Founded in 1994: Based in Cleveland, Ohio
And although the sign said “Men Working” there was far from just men working. A female was stealing the show, making some high quality whiskey glasses.
You get a sense of nostalgic feeling when walking through his old facility. Piles of scrap metal that show signs of rust from the elements of the harsh winters of Cleveland, Ohio.
Vintage signs hanging up on the wall, that although I wasn’t born in that era, I recognize so much of it. Working in old factories and machine shops that share the same qualities as this facility, the nitty grittiness that portrays the hard work that goes into each one of Jason Wein’s pieces.
Cleveland Art also uses steel, wood, and glass to manufacture selected lines of furniture, lighting, and retail display for clients throughout the United States and abroad. These clients include architects, interior designers, hotels, restaurants, retail stores and The Motion Picture and Television industries. The simple design of each piece coexists seamlessly with modern and traditional decor.
And although I wasn’t able to sit down with Jason this time for an interview, I was able to view the Glass blowing process that’s common at Cleveland Art and learn some new facts in the craftsmanship world.
Pounds of un-used metal littered the yard. Rusted, but to be used another day.
ALMANAC OF STYLE: INTERVIEW WITH JASON WEIN
Source: Big thanks to Almanac of Style for providing this interview, giving our readers a more in-depth visual behind the maker
Jason Wein is the talented man behind it all. Though teachers told him he’d never make it as an artist, he’s having the last laugh with an impressive following and incredibly successful business in Cleveland and L.A., including a brand new showroom in Hollywood.
I spent an afternoon with Jason learning about how he turned garbage picking into a bonafide living and even got to see him weld his latest piece. Listen in on his uplifting story from humble beginnings to artistic fulfillment.
One of the many pieces Cleveland Art Produces. Lots of old bikes hanging up.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I really concentrate on shape and form and proportions. I wouldn’t say it’s so industrial, I’d call it more minimalist… very simple, but sophisticated in its craftsmanship.
All of our fasteners are from 1920 and earlier. We go to a 150 year-old factory and buy the nuts and bolts. We try to build everything to look timeless.
How and when did you learn to blow glass?
I took a class on glass blowing my first semester in college. I was the worst at drawing, at glass blowing… they all made fun of me. You can do one of two things – you can become a victim or it can make you stronger. For me, it always made me stronger, because I’m very competitive. I probably would have gotten bored of the arts if they hadn’t told me I couldn’t do it (laughing).
All the glass I do is inspired by water and ice. I was obsessed with how it dripped and what it did. Glassblowers typically hate what I do, because I don’t follow rules. (They) want to do paper thin glass, and mine’s thick and heavy, off center and organic. A lot of my tools are surgical tools – most of them are homemade.
Where do you typically get inspiration for your designs?
I consider myself a spiritual person. You look at people and how things change – a human’s proportion, a tree’s proportions have the perfect mathematical balance and symmetry. How things wear naturally – rocks, ice melting… there’s something very beautiful.
If I go to Mexico and see a piece of sea coral, I take it back and try to get the glass to bend that way. I put the actual pieces or photographs next to my bench. Finishes of moss on rocks really inspire me, the texture when water hits a rock and carves it, bee’s nests, all kinds of weird insect nests… I look at the shapes and forms of rotted wood.
Bridge builders really inspire me, too. If you look at a bridge, it’s a mathematical equation that balances perfectly and aesthetically. In my opinion, (it’s) one of the most beautiful pieces of art.
So how did it all begin?
My family had a salvage yard for cars. It really evolved from garbage picking, bicycles, lawnmowers, buying and selling cars.
When I was 19, I moved to Alaska for four years to make money and be inspired by water and ice. I took photos and made money so I could start my own (glass blowing) studio. It costs $200/day to run a studio whether you use it or not. You have a furnace at 220 degrees, it’s on 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. Beyond the money for the equipment, you need space.
