Bruce Feldman is a furniture maker and has been for over 50 years. He started as a hobby when he was 12 years old and has turned toward steampunk inspired items in the last month. In the last 30 days or so, he’s started restoring a Mid century house with aims to sell it. He’s also started on a number of steampunk interior furniture items including a 32 inch coffee table from hand-made mill gears. I caught up with Bruce and managed to fire some questions to him about his work.
Steampunk is from birth, but most people have a moment when they know they’re a steampunk. When was that for you?
Since I was a child I have been interested in odd home build things, I became aware of the Steampunk movement about 4 or 5 years ago and loved it from the moment I saw it.
When did you start building furniture?
I started building furniture in my early 20’s, but living in NYC for 30+ years, I was confined to refinishing, or small creative projects. One was coating colourful shopping bags into waste cans by coating them with a brush on auto body fibreglass that made the bags stiff and strong. The fibreglass cannot be sprayed, just painted on, so due to the toxicity I stopped.
Has it always been steampunk inspired?
Some of my projects had an unusual bent to them, I avoided traditional design. I don’t think you could call them Steampunk, just unique.
Do you upcycle or build from scratch?
My approach now that I understand the movement is to upcycle, or repurpose unusual items into a totally different object. I bought a 100 year old grinding wheel which will become an end table when the right base presents itself.
What materials do you favour?
I focus on repurposing wood and metal, An upcoming project will be an 80 year old 8′ toboggan to be bolted to a wall with shelves coming out where each cross support currently is. I will try to incorporate a Steampunk look to it for use in a bar for bottles, or home use as a bookcase.
What colours do you sway towards?
I try to refinish the wooden components to a beautiful finish and prefer black. I often wire brush the cast iron items and use a black, hammered finish paint.
Are there particular features that a steampunk needs built in to a piece of furniture?
I often buy an interesting item, and simply keep it visible until the final product emerges. I have no investment in any type of finished product as long as it useful, clever, fun, and has the Steampunk look. I let the base object determine the design.
Could you take us through the process of making a typical piece of furniture?
First an item catches my eye, even if I have no idea what it will turn into. When a product comes to mind I begin refurbishing it and sometimes the original idea changes as the project starts shaping up. The wooden wheel was to be a dining table, but as it progressed, a coffee table seems to be a better fit.
Do you accept commissions?
As I am just starting, not yet. However if someone wants a particular functional item, I would search out the pieces. Right now I have a full plate, so that will wait for now.
Is this your main career or do you have a “day job”?
Right now I do some consulting, but would prefer to divide my time between developing a line of woven screens and Steampunk designs. Unfortunately, after restoring the house, finances will direct me towards what I can do to bring in money.
What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve built?
Most bizarre thing. Hmmm, so far, just the wooden gear and I wouldn’t call it bizarre, just Steampunk!