We Asked 25 American Makers About the State of Manufacturing (Plus Their Top Designs)

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By Dwell / Published by Dwell
Domestic design is an important marker of culture. But it’s not easy to make beautiful things that last and are produced in America. We gathered some of our favorite U.S.-made items and asked their creators about the benefits and challenges of staying onshore.
Cope Aurora Ray Fabric
Cope Aurora Ray Fabric
Husband-and-wife design team Rachel and Nick Cope made a significant impact with their 2013 wall coverings company, Calico. Their brand-new eponymous line of textiles is made in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of Cope
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Misewell Eileen Lamp
Misewell Eileen Lamp
The steel base, aluminum neck and spun shade keep Eileen balanced when leaning against a wall or in a corner. Machined, stainless steel fittings allow the neck to pivot smoothly, while creating friction for shade height adjustability. The base is rubber dipped for added grip. "We've worked with online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores. We shifted gears and now only sell direct. This was a difficult decision, but we needed to lower prices, and this was the best way to do that without compromising our values." - Paul Georgeson, Misewell Cofounder Photo courtesy of Misewell
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Bernhardt Ibis Sofa
Bernhardt Ibis Sofa
As a result of a surprising career move, actor Terry Crews partnered with Jerry Helling, president and creative director of North Carolina-based Bernhardt, to bring his first furniture line to market, which includes Ibis, a sofa with a form inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics. Photo courtesy of Bernhardt
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Rejuvenation Cypress Articulating Sconce
Rejuvenation Cypress Articulating Sconce
The most unusual element of this piece, which is made up of 25 components and takes up to 4 weeks to produce, is the pivot joint. Designed to hold heavy glass shades, it was inspired by a motorcycle clutch, according to the engineer Loren Hanson. Photo courtesy of Rejuvenation
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Iacoli & McAllister Aeneas Light
Iacoli & McAllister Aeneas Light
To make this recently debuted pendant, a glass orb is hand-blown by frequent collaborator John Hogan, and the fixture is assembled, wired, UL-listed, and shipped form the company's Seattle studio. Photo courtesy of Iacoli & McAllister
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Thos. Moser Stacks
Thos. Moser Stacks
Former professors Tom Moser left academia in 1972 to become a full-time woodworker, sourcing wood from the United States only. Today his furnishings company, based in Auburn, Maine, employs scores of people. One set of Stacks boxes takes two weeks to complete. Photo courtesy of Thos. Moser
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"Most studios our size think about scale: do we want to offer a smaller volume of higher-priced pieces or do we want to offer more affordable options? Each has pluses and minuses."

Jamie Iacoli, Iacoli & McAllister

Heartwork Active Duty 2 Shelf Bookcase
Heartwork Active Duty 2 Shelf Bookcase
Made of heavy-gauge steel and available in a wide variety of riotous powder-coated hues by color expert Laura Guido-Clark, each of Heartwork's designs is appropriate for both residential and commercial use. Like most of the company's products, the Active Duty collection is welded at the company's Kansas factory. Photo courtesy of Heartwork
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Strength in works that search for meaning

Karen John, CEO of small-batch manufacturer Heartwork, heralds unique design.

"We deal with architects and designers, as well as direct consumer clients. Especially for the younger designers, making something in the U.S. really resonates. I think there’s definitely a learning curve of education on trying to explain total value. What is it that people like about having something done in America? Do they like it because it’s sustainable, or do they like it because it’s the action of supporting a whole team? I will say that, on the client side, there are larger clients who have made a point to ask, ‘Can we have this product made within X hundred miles?’ 

"Sometimes I do think, ‘Why did I pick this?’ There should have been something much easier. But there is one thing I love about American manufacturing: I have found the people involved to be some of the most solid, good people. Especially in the U.S., because I don’t think it’s about the ginormous automated factories. It’s about real people who actually have done things that are not easy to do. "They are the best people—anybody who has the patience and the discipline and the persistence to make things right, when it’s not easy." 


