Our father worked for the US Forest Service,” he says. “He wasn’t a lumberjack, but he looked like a lumberjack.” Think: helmet, suspenders, boots and chainsaws.
The two brothers recalled seeing their father cut down a dead tree for firewood. “There was something magical, a little dangerous,” they said. “The calm of the woods, the smell of sawdust and chainsaw oil. It’s a complete sensory image that probably never left us.
An appreciation for heavy machinery also stayed with him. At 19, Bishop started art school to get a degree in architecture and ended up taking an elective course in carpentry. “As soon as I entered a carpentry workshop, it was my home,” he recalls. Wood has come to represent “potential energy”, he added. “I wanted to create things out of that.”
Bishop left art school to apprentice with an expert in Berkeley, then another in Chicago to hone his carpentry skills. “What I hadn’t learned was the creative process,” he said. “I knew how to do things, but I was incredibly frustrated trying to figure out what I was going to do – almost like built up sexual frustration, I couldn’t get it out.”
He moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1988, where he did engineering for major furniture companies. Next, Bishop moved into interior design, managing hospitality projects for a boutique firm in Hollywood. He hit some stunning big houses on the side and lost it all when the bubble burst in 2008. After a divorce and a midlife crisis, Bishop remarried and took a year off.
Sure, he had tinkered with woodworking in the garage, but when Bishop’s wife retired, he found himself alone for a few weeks. One night an epiphany struck. He filled every available surface with design ideas in his own right. Everything he had always wanted to do, and more, now in concrete plans rather than amorphous ideas.
He opened his current studio in 2010, building his name with striking pieces of serious integrity, embodiments of his own creative flow.
“What I’ve learned since is that one of my best ways to get into the creative mind is to have lots of meditative space,” Bishop said. This can mean time in nature, a long motorcycle ride, or even going crazy with loud music.
“There are also the beautiful moments of falling asleep or waking up,” he added. “Always filled with creative activity when you’re somewhere between conscious and subconscious.”
A strong believer in grand spectacles, Bishop said his most memorable commission was a 2,000-pound bronze table for design firm Solis Bentancourt & Sherrill. Joining Ralph Pucci’s roster, however, is like being signed as a professional athlete. Bishop just had a show with Pucci in London, and he has another in New York in January 2023.
In the meantime, the brothers are evolving their business with 3D rendering and CNC machines, effortlessly retaining the human touch, as manual flourishes prevail even in digital drawing.
They might even enter the metaverse one day, but until then they’re ready to build on their success by giving back to the environment, with an undisclosed initiative underway to reforest. “There are literally woods that we can no longer work with because they are disappearing,” said Adrian Bishop. “Part of our initiative is to plant trees. »
Charity is a booty of success, in this case. Adrian added that “Stefan, even when selling to famous people, didn’t make a lot of money on that stuff because it took so much effort and material and time to do.”
More poignantly however, Bishop’s is also interested in transcending the functional precepts of furniture with a full return to fine art. “It’s a different animal from the realm of design,” he said. But this time he knows what to do.
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