When I moved back from Alaska, I moved to the old White Motor truck factory. It was a very raw, industrial space. I could use it as a studio, but it really wasn’t as we know it today. I used old carts and factory stuff to furnish my house, and everyone wanted to buy it. That just evolved to using whatever was around.
I got married at 23, and my wife and I would garbage pick and go to flea markets. We had a great time. We had no heat. We had an old bathtub with a radiator hose and a floor drain and hot and cold hose to fill the tub. We could only take baths, and we loved it. We’d sleep on the roof of the factory when it was too hot. We never felt poor.
That’s amazing. Any highlights from your career journey?
I have a lot of weird stories. I used to drive through the ghettos of Cleveland to get building materials. I met Winston Willis and Don King, the boxing promoter. He used to have porn rackets in the 60’s and 70‘s, and Winston Willis was fighting with the city to hold onto his buildings.
I bought some iron and big urns that were on the building, and the city told me I couldn’t take it down. The building was falling down and they told me it was historic, but it wasn’t. So I asked Winston to give me my $500 back. And he said, “I don’t have it, you’re not geting it back.” We were really broke. So I went to his building and found a room of old porn tapes and movie projectors. I said, how about give me the room with this old movie projector (I thought they were spotlights) and we’ll call it even? He told me to come up with $300 more. So I go to the flea market, and it took a week or two to come up with the money. I took pictures of him and sent them to movie prop houses in California. I went to the library to get the Thomas Register. At the time, they didn’t have computers and Google wasn’t really around. So I sold 8 of the 14 projectors for $8,000 and bought my first building. That’s how I got my start.
Wow, that’s incredible. So tell me about your shop in Cleveland.
I do my glassblowing in Cleveland. I have a shop behind my house where I have four welders, and then about a mile up the road we have a woodworking and glass shop. I also have a machine shop where they build lights all day, and all the buildings are surrounded by several acres so we have junkyards filled with stuff. I just bought a 20,000 sq. ft. building in Cleveland so everyone can work together. It’s a big move.
We also just opened a store on La Brea. It’s more of a gallery – mostly decorator and designer-oriented.
What other designers have inspired you along the way?
There was a french architect named Jean Prouve who invented modular and motor homes. He also played with thin sheet metal; he really innovated light metal that was structurally strong.
And then Frank Lloyd Wright invented the cinder block – one of the most famous American architects.
Do you have a favorite piece you’ve worked on?
That’s easy. Your favorite piece is always the one you’re working on, because you take all the knowledge from your past pieces and bring it to (this one). It’s always evolving and getting better, and the evolution is fun. I’m not in love with anything. It’s about the process.
Who would your dream client be?
We’ve done stuff for De Niro. We sold to him, but I’ve never met him. I’ve always loved him.
My wife and I went to Palm Springs, and Neil Young was there. I’m not really starstruck, but I like Neil Young. He was the music I listened to as a child.
Why did you choose to be in Downtown L.A.?
I like the vibe downtown. I’ve got friends that know all the hole-in-the-wall places, the small dives, they take me to the best restaurants, you can eat food from all over the world. I love Little Tokyo.
I also like the people. I think they’re very intelligent, artistic people.
We wanted a big warehouse. A lot is going on with movies down here, and we do a lot of rentals. It’s very gritty downtown, but so many people here are set designers. There are actors that live in the lofts, because it’s off the beaten path. Johnny Depp owns an entire floor of a building downtown.
Any favorite spots Downtown?
I like Chop Suey a lot in Little Tokyo. It was the original fast food restaurant. It’s a historic building with the Chop Suey sign still on it. They have the best selection of Japanese hand-crafted beers and whiskeys that are really amazing. We did some fixtures for them. (Note: Chop Suey is now known as Far Bar.)
Any last words of advice?
There are all types of intelligence in this world, and I definitely don’t have the book smarts of a lot of people, but follow your bliss.
One of the biggest things in business is a lot of people are afraid to lose in life. You have to be okay with losing to win. I lose all the time… if you never lost on a deal, you’re not taking enough chances.