Pottery Barn Brushed Canvas Fabric
Pottery Barn Brushed Canvas Fabric
Brushed Canvas is a straight weave with a cozy, sueded hand. This is one of an array of domestically sourced fabrics offered on the York Square Arm Deep Seat Sofa, a recently introduced top-seller. Made in the company's factory in Hickory, North Carolina, the sofa takes about 15 days to produce and is touched by 30 craftspeople before completion. Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn
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Amuneal Leather Stool
Amuneal Leather Stool
Amuneal’s blackened steel and leather stools are fabricated from precision machined and laser-cut steel components. The laser-cut and formed seat is hand clad in leather and suspended from machined connections. The seat back is hand-wrapped in custom leather cording to add an additional layer of warmth and texture to the design. These stools are fabricated and finished in our Philadelphia-Based furniture studio. "The machine-made artifacts from CNC machining, laser cutting, water-jetting, and CNC forming are erased by the hands-on welding, grinding, finishing, and leather wrapping that help to give the stools their soul. But maybe one of the most interesting facts is that the final assembly of the stool is made not via welding or mechanical fasteners, but using a bonding compound." - Adam Kamens, Amuneal CEO Photo courtesy of Amuneal
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Pigeon Toe Ceramics Ombre Blush Nesting Bowls
Pigeon Toe Ceramics Ombre Blush Nesting Bowls
A set of three generously-sized ceramic bowls cast from a hand-thrown original, with a gently flared curve and a graduated blush colorway. Featuring unglazed natural, sanded exteriors, these bowls have a surplus of uses and look equally as good nested together on a credenza as they do in use in the kitchen. "What keeps us up at night is the ongoing cost of doing business in the U.S. as a 'little guy.' Many of the large companies in Portland, Oregon, get tax breaks to be here, while businesses of our size get no breaks at all. It's extremely expensive to do business here – and frankly, at times, not sustainable – but we are committed to supporting jobs in our community and sustaining our manufacturing ethic." - Pigeon Toe Ceramics founder Lisa Jones and co-owner Samantha Cole Photo courtesy of Pigeon Toe Ceramics
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"I am not worried about our American manufacturing. That being said, we have the challenge of competition from individuals and companies—here and overseas—that don’t value authorship and are comfortable producing and selling designs they did not invest in."

Adam Kamens, Amuneal



Illuminated Crystal Cluster by Jeff Zimmerman
Illuminated Crystal Cluster by Jeff Zimmerman
Illuminated crystal cluster sculpture in handblown blue glass. Designed and made by Jeff Zimmerman, USA.27" H x 46" D / 68.58cm H x 116.84cm D Pricing Information from R & Company
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Upholstery is the sweet spot for Pottery Barn

President Marta Benson cites the philosophy of "Kaizen" as a way to ensure competitiveness.

"There’s definitely a feel-good component to buying American-made. But there’s a lot of pressure on price. The consumer is only willing to pay about 5 to 10 percent more. Quality, design, and price come first, and then Made in America is an added value. There’s always some kind of a natural best place to make certain kinds of goods. We have a global sourcing organization, so we’re somewhat agnostic about it. In the case of upholstery, it’s a win—we can be competitive and can continue manufacturing here. We have a 400,000-square-foot factory in North Carolina that we built from the ground up, where we follow the Japanese "Kaizen" philosophy of iterative improvement, taking out waste or unnecessary steps to improve efficiency. 

"Also, with a big item like a sofa, you have to consider the cost and time of shipping. Ocean freights go up, or there’s a limit on the number of containers you can access. There are actually pressures on foreign-sourced goods—foreign labor costs are increasing. I’d say about 20 percent of our products are made domestically. It’s all upside, and quite frankly, we wish we had a higher penetration."




