Behind the graffitied exterior of Parker Street Studios, a congregation of artists and creators toil away at their craft. Based on the beaux-arts scene in Paris, this cultural hub of Vancouver hosts a community of over 200 local designers in pursuit of artistic self-expression. Richard Jarvis is one of them.
A licensed mechanical engineer, Jarvis comes from two generations of craftsmen. His grandfather, an insurance salesman, was an amateur cabinetmaker who could produce his own tools, while his father proved to be equally adept with his hands when it came to making furniture, birthday gifts, and wedding presents. “He basically showed me that I could do anything,” says Jarvis. “There were no limits to trying new things.”
Jarvis Furniture began in 2015 as a way for him to hone his skills and showcase his designs. Known for his bespoke services, including commissioned designs and reproductions, Jarvis is an individual who enjoys challenging himself. As a fan of the mid-century modern period—think Hans Wegner and husband-and-wife team, Charles and Ray Eames—Jarvis sees potential in each commissioned piece he creates to expand and develop his talents.
“Right now, my focus is on chairs,” he says. “The possibilities for chairs, they’re just limitless—and I really just want to make every chair possible. I don’t want to categorize myself in any particular way.” Made from quality materials including black walnut, an American hardwood, and white oak, these original creations evoke a sense of timeless style. They boast mid-century modern shapes combined with influences from today, or as Jarvis puts it: “new century modern.”
One such example is Jarvis’s very first chair, which became the logo for his company. Although it required multiple iterations before it was ergonomically sound, Jarvis didn’t mind; he finds pleasure in solving problems. “Making chairs works for me,” he says. “I find it extremely satisfying because it parallels my work as an engineer. Engineering is about solving problems, and making chairs is the same problem-solving exercise.”
Although he is a business of one, Jarvis never feels alone in his work. Glancing around this lively workshop, it is evident that creativity flows constantly. “It’s a pleasure to work with these people. There’s inspiration to be found everywhere,” says Jarvis. “We don’t collaborate on things together, but we do talk about what each of us is working on, what are the challenges.”
Every day, Jarvis honours his family’s passion for woodwork design through a set of tools he inherited—an array of chisels, planes, and saws that he regularly uses for his projects. They remind him that not only is he fortunate enough to pursue his passions, but also to carry on the skills and traditions passed down from his family. “That’s why I like doing what I do so much,” he says. “It satisfies me in so many ways, as a craftsman and as an artist.”
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