Where are you from and what sort of child were you?

I grew up in a small town on Vancouver Island. It was a quirky little town and I was a quirky little girl. I was not at all into games, toys or sports but you could often find me blowing my allowance at the local craft store, the Hobby Shop. I took sewing lessons after school and played the tuba in band class. True story!


Tell us about your first memories of being creative. What were your early influences and/or exposure to art and culture?

I have lots of early memories of being creative… I remember taking my first woodworking class when I was 12 years old. My shop teacher was quirky too and I was hooked from the start. But exposure to art and culture didn’t come till much later, in drips and drabs. I remember an ex-girlfriend took me to LA and we walked through The Broad. She pointed out works by Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Basquiat, Cindy Sherman. She introduced me to Pina Bausch and I’ve been so into modern dance ever since.


Describe your work in 3 sentences or less.

I’m a furniture designer and maker with a small studio here in Toronto. Everything I manufacture is crafted by hand and made-to-order. Utilizing tradition joinery and extravagant materials, my work is clean and contemporary with a handsome appeal, heavily influenced by architecture of the Brutalist movement, made popular in the 70’s and 80’s.


What brought you to furniture making? Was there a pivotal moment in your past where you discovered it? Or was it a progression over a period of time?

Like I said before, I was introduced to woodwork in secondary school at the age of 12. There was an instant spark and I just kept going with it. I took woodworking classes all through secondary school and by the time I was in grade 11 and 12 my shop teacher was enrolling me in woodworking competitions all across Canada. After high school I taught woodworking in a high school myself but it wasn’t till a devastating motorcycle accident in 2010 that I started making furniture under my own name. I was off work re-habing injuries and I got to sketching… The rest is history I guess!


Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us!

I was married. To a man! Crazy, right?! That one always makes people laugh out loud. But yea, it took me a long time to come out and come to terms with my queerness. Now it’s such a huge part of my identity. Everything that makes me nothing like the guys that surround me in my field are the things that drive me and set my work apart. Being queer is my superpower!


Tell us about your first real break.

Little breaks happen all the time. Hard to pin point the first ‘real’ one… Recently, I did a show in NYC and good things happened there. I got some great press coverage and picked up by two showrooms. NYC just gets me, ya know?!


What has been the biggest challenge of your artistic career that you’ve encountered so far?

Rejection by my peers. I’m largely surrounded by straight white woodworker doods and I face a lot of discrimination and micro aggressions. Sometimes, it’s a lot and sometimes I can just ignore it but it’s always there in some capacity. Inequality is alive and well; we still have a lot of work to do.


What does your average day look like and when are you most productive?

Early mornings are my jam. I’m usually up around 5 or 6 sending emails and sketching ideas. There’s a lot of office work to owning your own business and the bulk of that happens well before 9am. Around 9 or 10 I make my way into the shop and hustle till I just can’t hustle anymore. I dance my way around the shop floor on a healthy diet of EDM and sawdust. When I get home I make dinner and play with my dog. I love to cook and evenings are usually family time.


What or who inspires you to be your most creative self? And how do you overcome a creative block?

A good design brief always gets me out of a funk. Thinking about a complex set of parameters and reimagining what a piece of furniture can look like and how the end user can interact with it in a meaningful way. My brain loves to chew on new ideas and it always gets me pointed in the right direction.


What is your favourite place in the world? Is there anywhere you would still like to visit?

Home sweet home! I spend a lot of time traveling for work and there’s no place I’d rather be than home sweet home with my amazing partner and my incredible family. But a quick trip to NYC never hurt anyone! HA!


How would your friends describe you?

Hummmm… Kind, loyal, determined af.


If you could give advise to your 20-year-old self, what would it be?

You’re gay!!


Tell us about your latest work, and anything that’s on the horizon for you?

I just launched a new collection that’s really sculptural in scope, the Ribbed Collection. It’s really my best work yet. I’ll be in NYC at the AD show in March and after that who knows where I’ll go and what kinda trouble I’ll be digging myself into…

Kate Duncan

ADDRESS Interview with Kate Duncan.