Founder of Radnor Design Studio, Susan Clark – COOL HUNTING®
Designer and design facilitator, Susan Clark founded Radnor in 2016 as a gallery platform to showcase emerging talent and as a studio to develop well-made collaborative pieces. This retailer-maker hybrid is filtered through Clark’s lofty vision, which brings together elements of art, design and craftsmanship. From his Gowanus studio, Clark explores dimensions, materials and prototypes; of the serene showroom she designed in collaboration with the architect Elizabeth roberts, which occupies a full floor of 180 East 88, it infuses architecture with a vision of elegant and modern life.
âI am rooted in the tradition of craftsmanship and manufacturing. I was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. I spent many years traveling across the country with my father, who was a structural engineer, learning about materiality through the natural world, âClark tells us. âThe return to traditional materials has been a driving force for me for a long time. Clark studied at the Appalachian Craft Center, in the woods of Tennessee, and studied everything from blacksmithing to CNC machining, weaving and glassblowing. Soon after, Clark became a professional glassblower in Seattle.
Clark ventured to New York for a master’s degree at Parson, where she learned the digital aspects of design and manufacturing. There she âbegan to see differences between the craft and design communities,â she tells us. âI wanted to continue the intersection of these communities; I wanted to explore how they can be combined. Clark would join the Workplace as a lighting design consultant and also got involved in the world of interior design. There she learned that her heart was in product development and “the gratification of developing a shape”.
TO Studio MÃ©lissa Cicetti, Clark has worked on the house of artist Richard Serra, as well as the Brant Foundation and Brant’s TriBeCa house. There she developed a love for working with architecture. Yet she knew she was a âperson of the productâ. The Future Perfect became the first place to transport Clark’s work. She joined them as a sales and product development manager and it became a training ground for her to test theories until she set out on her own.
âI still didn’t know if it would be in Nashville or New York,â she says of Radnor, âbut even though my heart wanted a truck and dogs, I couldn’t deny what this city was giving me. as a creator. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to stay and build this business.’ â
âI knew I wanted to support my craft community and I didn’t want to be isolated in the making,â she says. âIn the community of craftsmen, you are a team. You dance with each other. You exchange your time and your skills evolve. I wanted to make sure that the company I had created had this philosophy. With that in mind, she became determined to represent manufacturers and designers, to tap into her craft community, to mix it all up.
To see the 180 East 88 showroom (which is open by appointment) is to understand the aesthetics, energy and ethics of Radnor. But this is not the brand’s first unexpected experiential exhibition space.
âThe overhead costs of a storefront in New York are exponential,â says Clark. âRadnor, it’s me and my savings, so I was wondering how to do this. Experimental pieces need context. It’s easier for my clients (98% of whom are interior designers) to understand what we have if they know how to use it. I believe that when you walk into a house or enter a space with exquisitely handmade items, this experience has physiological ramifications. You sit down with a piece and slowly unwrap her diapers. You don’t get that in a traditional showroom.
In his quest for alternative spaces, Clark begins with co-curators. âThe first showroom that I made, at The Bryant, was with Workstead. Ryan Mahoney, the interior and architecture manager, is basically my brother. It was like working as a family – when working as a family means sharing some kind of shortcut, where you can move forward because you understand each other. Radnor and Workstead worked together to extract the terrazzo tones of the David Chipperfield building.
Not only was it a spectacle for the visitors, but it was also informative for Radnor. âSuddenly we were in this environment that we were creating products for, and we could see what we had to do next. For example, the Halyard mat collection was developed with Bunn Studio specially for this showroom.
Clark spent a year and a half with Roberts in search of exhibition space. With 180 East 88, Radnor doubled its square footage from 2,000 to 4,000. Both women wanted a space where they could show how people live with art and design, how someone can feed. his well-being with these attributes. From its hand-formed brick masonry to a nod to various traditional crafts, the building spoke to Clark.
Then the two collaborated on Roberts’ very first furniture collection, called Triad and including a office and side table. âYou get heavy, square side tables that look like miniature dressers or you get minimal tables,â says Clark. âThere’s never one with just a drawer. For Elizabeth, it was about designing through many form studies. Then we had a lot of back and forth on the machine behind him. The resulting pieces bear witness to their intense appreciation of materials.
The Triad collection is an example of Radnor does, the division of the Clark company which develops and produces furniture and decoration. For that, she says, âI will have a goal in mind. I have a very precise agenda. These must be the standard specifications that interior designers are looking for. Also from Radnor Made, onsite, is Adam Rogers Walnut Alder bed, Bunn Studio’s Beautiful Sofa and Beau lounge chair, and that of Karl Zahn Parallax tables from folded bronze sheets. Clark teamed up with Alexandra kohl for their very first collaborative piece, the Philippa Horsehair Dining Room Pendant. We will also find Basic tables which represent the first time that Clark has designed something entirely on her own. They are milled from a block of natural stone, then hollowed out in the center.
In addition to Radnor does, there’s Radnor Represented, which features exclusive artisan items. Clark’s enthusiasm for the Montreal cabinetmaker and furniture maker LoÃ¯c Bard is tactile and understandable. Everything Bard makes is in limited and numbered editions. Blackened maple Credenza Os 01 is an undeniable reference. There is also the hand-molded fiberglass pebble pendant by the Mexican studio TezontlÃ© (named after the volcanic material from Oaxaca). All items, despite their diverse origins, work well together.
To accompany the exemplary design, the space features works of art from the David Zwirner Gallery. “Elizabeth has a personal relationship with Bellatrix Hubert [senior partner] at David Zwirner, âsays Clark. âWe went to a meeting and I told her we would be interested in doing whatever she wanted to do. It turned out that she was following Radnor on Instagram. She said she would be happy to participate. There is an interest in the art world in fitting in with all the other elements of the house and that is what we do. Hubert has organized works by Serra, Ruth Asawa, Suzan Frecon and others. It is a final part of the holistic showroom experience.
Many people associate the word design with the idea of ââpolished and high-end items, but the craftsmanship is roughly cut, imperfect, and low-end. Clark believes that one cannot exist without the other. âIf you come from a design background but never understand the craft vocabulary, a vocabulary in which you have to communicate, then you don’t understand traditional manufacturing techniques and you are indebted to a collaborator. Understanding craftsmanship is necessary to create a design on a different level. At 180 East 88, visitors will find exquisite design informed by heritage, needs and expertise.
Images by Matthew Williams, courtesy of Radnor