John Cramer, the founder and designer behind Cathartic Reindeer Studios is an inspiration to all independent makers. After leaving his day job he began pursuing his passion for furniture design full time. Everything in his studio is completely custom designed and hand-crafted. John is a risk-taker with a razorsaw and manufactures beautiful pieces ranging from bed-frames to balancing bookshelves.
How did you get into furniture design?
I did some work as a carpenter's apprentice when I was in my teens, and I've always really liked building things, but I didn't really get deep into working on my own pieces until I moved back to my home town, Austin, for a year in 2010. I had a lot of time and a big backyard, so I turned the shed into my wood-shop and dedicated myself to working in there. I started with basic joints and wound up realizing that I really loved to the design and production aspect. From there, it was pretty organic; I kept building and people liked what i was doing, so I kept it up. Eventually I was getting a lot of referrals and commissions, so I decided to launch a brand - Cathartic Reindeer - and see where things took me.
How would you describe your style?
I'm definitely still finding my style. I love clean lines and simple designs. In my opinion, the way a piece is joined together has a huge impact on the aesthetics. I'm really fond of an organic look, where the pieces feel as if they naturally fit together - mortise and tenon joints, dovetails, etc.
What kind of projects do you work on, and which have been the most fun to create?
I work on all the standards - beds, chests, tables, desks. For the most part, my favorite experience is making something new for the first time. My best friend kind of serves as my furniture guinea pig. It works out for both of us - she gets a new piece of furniture, and I get to figure out the best way to make something. Plus, I have the flexibility to experiment when I'm designing for friends - no client expectations or time constraints.
Where do you source your materials?
I get everything locally in Brooklyn. I find a lot of my materials from random places - building sites, apartment tear-downs, and other places. What I can't find there, I buy at near-by lumber yards.
Is your entire apartment decorated with your own creations?
Ha, not at all. I'd say 99% of everything I've built lives in somebody else's home. It's so rare that I sit down and say "Hey, I want this thing!" and then go out and source the materials and find time to create it. I like building for other people's environments.
How did you find the space you operate from? Who else shares it with you?
That was a bit of providence. A friend who i've known for years ended up converting a space from a screen-printing business into a carpentry studio. A mutual friend connected us and let me know about vacant room in the space that was available for use. The rest is history. I'm so glad to be here - it's hard to find a good shop in Brooklyn and this place is amazing. I share it with a few very talented carpenters / designers. It's been a great opportunity to learn from those around me.
You've been living in Brooklyn for a pretty long time. Did you always feel welcomed by the local creative community, or is it more competitive than you might have hoped?
For the most part the creatives that I've come across during my time here have all been great. There's a pervasive feeling of creativity in Brooklyn, and it's one of my favorite things about living in the borough. I feel like, for the most part, creativity on a whole - if it's genuine and not seeped in narcissism - is welcomed with open arms. Even would-be competitors are happy to help you hone your craft.
What is your favorite thing about the Brooklyn creative community?
I'd say the excitement and the readiness to collaborate and learn. There are so many talented people here, and there is always someone to meet and learn from, if you're open to it. I also love trading furniture for art / other pieces.
Photos by Caroline Petters