We had heard a lot about Winnipeg-based designers Karen Hare and Jason Hare. The couple met while studying Environmental Design at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture. Karen was majoring in Interior Design, and Jason in Architecture, but they crossed paths when Jason enrolled in an Interior Design Studio course. Since then, they’ve completed their degrees, gotten jobs, and gotten married; and, now they’re busy crafting beautiful wood furniture and other small objects in the downtown studio they share with a couple of friends.
Jason Hare and Karen Hare in their studio (Winnipeg, The Exchange District).
Karen and Jason love the suprises that come from working with a living material. Their designs are typically made out of local species, often using wood labeled as non-select. “You get all of these wonderful quirks and knots, and you can open it up and discover something,” says Karen. Both her and Jason see these imperfections as an opportunity and allow the wood to define their design direction.
Take, for example, the gorgeous bench sitting in one corner of their studio. Karen found the plank that now acts as the bench’s top. “It had this lovely little dip in it,” she recalls. So she brought it home, knowing intuitively that the natural scoop of the board would make a good seat. “Karen has a really great understanding of material language,” says Jason, “like its relationship to other forms within a composition. Even the texture or colour of two different types of wood coming together, and the reasoning between using a leg for one and then the top of a bench for another, and why they come together so well.”
The wood plank’s natural scoop inspired the design of The settler: elm bench.
Jason designed a compression joint that would attach the legs and top without glue or additional hardware.
The couple describes themselves as designers by degree, but makers by heart and this philosophy is very evident in the way they approach each project. For them, making and design cannot be separated. “It might have something to do with the nature of the material we’re working with. If things are…unique, you want to be involved right there with the material because if it presents itself something new and you miss it, then you didn’t take advantage of what it could have possibly been,” says Jason.
In fact, their creative process seems as natural as the material they work with. “I don’t have a method,” says Jason. And, Karen agrees, “He’s just curious. He’s the most curious person I know and I think so many great things come out of his curiosity and just wanting to figure something out or just wanting to play around.” Karen, on the other hand, describes herself as a beauty hoarder. “I’ll just find pieces (of wood) that I just love and keep them. And, finally I’ll have the idea for what they’re going to become and I’ll make it.”
This pair of hook or “crook” knives are Karen’s favourite tool. They were a Christmas gift from Jason. He bought the metal hook from Lee Valley and carved the wood handles himself.
Karen and Jason are currently working on a set of wood pendant lights for a restaurant in New York City. The restaurant commissioned the lights after seeing their original prototypes, which they entered into the Shade International Lighting Competition (which we blogged about here). The lights received an award and were featured on several popular design blogs.
Here’s a quick look at the process:
While they each have their own projects, Karen and Jason are always discussing them and coming up with design solutions together. If one of them sets a project aside, the other will pick it up. Most creatives would be offended by that, but Karen and Jason find that projects turn out better when they each have a hand in the design. “You see the beautiful result of the two things coming together and you’re like, okay, this has to continue,” says Karen.
And, we agree! We look forward to seeing many more beautiful designs from these two in the future. Check out their Tumblr site hareandhare.tumblr.com to see a selection of their recent work.