STUDIO VISIT: Ramsey Conder
Company: Ramsey Conder
Artist: Ramsey Conder
Artist, designer and sculptor – it’s impossible to limit Ramsey Conder’s titles to just one area of expertise. If you’re familiar with his work, you know that each discipline plays a part in the production of his elegant pieces. While certainly in the Echo Park Craft Fair inner circle (his wife, Beatrice Valenzuela, is one of our founders), this is the first time we’ve sat down with Ramsey to talk about his work and the ancient craft that goes into the making of each object. As home life buzzes just overhead, a sophisticated process is taking place below in his expansive, indoor/outdoor studio, where multi-medium creations take shape and form.
Wood, brass, leather – utilized in cathartic, unexpected ways, the work of Ramsey Conder draws on inspiration that ranges from the sleek lines of the automobile, to the poetic irregularity of the natural world. Educated in art and design, Conder’s extensive experience includes a prolific stint at Tesla, where he was key in the production of the company’s revelatory Tesla Model S. Functional, yet intrinsically sculptural, his designs reflect a keen eye for shape and form, matched with artistic whimsy. Throughout a varied career, Conder’s output has included everything from furniture and lighting to cups and even toilet brush stands. Conder uses solely solid materials – gold, brass, bronze, steel, wood, and leather – and creates by sand casting and lost wax casting methods. Time and loving wear lends both a complex patina, and an evolving narrative to all his work.
The Echo Park Craft Fair is celebrating our 10 year anniversary this Holiday, 2019. Can you speak to how long you’ve been doing the Fair and how the EPCF community has contributed to the evolution of your work and business?
It started in front of my apartment 10 years ago. I bought the wine and cheese – I spent more on that than I actually made selling my goods. The beginning of the fair I was making things that felt good, kind of what was a reflection of what was happening in my life. As more artists came in, their seriousness about their craft helped me to elevate my work to something more professional.
Please tell us about the current work you will featuring this Holiday and speak a bit to how you/your work as evolved over the last decade?
This holiday I’m showing my hardware and my lighting, I’ve got a few new pieces I’ll be showcasing; I’m coming full circle into my jewelry work. I was working on my jewelry at the beginning of the fair – it’s exciting to come back into it. The jewelry work I’m doing now is cast in place diamond stones with 18 karat gold. Found objects, like cactuses from the Cactus Store, help to inspire me.
The ethics of production are on our minds a lot recently – questions of sustainability, fair labor, location, and artistic integrity. How do these concepts come into play in your craft and your business? What choices do you make that take into account these ideas?
A big part of my business is having everything made locally here in Los Angeles. I look for relationships with my fabricators, polishers, casters, so that everything is more on a personal basis rather than just business. So, ethics are super important – in essence the people I’m working with are my collaborators – we’re not just putting a product out. I don’t have to commute and spend time getting from one place to another finding goods, I keep it personal and close to home. Sustainability in the sand casting world, it’s a dying industry in LA. The man who casts my pieces is well into his 70’s, no one will take over his business when it’s gone. It’s a common story with industry in LA – part of my business model, though, is to keep things going while being okay with watching other parts fade away. I love to be able to use the opportunity to actually work with people in Los Angeles as well.
Can you speak a bit to your process? What inspires your work? What techniques do you use to produce your designs? What is the history behind those techniques, and does that inform how you utilize them in your process?
A lot of my work comes from a need in my life for an object. For example, lighting – we were re-doing the lighting in our house; I was frustrated with what was out there, so I made some for my family. Same with hardware, and jewelry, I guess, was a natural evolution for me from making large scale sculptural objects. I was in the auto industry for a long time building clay models of cars. When I scaled down, it was refreshing and really came to me in a natural way.
What is your underlying philosophy/core vision for your work? And what impact do you hope your creative work will have on your community?
I think a big philosophy of my work is the understandability of the object themselves. The fact that you can see it was made by hand, it has a humanistic and holistic feeling that goes into it. It reflects back to me, and to the person who has it, that it was made by a human. Less perfection is seen, less confusion around its process. I love using rough diamonds because of the potential that’s seen of what it is and what it could be. All my hardware is imperfect because no pieces are the same. I make sure the indents from my fingertips are included and accentuated in each piece.
The community element is another philosophy that goes into my work: a lot of people can gain confidence, they can do this too, it’s not unreachable. I’ve experienced it in a way that’s flattering and community building; there’s more people doing things themselves now in a natural and understandable way.