Cleveland Art: L.A. Rustbelt
Jason Wein has known the makings of the restoration furniture shop, Cleveland Art for over 20 years. He began as a young man in middle America harvesting metal and wood from the old factories of the industrial age. Jason had a knack for making interesting things for himself and soon found that others were interested in his work as well, Cleveland Art was born there in his adolescence as merely a pastime. He officially began his business in 1993 but had started with taking apart old lawnmowers and bicycles as a kid. At its core Cleveland Art is rooted in the philosophy of making all his orginal pieces from American made materials or repurposing pieces that were originally made in America.
Cleveland, Ohio is a city in a region of the United States known as the Rust belt. Formerly the heart of America’s industrial might this area is now home to numerous abandoned warehouses and factories that Jason has come to use as sources for unique materials to create furniture and decorations. The interesting thing about Cleveland Art is that it is in Los Angeles. In a time when so many are importing their modern european furniture Cleveland Art is importing American industrial culture to the LA modernist.
Cleveland Art is not just about making something new out of something old. Yes there is nostalgia in that, but Jason honors each piece by knowing about the components it is made of. There are metal casts that were used to make rail road tracks and iron parts pre-welding. He points out the wood from an old high school set of bleachers, letting me know a bit of the story behind it. He says, ” …because of the weight capacity they needed to use on pieces of pine that had no knots, because knots are weak points in the trees.”
Every inch of the space is littered with American history. Being in the workshop gives you a sense of that old American industrial might. They’ve got blues playing in the background on the radio accompanied by the busy sounds of hand tools working out a new piece. All the designs come from Cleveland Art and if his stuff looks familiar its probably because you have seen it before.
Cleveland art has done custom store fixtures for Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, American Apparel, and others. All designs come from Jason though he has been knocked off by some of his customers and other mass market furniture chains like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware. One customer took some of his designs and decided to have them produced off shore. Needless to say they Jason no longer accepts business from that customer. With hand blown glass and custom made light fixtures it is a wonder anyone would even try to cheaply recreate what CA is crafting.
It is not rare in Los Angeles to find a great piece that can add personality to your space and there is no shortage of refurbishers around. What is rare is finding someone who is working to restore more than wood and metal but to make something new out of our own history. It seems that Jason, in reclaiming the relics of America’s most prosperous era he also helps us reclaim our sense of hope. That we can not only succeed by pushing toward the future but by honoring the legacy that got us here.
Cleveland Art currently has a show room and workshop in downtown Los Angeles and are opening a second location on La Brea in Hollywood. We hope to let you in on that space as well when they open for business.
Stop by and take in the history and take some of it home with you. I had more photos than I knew what to do with so here are a few more photos and a glass blowing class to cap off the experience.
Thank you Cleveland Art for bringing something different to the city.
110 N. Sante Fe Street
Hollywood (coming soon)
604/608 N La Brea Street