Room & Board Orikata Saucer Pendant
Room & Board Orikata Saucer Pendant
In partnership with The California Workshop, in Costa Mesa, Room & Board just launched this pendant, which is laser-cut and the folded by hand by one to two people. The Minneapolis company, founded in 1980, projects sales of up to 900 units this year. Photo courtesy of Room & Board
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Allied Maker Arc Dome Pendant
Allied Maker Arc Dome Pendant
The Arc collection is designed with a focus on simplicity, emphasizing the high quality of the material and the balance of the form. The carefully shaped arc of the bent brass, turned hardwood top, blown glass diffuser, and spun brass dome serve both an aesthetic and functional purpose.  It takes seven people up to eight weeks to complete one spun-brass Arc Dome. The company, which began as a garage workshop in 2012, employs 25 people in Glen Cove, New York. Photo courtesy of Leibal
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Pendleton Woolen Mills Night Dance Blanket
Pendleton Woolen Mills Night Dance Blanket
Dynamic zigzags evoke the rhythm of the Stomp Dance, a Native American ceremony that begins at dusk and continues through dawn. Woven and finished using jacquard looms in Pendleton, Oregon, the Night Dance blanket is manufactured by adhering to the same trusted practices the company has followed since its founding in 1863. Photo courtesy of Pendleton Woolen Mills
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Brush Factory Washington Circle Breakfast Table
Brush Factory Washington Circle Breakfast Table
Washington Circle, timeless style and always accommodating to guests. Handcrafted and fully assembled with mortise and tenon joinery in Brush Factory's workshop from sustainably harvested solid hardwoods. The Cincinnati-based furniture company launched its first line last year when it won a $20,000 grant from the city. "Giving a designer the ability to work directly with the factory provides more in the long run in terms of lower start-up costs and the ability to adapt to customers' needs quickly." - Brush Factory owner Rosie Kovacs Photo courtesy of Brush Factory
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"In the hand crafted business, you end up wearing a lot of hats. We design and make our furniture in-house, and we do a majority of our sales direct to consumers. We enjoy that strong relationship, but it’s not a sustainable model. We need experts, partners, and channels—retailers and manufacturers—instead of trying to reinvent the wheel."

Abir Ali, Co-owner, Ali Sandifer



Chemex Ten-Cup Glass Handle
Chemex Ten-Cup Glass Handle
Inspired by the Bauhaus and generic lab equipment, the Chemex coffee maker is made from a single piece of borosilicate glass. Essentially unchanged since its invention, the piece, produced today in Massachusetts, is part of the permanent collection at MoMA. Photo courtesy of Chemex
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Ali Sandifer Heiss Desk
Ali Sandifer Heiss Desk
Skillfully crafted by hand from sustainably harvested domestic hardwoods, the Heiss Desk by Ali Sandifer Studio is designed for stationary or portable computer equipment and can be easily oriented for right or left-handed users thanks to its reversible design. The profile offers sleek storage options for bags, books and paperwork and the bottom shelf may also be used as a mouse surface. "This table takes us sixty hours from start to finish, and we average about ten per year." - Ali Sandifer co-owner Andre Sandifer. Photo courtesy of Ali Sandifer
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Eric Trine Studio Rod + Weave Chair
Eric Trine Studio Rod + Weave Chair
What started as a student project is now a core product for the Long Beach-based studio, which produces 200 Rod + Weave chairs annually. The frames are made with a solid hexagonal rod sourced from a vendor in nearby Santa Fe Springs, California. The leatherwork is done in-house. Photo courtesy of Eric Trine Studio
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Eric trine on the pitfalls of making things in America

An outspoken designer has some real talk for consumers.

"Often these Made in America movements tend to romanticize the idea, but what if manufacturing in America kinda sucks? 

"What happens when you have a hot item—in my case, anything plated brass or copper—and there’s not a single vendor in the L.A. area who can get the job done right and on time? I have open orders for 80 of my brass stools right now that I can’t fulfill, because out of the five vendors I’ve sought out to pick up the business, two have shuttered in the past three months, and the other three were worse than my original vendor, and three times the cost! 

"What happens when your main, stable manufacturer just drops the ball on quality control and in the course of six months you find that $50,000 worth of product has to be redone?

"There was a chunk of time, roughly the past 10 years, when new graduates of design programs were dead-set on manufacturing in America, but now that emphasis is waning—and the consumers just don’t care as much anymore. Everyone loves using iPhones to talk about how much they support things being made in America."



