Taylor Donsker is more comfortable in a workshop than he is in an office. So after graduating from the USC School of Architecture in 2010 and entering a job market that was anything but sizzling, Taylor retreated to his parent's garage to create furniture. Since then, his designs have been scooped up by eager buyers across the country.
Where did you grow up? I grew up in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, made famous by the term “valley girl” and the movie Clueless. It has a desert climate and an unending sprawl of suburban homes and McMansions.
Where did you study/train? I was a senior in high school and could use all the help I could get to make it to college, so I met with my dad’s boss at the time, John Jerde of the Jerde Partnership (friends with the then dean of architecture at USC). He asked me, “What makes you so special?” While fumbling over my words, I told him about my first “project”, tearing apart my pickup truck in high school and replacing the entire suspension. We ended up bonding over hot rods and I received my acceptance to USC’s School of Architecture a few months later. I later returned to practice architecture after graduating, while simultaneously designing furniture in my parents’ garage. I am largely self-taught, but I soak up information and techniques from all the old woodworkers and welders that I meet. And, of course, there is the Internet.
What was the first thing you made and sold? I envisioned the Cantilevered Floor Lamp while browsing a furniture magazine. Somewhere in the middle of the magazine, I scribbled two intersecting lines, one cantilevering over a drafting table, and a few days later turned it into a lamp. While strapped for cash after graduating college, I posted it on Craigslist and sold it to a client who also purchased my prototype Suspended Bookshelf.
Who is your design idol? My favorite woodworkers are Sam Maloof and George Nakashima. I have read both of their books and they are equally inspiring and interesting. Sam Maloof’s western style and attitude towards nature (the wood will do what he wants it to) is a perfect contrast to Nakashima’s eastern, organic, aesthetic and spiritual reverence for wood. They both produced gorgeous furniture, making perfection appear effortless.
Where do you find inspiration? I design in my head all day; I probably have hundreds of designs stored in the archives up there somewhere. When I’m driving on the freeway and the music is just right, I’m able to forget about everything and a design will pop out. I also use that time to problem solve pieces that I’m working on, or pick up where I left off on a piece.
What’s one thing you wish YOU had made or designed? The LC4 or “Relaxation Machine” by Le Corbusier. It is simply the most comfortable chair ever made, especially in pony hide.
What’s your advice for a designer/maker just starting out? No one gets famous over night. I was blown away at the fact that George Nakashima didn’t have a major furniture display until his late 50’s. Longevity is key to developing your skills and your brand.
To see more of Taylor's work, check out his website: Taylor Donsker Design
(Images: Taylor Donsker)