Reed Hansuld: Designs That Defy Gravity

Reed Hansuld has been carving since he was seven. His designs may have been primitive – “tiny birds and random things,” he says – but those early experiences fueled a love of woodworking that would later evolve into a flourishing career. First introduced to the craft by an old family friend, Hansuld had only been practicing for a couple of years when he decided to take on something bigger: making a boat. “It was probably my first large scale building accomplishment,” he says. “I haven’t stopped since.”

From those early years, Hansuld continued to show promise; he would go on to work with furniture designer Michael Fortune when he was fresh out of school. “Working for Michael was an introduction to the world of studio furniture and a demanding level of craftsmanship,” he says of the experience.

A native of Ontario, Hansuld has been based in New York for several years. “While living in Toronto, about eighty percent of my work was going to the U.S., largely the North East,” he tells us. When the opportunity to obtain an artist visa arose, making the move wasn’t necessarily a tough decision – at least, it wasn’t the story of an artist taking a whirlwind gamble on making it in the big city. “It seemed like the obvious choice, given where the majority of my clientele were. New York is the centre for design in North America and rightfully so has a strong community of designers [and] makers. It seemed to me, if I believed in my work, I should take it to the heart of it all and see what happens.”

Was it worth it? “Fortunately, good things have happened,” he adds.

Hansuld’s work first came to our attention when luxury online design shop Bazuva, KHACHILIFE’s sister company, began scouting potential artists and curating uniquely designed products for the soft launch of the site in the latter part of 2015. Hanuld’s unusual, eye-catching furniture was an obvious choice for Bazuva and they were proud to include a select few of his well-crafted pieces in their furniture collection. With unique designs that almost look like optical illusions – the Rocking Chair No. 1, for instance, almost seems to defy gravity – it’s easy to understand how he’s carved out a niche for himself in the artisan furniture business. For his own clients, the process  begins with a consideration for the brief on the project, from a dimensional, functional, and aesthetic standpoint. “From there the design tends to inform the materials. Inspiration for lines and form comes from everywhere and everything around me.”

Given the unusual, structurally challenging nature of his designs, one would assume there must be a certain amount of trial and error involved in making each piece. “More ‘try and hope’ than trial and error,” he corrects. “The more complicated the piece, the more time I commit to lying on the ground in front of it wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.” Each piece has come with its own challenges when designing and building it for the first time. “It takes two hands to count the amount of pieces I wasn’t certain would work out structurally [or] functionally when I started them,” he says. “Both rocking chairs, Valet Chair, Dining Table No. 1, Origami Chair…the list goes on. It’s kind of the most interesting part – that place of unknown you find yourself in. It’s the uncertainty that fosters growth.”

Aside from making furniture, Hansuld and fellow designer Joel Seigle have paired up to make small housewares under the company name Harold. It’s an interesting mix, says Hansuld, given that they come from very different design backgrounds. “We sketch and prototype very well together. It’s exciting designing with someone who has a completely different skillset and knowledge base. We choose which products to introduce based on a bunch of criteria – viability, in-house production or out-of-house manufacturing, Is it cool, do we like it, does it serve a purpose, is it made to last, is it something we are proud to stand behind.”

Hansuld acknowledges that his own personal style is always changing and growing, and each new product makes him a “smarter maker”. And while current projects are well within his comfort zone – he just finished a bedroom set, and he’s starting a new dining table and chairs this week – he is open to new challenges. “Large scale sculpture is where my brain wanders to these days,” he says, but does not elaborate.

With such a range of experience and a willingness to embrace new forms, it’s hard to pin down exactly what the future may look like for this young designer. “I keep a bunch of lines in the water,” he says evasively, “and see what comes of it.”  Regardless of the path he takes, one thing is certain: Reed Hansuld is a designer to watch.

Meghan Greeley
Meghan Greeley is an actor and writer originally from Newfoundland. She has performed in films that have screened at festivals around the world, including Cannes, Karlovy Vary, the Utah Indie Film Festival, the Montreal World Film Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival. As a writer, her works have been published in The Stockholm Review, Metatron, Riddlefence, Nelson Publications, and the Breakwater Book of Contemporary Newfoundland Drama. She is a winner of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival’s Playwriting Contest and first place winner of the Sparks Literary Festival’s Poetry Competition. She currently resides in Toronto.

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