written by:
May 22, 2012

"Reinvention; Writing History in Aluminum" showcases a collaborative exhibition of New York's AM with Neal Feay Studio of Santa Barbara, Calif. during the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF).

Bobby Berk home, New York, Design Milk
Bobby Berk home, location of Design Milk Presents: Reinvention; Writing History in Aluminum.
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Kate Glicksberg for Design Milk
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Timber Side Table at Design Milk ICFF Event
The majority of the pieces in the collection are informed by conversations between the designers and by their own personal narratives. The AM team's upbringing surrounded by nature forms the basis for the story behind "Timber." Says Ascalon: "There used to be a lot of trees and everything is now clear cut, with strip malls and big box stores. But when the economy tanks and these stores go under, there's the phenomenon of the grass creeping back up in the parking lot." Visually, the piece is meant to look like a stretched Glad bag, yet this tension is created not by casting or brute force but by chipping away at a solid piece of metal.
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Kate Glicksberg for Design Milk
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Aluminum shavings
Aluminum shavings from the milling process, a method referred to at Neal Feay as "throwing chips."
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Sara Dierck
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Green Turntable Slatted Table
The experimentation and technical capabilities of Neal Feay’s factory inspired the designers. "When I got to the factory my brain was churning immediately," Ascalon says. A nod to Neal Feay's claim of "Making Music from Metal," this side table - in green and grey - provides a playful visual surprise when one walks around it.
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Sara Dierck
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Set of Bonnie bracelets
Post WWII, Neal Feay Company created personalized bracelets for retailers such as Neiman Marcus. On a visit to Neal Feay, Ascalon and McSwain found an example of this era of the company's history: A bracelet engraved with the name Bonnie. Brad Ascalon holds their homage to both this discovery and to a part of the company's history: a set of 16 bracelets named “Bonnie.”
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Sara Dierck
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Bonnie bracelet bangle
Each singular bangle is unique, allowing customization by the one who wears and layers the "Bonnie" bracelets.
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Kate Glicksberg for Design Milk
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Menorah by Brad Aschalon
The anodizing process is key in creating not just a vibrant color, but a durable finish. Alex Rasmussen explained that anodizing takes best to milled rather than cast aluminum. "This is inherently not a super high production method,” he says. The dipping method of anodizing allows for bright, saturated color through multiple passes, or subtle details, such as the slight fade from grey to black in the rear "Menorah" piece.Designed by Brad Ascalon for Design Within Reach, and reinterpreted by Neal Feay Studio.
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Kate Glicksberg for Design Milk
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Achilles shoe horns
"The only thing that doesn't have a story is the shoe horn,” Ascalon says. “Frederick and I wanted to design a sexy shoe horn because there are no sexy shoe horns. As we thought about it we realized there is a story there, because sometimes we just want to stylize something. So we called it Achilles."
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Sara Dierck
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Lumen multi-colored vase
With "Lumen," "vice and virtue" are illustrated through a combination of the elements of earth, water, air and fire.
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Sara Dierck
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Lift detail by Frederick McSwain for Neal Frey Studio
The advanced milling process at Neal Feay creates opportunities for fine textural details. A limited edition piece designed by Frederick McSwain.
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Sara Dierck
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Henge deconstructed fruit bowl
“Henge,” a deconstructed fruit bowl.
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Kate Glicksberg for Design Milk
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Uluwatu hanging pendant
Light plays on the texture of the pattern of "Uluwatu," creating a glass-like optical illusion. “We do a lot of experimenting before we have any idea what project it’ll go to,” Rasmussen says. “Part of it is about texture and material. We’re always collaborating.”
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Sara Dierck
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Stumpstool by Neal Feay
Wooden legs appear to press through the aluminum; or, as McSwain puts it: "Nature is trying to reclaim that surface.” How this concept's physical presence was accomplished by the Neal Feay team is its own story. "We had these ideas about how the textures could only be here. Bret (of Neal Feay Studio) is basically the guy who made it happen." "The challenge was being able to make it, but honoring the concept," Bret Van Derhyden said.
Courtesy of 
Sara Dierck
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Bobby Berk home, New York, Design Milk
Bobby Berk home, location of Design Milk Presents: Reinvention; Writing History in Aluminum.

Collaboration, narrative and the versatility of a singular material are highlighted with a new set of furniture, tableware and other objects created by New York-based AM (Brad Ascalon and Frederick McSwain) with Neal Feay Studio of Santa Barbara, Calif. Design Milk and Bobby Berk home are showcasing the collection with the exhibition "Reinvention; Writing History in Aluminum," which opened during the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

Ascalon, McSwain and Alex Rasmussen of Neal Feay express the importance of the story behind each piece, as well as the advanced technical skill and holistic approach offered by the third generation aluminum manufacturer, best known for high end audio production and design. Each of these stories - be they whimsical or referential - is supported by form, texture, color and a diversity of objects (shoe horns sat on a pedestal adjacent to a fruit bowl, for example).

Neal Feay Company handles all steps in the manufacturing process: Each piece is milled from a solid block of aluminum and anodized in house. The production process from raw aluminum to finished product, as well as the back and forth process of communication between AM and Neal Feay Studio, add an additional story to each piece and provide a unique opportunity of exploration for both designer and manufacturer.

"Reinvention" is on view at Bobby Berk, 59 Crosby Street in New York City, through May 27th.

*all pieces are part of the “Reinvention” collection and designed by AM in collaboration with Neal Feay Studio, unless noted.

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