damian velasquez:
artist, craftsman, entrepreneur, father, mentor, designer

I have been designing and building objects for over 25 years. Modern furniture has been the main focus of my efforts during this time. 

 At the early age of eleven years old, I learned the art of silversmithing from my father. He was working his way through medical school while working two jobs and raising a family. With his busy schedule, bench time with him was quality time. That early apprenticeship set me on my path as a maker and I am always grateful for that.

Maybe it sounds like a story already told, but a backpacking trip through Europe completely altered my trajectory in life.  When I returned from  Europe in the summer of 1987, I developed the photos I had taken only to find that the majority of images were of Italian store fronts. These store fronts contained the coolest and most unusual furniture I had ever seen. Burned in my memory, the clean and stark lines remained at the forefront of my lens. The next part of my journey as a maker dovetailed perfectly when I landed a part time job in a furniture store. Nothing glamorous, just an assembler and delivery driver. This opened my eyes about how furniture was made. Everything from the bolts to the materials, and even the packaging. In addition, I saw first hand how all those parts came together as beds, dining tables, end tables and shelves.

I was familiar with the joinery of metals having made jewelry for several years so I figured I would learn to weld. I rounded up a cutting torch, grabbed some bailing wire and set off to build a bed frame in my dad's garage. Several days later, with crookedly cut remnants and empty cans of spray paint on the floor, was an object that was my first bed frame. Only now do I realize how rudimentary my tools and methods were, but I did design and build a bed frame that worked nicely as an upgrade over the mattress on the floor.

Before I knew what I was into a friend stopped by and saw my creation. She ordered one. I vowed bed #2 would be much nicer. I took the deposit and bought a chop saw in order to get clean straight cuts on the tubing. This is what kicked my butt on bed #1. Not only were my cuts straight and easier to weld but I could build a bed in a day. Bed #3 was going to be even better. All of the little imperfections were dealt with and I stumbled across a thing called powder coat finishing. Goodbye rattle cans and long dry times and dust in the finish. My beds were now looking a lot more refined. Somehow, somewhere, I decided I needed to improve the welding aspect. The torch and bailing wire was time consuming and my beds required a lot of persuasion to prevent warpage. I learned everything I needed to know about another method of joining metal at a hands-on demo with a mig welder. Goodbye torch and bailing wire, hello credit card: $700.00 later I had a new toy that consumed all of my time.

Finally around bed #5 or #6 I had something that I thought was slick. So did my friends. I took the bed to show my employer and get feedback. This was the owner of the furniture store whom I worked for, and he agreed to put the bed on the floor and see how it would compare to the other beds on the floor. The bed sold later that afternoon. My former boss wanted to know if I could make more of those beds...

This is how my journey started.