Design Meets Furniture

An interview with Cory Robinson



I met Cory Robinson almost eight years ago while serving on a committee at Herron School of Art and Design and it was at that time I became familiar with his work as a furniture designer.  While I've been following Cory's work over the years I've been impressed with his current body of work which I saw during the most recent Indianapolis Architects' Home Tourand at a recent exhibition at the 924 Gallery.  What's unique about Cory is the innovative way he is able to create a furniture piece that blends both sculpture and functionality.  Cory has an incredible design aesthetic and his work is ideal for someone who is looking for a signature one-of-a-kind furniture piece that not only enhances an interior space but also communicates a sense of design style.  A recent Q+A with Cory revealed some interesting perspective on the work of a furniture designer and also what makes Cory's work unique.

What would you want people to know about furniture design that they may not know?

We all have histories and experiences that shape that type and kind of objects we want to use in our daily lives. I just want people to think about how those objects can shape our experiences for the better. Commissioning work or buying out of a designer's existing portfolio can create opportunities to work with local craftsmen and designers that you do not get from buying from catalogs and online sources.  It can be hard for a maker/designer to match a discount store budget, but my focus is on working with clients that want unique objects they can live with for long periods of time and individuals who are interested in having a personal connection with a designer.

What got you interested in furniture design and how did it become your passion?

The initial interest is hard to pinpoint but I was always good at making things. It happened more organically as I went through Herron School of Art and Design as an undergraduate student, studying with Adolfo Doddoli and Phillip Tennant.

You have some amazing furniture pieces; can you share some details about the relationship between being both an artist and designer?

My relationship to being an artist and a designer is one that is fluid. I get to wear both hats frequently and I attribute that to my education being rooted in the art school environment. Design is all encompassing and often I do not have a separation between designing and making, they often happen together and at once. That is the most prominent difference in that some creatives identify as a designer only. I feel that my designer/maker identity allows me to have an intimate knowledge of both the material and process that would not yield the same result by pushing designs around in a software program or through traditional drafting alone.

What are some sources of inspiration for your work?

Right now my biggest sources of inspiration come from looking at memory and how known furniture design languages can tell a story that we all can relate to, versus the invented languages of contemporary designers. I am in the last phase of this work and have spent a lot of time finding ways to bring culturally understood, iconic design elements like early American furniture design, and Shaker design, in combination with modern interpretations of form and object design. The traditional legs often respond to cleaner folded steel tops or cleaner geometric ways of building. I have also been playing with this relationship by using reclaimed materials in the design of the object, so a history already exists on the surface of the work.

What do you want people to know about you or your work specifically?

I am a furniture designer by training, but that is a path that has led me to many different avenues of exploration as an artist. I tend to work on series of work, the way many other studio artists work. I can often spend a year to three years or more thinking about certain themes and then like a switch being flipped, I'll explore it as the next phase of my work. My current body of work represents a roughly four year window of exploring the theme of memory using the functional table form as the primary object.

How long does it take for you to create a new work and what is your process from going from concept to completion?

I often have three to four pieces going at once. Furniture making and woodworking processes can be slow and having multiple works going at one time is one way for me to manage the tedious nature of object making. If I get bored or challenged by the piece I can switch gears and work on something that might be similar but forces a different challenge at that moment in the studio. Much of my current work could likely be made in an average of 25-50 hours a piece but I am working towards a new body of work that might force a greater time commitment and effort in the scale and technical demands of the work. I often work to build a body of work towards an exhibition goal and then I may not work for a couple months as I regroup my creative energies.  

If someone is interested in your work or a furniture commission specifically how should they begin the conversation?

They can start a conversation through email, but typically I will want to see the space where the piece is being commissioned for. After we've meet and I've seen the space, I usually take a few weeks to develop some sketches. We come back together to see what aspects we like and then I finalize the drawings and sometimes make a small model.  At that point I develop an understanding of timeline and when the work needs to be finished to meet the client expectations.

What is the price range for your work?

My furniture and artwork is sold for multiple hundreds to multiple thousands. I try and work within a client's expectations of budget and sometime those perimeters have lead me to some new interesting places in the design and build process. Some of my local art collector clients have had more generous budgets for furniture commissions and those works have allowed me room to flex my creative talent in a way that is very fresh and not formulaic. Usually there is a balance that happens between designing and the client expectations that allow me to arrive at an agreeable price structure.

How you can connect with Cory and where you can see his current work:

To contact Cory or to see his complete furniture portfolio go to

Mark your calendars now to see Cory's work in person at the upcoming Fearless Furniture exhibition October 5, 2013 - May 27, 2014 at the Indiana State Museum.

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