IKEA and Indy makers: A love and hate relationship 

Two local furniture designers putting your fucking Nörnas to shame

click to enlarge Media stand by Brian Presnell
  • Media stand by Brian Presnell


Black Friday just got so much worse with one three-syllable word: Ikea.

The meatball-filled, Swedish, flatpack, ultimate furniture-corn-maze announced that they will be opening a location in Fishers off of I-69.


A few Facebook rants later, we decided to get in touch with two local makers to hear how expansions like this really impact those with a sawmill, levels and a keen eye for design.

"I don't know if I could even make a dresser drawer for $99," says Brian Presnell, standing in the middle of his new studio in Circle City Industrial Complex (CCIC). The biggest draw for Ikea is always the cheap prices, paid for by the lack of jobs that need to be filled when the furniture is "assemble yourself."

click to enlarge Urban Forester 2010 - Ash, Poplar, Dye Stain - By Cory Robinson
  • Urban Forester 2010Ash, Poplar, Dye StainBy Cory Robinson

"Do I love Ikea? No," says Presenell. "I have put together so much Ikea shit for people. This is what kills me. I can't get people to afford my furniture, but they'll ask me to come over and build their Ikea shit for them."

Presnell has been building Indianapolis for over 20 years. We mean that literally. He built the Hi-Fi, Eat and Drink, Twenty Tap and more. Recently he held a show in Fountain Square that showcased his design for the MotoGP Trophy. He is known for everything from sculptural jug heads to custom furniture designs. He is part of a group of makers who have recently taken over places like CCIC's RUCKUS, Cyberia and Herron's makerspaces. "Makers" are artisans and craftspersons who usually work with more industrial materials like textiles, metal or wood.

Cory Robinson, associate professor and Fine Arts department chair, is the driving force behind the makerspace at Herron. He is also an innovative furniture designer.

"I'm not pitted against Ikea," says Robinson. "In fact I have owned and discarded many of their pieces over the years ... What I am really hopeful of is it will key people into good design. And how even in this consumer-based culture that we live in ... and throwaway culture of objects that you can buy, you can still buy good design.

click to enlarge New Antique vol.2 2011 - Walnut, Steel, Acrylic, Paint by Cory Robinson
  • New Antique vol.2 2011Walnut, Steel, Acrylic, Paint by Cory Robinson

"They are just not heirloom pieces," says Robinson. "I am hopeful that it brings heightened sense of design to a more mass market. There is a good design sense of community in Indianapolis ... I think where I differ is I tend to work with my clients to solve problems that they might have. If it's a particular piece of material that they want made into a piece of furniture that's like a memento and that's just not what you are going to get with a big box store, flatpack mentality."

click to enlarge Ranch Table - Maple, paint - by Cory Robinson
  • Ranch TableMaple, paintby Cory Robinson

For Presnell, the main issue is not having enough locations to showcase his work.

"If you bought work from me, or Nick, or Cory Robinson, or any of those guys, it's going to accrue in value," says Presenell. "They are artists. They are T.C. Steele. They are Gustave Baughmann — the guy who is at the IMA. We are all that. If people don't start to think about that, don't start to buy into the idea that we are the artists of this time and what we are doing is about this time."

Editor's note: This editor has purchased Ikea furniture many times and has driven every single piece into its last saw-dusty breath. Fuck those elbow wrenches.


Which nightstand is the better buy?

Presnell original:

Cost: $400 and up

Satisfaction: Owning something no one else does.

Amount saved: Never buy a table again.

Ikea: 

Cost: $40 and up

Satisfaction: Cue Fight Club monologue.

Amount saved: Buy a new one with each move or every 3-4 years.


*To buy the work of Brian Presnell and Cory Robinson: brianpresnell.com and coryrobinsonstudio.com

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Emily Taylor

Emily Taylor

Bio:
Emily is the arts editor at NUVO, where she covers everything from visual art to comedy. In fact she is probably at a theater production right now. Before joining the ranks here, she worked for Indianapolis Monthly and Gannett. You can find her thoughts about Indy scattered throughout the NUVO arts section and... more

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