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Modern Industry’s Evolution in Design

We all have that moment when we have been on the hunt for that perfect piece of furniture and we can’t find exactly what we want and wish we had the skills to make it. Luckily Jacob Wener has those skills. There was a void in sustainably made contemporary furniture so Wener took what he learned from his father and grandfather and opened Modern Industry in Chicago. The results are each piece being truly unique, finishes are applied by hand, and the wood is damn good looking.

We spoke to Jacob about his latest work, where he finds his wood and what is next. Check out the video below of Werner in his studio.

Where are you showing your latest work?

The Golden Triangle; they are primarily dealers of Asian antiques; they got started in Thai handicrafts (hence the Golden Triangle), but they’ve recently been showing my work out of Chicago.

How often do you roll out a collection?

I roll out a new collection of work every 9-12 months, usually 10-15 pieces, ranging from large to small.

Is there a piece in the shop you would consider your trademark?

The newest sideboard, the walnut one with three drawers and two blackened steel doors, with “x” brace legs  is probably the most expressive piece defining what I do- elegant, refined furniture with a few industrial touches.

Where do you source your woods? Is there a woodworkers trade show everyone goes to?

I source all of my wood from the City of Chicago.  My wood supplier works with various public and private resources, so that if a tree falls due to storm damage, or needs to be removed for construction etc, they harvest the wood, mill it into lumber and kiln-dry it.  I prefer to buy my wood from them, not only because it has a story- I can usually tell my clients exactly where their wood came from- but also because I can hand select pieces for interesting grain patterns, as well as series of book-matched boards that have grain that lays out in a mirror-image of each other.

What inspired the video? 

The video was made to show more of the process, from solid log to finished item, and the attention to detail at each step.  This detail is what separates my work from that of more mass-produced furniture brands.

What’s next?

In terms of new design concepts, I really want to get into leather details.  I’ve been in early talks with a few leatherworkers to see where we can go with it, and I’m thinking of using it in some unexpected ways.  From a sales perspective, I’ve got my eyes on finding representation in New York- I sell quite a bit on the East Coast, and I really should have somewhere to send   New York clients to see my work in person.

Come to Chicago this June 11th where I’m going to be showing some more new work as part of this year’s Guerrilla Truck Show.  It runs concurrently with Neocon, the big contract/industry design show here, both in a gallery offsite with Object Society and in a truck as part of the actual show.

Check out the video below to see Jacob in action.

Modern Industry: Furniture For Life

(A film by Winter Beach Productions)

Cator Sparks
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Cator Sparks was the Editor-in-Chief of The Manual from its launch in 2012 until 2018. Previously, Cator was covering…
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