Monday, September 13, 2010

Interview: Brad Kasten

After posting pictures of my new easel last week I had a lot of people asking me questions about it, and showing interest in purchasing one. I thought the easiest way to handle this was to do an interview with my longtime friend and the designer of the easel Brad Kasten. Brad designs all of the studio equipment for the Sienna Plein Air, Artisan, and Ultra series for Crafttech International. You can purchase them from a variety of retailers including Madison Artshop.

Dead of the Day- When did you first start drawing and painting?

Brad Kasten- I started when I was very young, like most artists I know. I was absolutely obsessed with Star Wars and Legos when I was a kid. Both are probably the reason for being an artist as well as a designer. I would draw and build spaceships, fighter jets, robots, guns, the usual kid stuff.

DotD- What first inspired you create and build your own designs for studio equipment?

BK- I was broke. Early in high school I wanted an easel but I couldn’t afford anything, so I built one. I used scrap wood my Dad had in the workshop, it wasn’t pretty but it worked. In college I shelled out the cash for my first French easel. Five minutes after I had taken it out of the box I was modifying it to fix all the problems I found. After that I decided to just build whatever I needed in the future.

DotD- How does you own background as a painter influence your designs?

BK- I think being a painter is absolutely essential for designing equipment used by painters.
You have to know what painters want and need. Having a painting background gives me the knowledge of the functionality I have to put into all my designs. Knowing what I like as a painter also helps me design new innovations in my pieces. It also helps when you have a lot of very successful artist friends you can bounce ideas off of.

DotD- What was the first piece of studio equipment you built?

BK- The first piece I built was a simple wood easel in high school. After that I built a more complicated painting/drawing desk and taboret for myself. The first piece I built and sold was a wood painting palette.

DotD- Do you have a favorite piece you have designed?

BK- I have a couple. For pure design the Ultra Series Drafting Table is my favorite. I love the combination of straights and curves. I think it’s the most unique drafting table you can find. As far as a functional design I think the new Multimedia desk/easel I built for you is my new favorite. It’s a very versatile all in one unit, the culmination of all my other designs rolled into one.

DotD- Do you have design theory/philosophy that you start with when you start on a new project?

BK- I think every design has to have something new that isn’t available already. If it already exists why bother. What problem can I solve with this design is another vital question. Once I have a basic idea of what I want to accomplish I work on the engineering to make it work properly. I do this with drawings initially but iron out all the bugs with physical prototypes. Once I have the function down I work on refining the design into its finished version. I usually go through three to five prototypes to get it right. By the end I’m surrounded by a pile of mutilated parts laying all over the place. It’s pretty messy business.

DotD- How did you learn to design and build furniture?

BK- My Dad had a woodworking business when I was very young. I was always building things out of scrap wood. I learned to use hand tools and then power tools. By the time I was in high school I had a very good education in woodworking.
As far as design and engineering go I always had a knack for it. It probably goes back to the Lego days. Designing art equipment is actually a lot harder than furniture. A chair or table doesn’t have to move, you just build it and there it is. Painting easels have a lot of moving parts and have to adjust to the user. A lot of my engineering experience came from trial and error.

DotD- How do you approach going beyond form simply following function?

BK- That is an interesting question. Function must always be in the forefront of any working piece of equipment or furniture. If it doesn’t function properly no one cares how beautiful it is. But to me form is absolutely essential in anything you design. I don’t look at my designs as artwork necessarily but I try to make them as pleasing to look at as to work with. It’s always a compromise between functionality and beautiful form. That’s the challenge with any design whether it’s easels or sports cars.

DotD- What are your long term goals?

BK- A few years ago I began working with a company who now manufactures all my designs under their name. It offers me more time to just focus on designing products and not dealing with all the day to day business obligations. In the future I would like to continue to develop new products but also get back to using them as an artist. I have put my painting on hold for a long time; it would be nice to rededicate myself to it.

DotD- To your knowledge, who is the most famous person that owns one of your easels?

BK- James Brolin, Barbra Streisands husband is probably the most famous person. Michael Whelan the fantasy illustrator also purchased my easels. There was also a United States Senator who bought an easel, I remember that the shipping instructions were very complicated and a huge pain in the ass. That’s what happens when you work with the government I guess.

DotD- What is your favorite cartoon?

BK- That is a profound question with a complex answer. I love cartoons and have many favorites. Batman and Batman Beyond, a wide range of anime, and I love every incarnation of Tenchi Muyo. Any cartoon where five hot alien girls shack up with a teenage boy has to be good.
But my all time favorite cartoon is Robotech. I remember racing home to watch it after elementary school. It was by far the most amazing thing I had ever seen and had a profound impact on me. It is probably the main reason I fell in love with art, and aside from Star Wars is why I love Science Fiction and Fantasy so much. I haven’t seen it in years but to this day I can clearly remember almost every episode. That show will always have a special place in my heart.


Unknown said...

I am drooling. These designs are phenomenal and obviously made with artists in mind. Thanks for sharing this.

micmic said...

Great interview. Highly informative. Please keep us posted on Brad's new designs.

Anonymous said...

Does he accept orders from Europe?

E.M. Gist said...

Anonymous- I do not know, and Brad doesn't really deal with that side of things. My recommendation is email Crafttech International at this address and ask them if they have any dealers that ship to Europe.