Product Design

What Brass & Blue Jeans Have in Common

July 13, 2016

Where glowy and golden, spun or smooth, brass touches are quite literally a bright spot in many interiors right now. Not just in our Shop—where we sell a brass ice cream scoop, wall mobiles, bottle openers, and more—but also in makers' studios the country over.

We love how brass looks and ages, but I've always wondered what it's actually like to work with from a material perspective. So we caught up with Lanette Rizzo, the creative director at New York-based lighting designer Allied Maker, to find out.

Ryden, Allied Maker's founder, holding a spun-brass shade. Photo by WorkOf

Lanette and her husband Ryden, Allied's founder, don't just design and assemble brass parts—they actually oversee the manufacturing of raw materials in their upstate New York headquarters. Raw brass is delivered there in a variety of shapes—rods, tubes, sheets, and even chunks (the latter used for table lamp bases)—and then bent, spun, or perforated into parts. From that vantage point, they liken brass to blue jeans if you consider its durability, beautiful wear, and malleability.

"As a raw material, it's really beautiful and then great things happen in the patina process," Lanette tells me, "Ryden's into the idea of how, like awesome denim, the story changes."

Brass is also soft as far as metals go, a malleable material that can actually be bent into various shapes. In Allied Maker's early designs, the shapes were pretty simple, but now they have a machinist on staff and all kinds of equipment, from hand-benders (which allow you to bend small pieces of brass by hand) to hydraulic benders (which harness water power to bend bigger pieces). The result is welds, joinery, and other detailed parts that allow for greater complexity in a finished design.

After it's shaped, brass can be finished in a variety of ways. Lanette and Ryden's team members sometimes spin it to create a striated matte finish (also called "brushed"); perforate it to let the light through; or even blacken it by hand-rubbing a solution onto one side of the brass (rather than dipping the whole piece into a chemical soution, as is often done) in order to effectively quicken the oxidation process. "Our blackening is a signature finish, exposed on the inside and blackened on the outside," Lanette explains.

When I asked Lanette why they started working with brass, she summed it up in one word: integrity. Not only does it age in a distinguished way, just like denim or a very good piece of cheese, but it lends itself to all kinds of creative designs—which means that we'll be watching to see how Allied Maker (and other designers) use it next.

We're sharing this snapshot of Allied Maker's work in collaboration with WorkOf, where you can shop their super svelte brass (and wood, and glass, and fabric) lighting fixtures.

And you can also shop for brass in our Shop! A taste of the selection, below.

Tell me: How do you use, or want to use, brass in your home? (Someday I will have a dresser with brass pulls. Someday.)


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Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.