Fort Makers Ladder Line Light
Fort Makers Ladder Line Light
For the 2017 Site Unseen exhibition in New York, the Brooklyn-based company fabricated an 11-foot-tall LED illuminated ladder, created by Noah James Spencer, to mark the entrance to their booth. They are now at work on an eight-foot-tall version for smaller spaces.
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CGCERAMICS Stoneware Low Mug
CGCERAMICS Stoneware Low Mug
The Low Mug is a slip cast stoneware piece fired in eggplant, green, and light pink. Brush Factory teamed up with CG Ceramics (of Bellevue, KY) for one of a kind collection. Crafted by hand, one at a time, these wheel-thrown ceramics express an appreciation for modern design and raw material reference. "The mugs are produced in a 169-square-foot studio in my backyard. Each one takes about 38 minutes–this includes casting, cleaning up and preparing the piece to be fired, bisque firing, glazing, and glaze firing. Typically two people are involved in the production process; I usually cast the pieces and my studio assistant cleans up the parting lines and prepares the pieces for firing." - CGCERAMICS owner Christie Goodfellow
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"We sleep well at night, aside from the holes we’ve scratched into our heads over all the small decisions in production that seem big. It’s all in the details! Young designers, beware..."

Nana Spears, Cofounder, Fort Makers


Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Bella Bedroom Sofa
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Bella Bedroom Sofa
Create an intimate conversation spot or chic focal feature in bedrooms, as well as living rooms, halls and entryways. Graceful, modern settee offers a new traditional silhouette with curved back, trim seams and tall, tapered legs. Scaled to work especially well at the end of a king or queen bed. Headquartered in Taylorsville, North Carolina, since 1989, the company spends up to six weeks to produce and ship this piece. Photo courtesy of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
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Mitchell Gold distills almost 30 years of wisdom

The Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams cofounder recalls how big events have shaped his business.

"What keeps me up at night is consistency. Sometimes we’ve had so much business we’ve had to race to get things made. Other times, like in 2008 or in 2001, at the start of the Afghanistan War, there wasn’t so much business. What makes me nervous is an administration that’s trigger-happy and will get into a war. War has an impact on the economy. People’s consumer confidence goes down. If there’s a hiccup in the economy, they have a reason not to buy.

"The consumer is only going to spend so much more to get something made in America. Today they can go on the Internet, compare 10 products, and if our product is $4,000 versus $3,000, they won’t buy it. But if ours is $100 more, they will.

"People appreciate that we make our furniture here and that we’re environmentally responsive. A few weeks after we first started, there was a story on the front page of the Times about the ozone being depleted. One of the biggest contributors, it said, was furniture makers. Producing foam emits a lot of C02. I called Bob and I said, "Do you know what we’re going into?" But today over 70 percent of consumers do some recycling. What that tells me is, regardless of whether people identify as environmentalists, they want to help." 


David Weeks Studio Lapa No. 436
David Weeks Studio Lapa No. 436
It takes approximately 12 people 12 weeks to create this pieces, which features a series of hand-spun shades that are then hand-formed by designer David Weeks in his Brooklyn studio. Photo courtesy of David Weeks Studio
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Sawkille Co. Rainbow Armchair
Sawkille Co. Rainbow Armchair
"We have a parts system where we're always handmaking the individual elements of the chairs, so we can be ahead of the game when orders com in. From steam-bending, turning, fashioning the seat, assembly, sanding, and finishing, it will cross at least five people's hands and can take a week." - Sawkille Co. founder Jonah Meyer Photo courtesy of Sawkille Co.
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Clam Lab Nonagon Plate
Clam Lab Nonagon Plate
"I can make a few per day, periodically working the clay at just the right moment of dryness in between other projects. An assistant prepares the slabs and coils of clay so that I can be more efficient. Then the are dried, fired, glazed, and fired again. If they are bling-y, a meticulous application of precious metal luster precedes a third firing. In my mind they are 'easy,' but they do take some time." - Clam Lab owner Clair Catillaz Photo courtesy of Clam Lab
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Eastvold Furniture Elko Credenza
Eastvold Furniture Elko Credenza
Based in Minneapolis, Eastvold Furniture designs and crafts heirloom pieces that can "be passed down to future generations." The Elko series includes coffee tables and large and small credenzas that marry modern construction with midcentury form. Choose from a variety of colors for the laser-cut steel base and from bamboo, walnut, or white oak for the wood. Reinforced mitered joints allow the grain to sweep around the furniture. On the credenza, two grain-matched doors part effortlessly to reveal adjustable shelves and wire management portals that allow flexibility in media storage.
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