Artful home goods made by hand, not machines, are all the rage at this year’s WestEdge Design Fair

By Christina Campodonico

Architect Eva Sobesky designed her organically shaped seating sculptures after pebbles she found at Venice Beach

Architect Eva Sobesky designed her organically shaped seating sculptures after pebbles she found at Venice Beach

With more than 150 home furnishing brands represented at this weekend’s WestEdge Design Fair at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar, it could be a challenge to decide what to take home.

Focusing on handcrafted designs may be a rewarding place to start.

“People are very much interested in products that are designed by individual designers. We’re seeing less of an interest in mass production, more of an interest in thoughtfully and artfully manufactured goods that are either available in limited editions or customizable, or one-of-a-kind,” WestEdge cofounder and producer Troy Hanson says.

“People are putting more and more thought into their environment,” he continues, adding that products that are “unique and sustainable and thoughtfully edited by [their] creators” are on trend this year in style-savvy homes and the design industry at large.

Featuring a series of seminars and panels, the WestEdge Design Fair is an industry trade summit that doubles as a pop-up shopping destination for consumers who are hip to forward-thinking contemporary design.

In keeping with growing professional and consumer focus on artisanal products, the event’s MADE:MODERN showcase highlights creations by more than 40 independent designers, most of them present to talk about their work.

‘The Woodbutcher’

Featured West L.A. designer Brandon Morrison takes his craft literally into his own two hands.

Also known as “The Woodbutcher,” Morrison cuts up pieces of wood and transforms them into smooth tabletops, swooping chairs and suave lighting fixtures. The combination is classic vintage — like that curvy Danish-modern chair in your fashionista grandmother’s living room, but with a little more sex appeal. In Morrison’s creations, Mad Men-era design meets modern muse in the most natural way.

Morrison originally came to L.A. to pursue acting, but he found his true calling in woodworking after picking up odd jobs as a handyman to stay financially afloat. After taking over a vacant garage below his one-bedroom apartment, Morrison turned the space into a laboratory for playing with fresh ideas.

Morrison founded whyrHymer, a handmade furniture and lighting collection with a showroom on La Brea Avenue, in 2003. But getting there hasn’t all been fun and games. While making a bed frame in his workshop, a sawblade kicked back and sliced Morrison’s left hand wide open from wrist to pinkie finger. Three hundred stitches and 14 years later, Morrison is still making furniture — but with a glove on his scarred hand.

These days, Morrison is taking inspiration from the tailfins of classic cars, but he keeps his eyes on the world around him and his creative channels open. He describes his design flow as “a two-handed process” — first knowing the purpose of your design and then “putting your finger or stamp on it.”

Sitting Stones

Venice architect Eva Sobesky also has affection for the handmade. Her organical-ly shaped seating sculptures, which she has named “pebbles” after the tiny rocks on Venice beach that inspired her, will also be on display at the fair.

Sobesky put the life-size versions of her sitting stones through an in-depth modeling process at her Venice architecture firm, EIS Studio, before taking them to market.

“My true love is in the model,” says Sobesky, who worked for Frank Gehry for 12 years and is deeply influenced by the famed architect’s process of making physical models through every stage of a building’s development.

When prototyping the pebbles, Sobesky and her staff cut a series of rings, then glued and smoothed them together to give the structures their rounded look. But more importantly for her, the pebbles encapsulate EIS Studio’s dual focus on architecture and landscape design. Whether placed alone or in a cluster, the pebbles can move versatilely between the home and garden.

“The pebbles kind of fall through those spaces,” she says.

In this way, they display another theme of the fair — indoor and outdoor living, California style.

“Especially being based here, there’s such an indoor-outdoor vibe, and that’s something we try to highlight” says WestEdge cofounder and producer Megan Reilly.

In keeping with that theme, the design fair features an outdoor lounge for grilling demonstrations and space for fairgoers to put up their feet at the end of a long, design-filled day.

Various educational panels, book signings and even wine tastings round out the weekend’s programming.

You may not be able to do it all, but you could walk away with a one-of-a-kind experience and a tangible expression of style that’s uniquely yours.

The WestEdge Design Fair opens to the public at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 23, and continues through Sunday, Oct. 25, at Barker Hangar, 3021 Airport Ave., Santa Monica. Three-day passes are $20 online or $25 at the door. Visit