Q & A with furniture designer and F*SHO Founder Jason Radcliffe

Cradle cradenza by Jason Radcliffe of 44 Steel

What was the first piece of furniture that you created in 2005?

I built quite a few pieces for friends — things like tables and what not, but the awning I built for a friend’s house in Tremont really stands out the most. It was the first time I realized that I could create and make things useful and functional.

What got you interested in furniture?

Functionally, I needed a desk. I like functional art and things that have a use. Also, I visited my the furniture store where my friend worked, and a customer wanted stainless table with a glass top for a party but if they ordered one for her, it wouldn’t have arrived in time. My friend said, “Here’s my friend who makes furniture. He can make it for you in less than six weeks.” Four days later, she had a stainless-steel frame with a glass top which was the start of my business. My friend asked for two pieces in three sizes, and it just took off.

What did you do as a career prior to your business at 44 Steel?

Welding and fabrication, which I still do, and the furniture business is similar in that I change industrial items into shapes that work.

How and why did the F*SHO come into existence in 2009?

In 2008, I had shown my first pieces of furniture in a solo gallery exhibit then I planned to go to New York for Design Week because I wanted to see what people thought of my work but it cost $5,000 for a booth. I decided that wasn’t affordable. In January 2009, the coordinator from ICFF, part of Design Week, emailed me offering 4’ x 10’ booth for $1600, and I took it. I took the Mousedesk that’s on my website there and kept hearing, “You’re from Cleveland? There’s nothing going on in Cleveland.” When I got back form New York, I had a conversation with five of my furniture friends about what New York was saying about Cleveland. We all decided to give New York a big middle finger and put our own show together and so it came to be. I got five friends together, and we did the show at 78th Street Studios. We had 350 people show up. The next year we needed a bigger space. F*SHO is a contemporary furniture show featuring work by local designers, furniture makers and students from the Cleveland Institute of Art.

How many exhibitors and attendees do you usually have?

In 2016, we had 30 exhibitors and 3,000 attendees. Most of the visitors are from Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.

How are the locations for the moving show selected?

I drive around or someone offers. We are going to continue moving it to different locations until 2019, then we’re handing it off to someone else to pick up the torch.

How do you market the show?

We’ve had articles in Fresh Water Cleveland and The Cleveland Plain Dealer, an interview on Kickin’ It with Kenny and NPR’s Around Noon, word of mouth and social media. People like its style, the romantic feel of only one night and if you’re not there you missed it for the year. It’s a five-hour guerilla show that’s always on a Friday night in September from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. SoHo does the food. We have beer and a coffee bar. Everything is free to the public though we do suggest donations/tips to offset the costs of the food and beer. There’s only a $50 exhibitor fee because we believe in getting us all together, and some new designers don’t have the money.

How and when did you hear about HGR?

I work for my father’s business, Berrington Pumps & Systems, and they are a customer. Then, I made a chair for Ingenuity Festival and a competition called “Chair and Tell.” My dad helped to film the entire process, from walking through HGR buying materials to the fabrication and finishing.

What kinds of things have you bought at HGR?

Mostly stuff for Berrington, not 44 Steel and the furniture business — pumps, parts, filters, storage bins. Then I get to take home scrap and salvage from the business.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working or making furniture?

My wife and I enjoy riding bikes, travel (most recently to Peru), our dog, being outdoors, boating on the lake, and skiing and snowboarding in Colorado.

Which artists inspire you?

Jean Prouvé (French), Pierre Koenig (American) and Viktor Schreckengost (American). Their bodies of work are astounding and groundbreaking, especially Schreckengost!

What was a unique opportunity that you’ve had?

In 2014, two months after Amanda and I were married, I left the business in her hands to go to California to film FRAMEWORK, a furniture-maker reality TV show and competition, on SPIKE that was hosted by Hip Hop Artist Common. It aired in 2015. It’s been an exciting journey.

How did you learn to be a furniture designer and maker?

I’m self taught! I found styles and materials that suited what I liked and then started putting it all together. I was always thinking about how I would want to use a desk or a cabinet or a credenza, and that is where my personal fingerprint comes from. If you look at the furniture designers here in Cleveland, we all use similar materials, but we all have our own look and idea of how those materials fit together.

 

Jason Radcliffe of 44 Steel in his welding gear

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