FURNITURE SALE ON NORTH FREEWAY
In March 2010, Studio WAC staged Furniture Sale on North Freeway, a guerrilla retail event that took place in the abandoned lot of the former Landmark Chevrolet dealership located at 9111 N. Fwy, Houston, TX 77037. In Furniture Sale on North Freeway, Studio WAC launched its first furniture line, a line designed and fabricated with an attention to the modesty of scale, materials and production.
Located outside the crumbling remains of the Landmark Chevrolet Dealership, Furniture Sale on North Freeway reflected on the unanticipated failures of highly leveraged businesses and their effects on the city landscape.
Studio WAC intended to create the hopeful gesture of a small design business selling its locally designed and manufactured product to local customers.
NOTES AND THOUGHTS ON FURNITURE SALE ON NORTH FREEWAY
As announced through postcards and social media, Furniture Sale on North Freeway, was staged at the old Landmark Chevrolet Dealership on I-45N, in Houston, Texas.
We arrived to the site early in the morning with every object that we made for the event and set up shop in one of the corners of the empty car lot. It was a cloudy and windy day without a soul in sight, except for the thousands of cars zipping down the freeway at 80 mph. We had our first customer around 9:30am, and from there we had visitors every 45 minutes with most people coming in groups, driving out from inner loop Houston to the site. People from the neighborhood situated behind the dealership also stopped to chat, with conversations ranging from being angry about the quality of product the dealership provided when it was in business, and being angry about the 700 yd x 175 yd concrete void left behind after the business had dissolved.
Little was spoken of our intentions, or our gesture of attempting to sell six modest objects in a space that once sold and held in inventory more products than a husband and wife partnership could possibly fathom.
Our initial intentions were out of boredom, we were originally building pieces of furniture to fit our small apartment over weekends in our family run cabinet shop in Spring, TX, with materials left over from construction jobs. We would drive back and forth on I-45 passing the empty shells of former businesses and billboards selling ugly products far cheaper than someone could build and sell locally. Our point of departure for this idea were our conversations on how ridiculous it would be to find a local market for one of a kind, small-scale furniture meant for an aging 600 square foot Montrose apartment.
Next, our conversations turned towards the site, nestled along a stretch of empty commercial space. Like many, we felt frustrated by the lack of vibrant local activity in spaces like Landmark Chevy that are found throughout Houston, space that is overbuilt and left empty that many are forced to drive by everyday. Our hopeful gesture of peddling local goods was one possible, albeit unlikely solution to these empty spaces requiring excessive capital, volume of goods, and a large customer base to fill.
Our personal fantasy was a large community of modest profit, small-scale and local businesses that could occupy these empty spaces, selling whatever goods they chose to make. We imagined that this business structure could enable a dialog with the local consumer, giving them tremendous power and input to what they needed in their community, replacing the currently accepted mass produced illusion of choice of goods that are bought without knowledge of their true costs of production, labor, or environmental impact.
Scott Cartwright &
Jenny Lynn Weitz Amaré-Cartwright
I LOVE IT, BUT NOT FOR $3,000: OUR THOUGHTS WHEN SELLING FURNITURE
A furniture dealer recently said to us...
"The more unique an object is, the less willing a consumer is to part with their money for that object. No one really gives much thought to a cup of coffee or a pack of gum, but a customer will contemplate buying a chair or painting for their house for days, weeks, or even years."
- A poignant definition of capitalism is the Marx description of a circuit in which money (M) is exchanged for commodities (C) to be sold for a larger sum of money (M’), in a never-ending metamorphosis of M-C-M’. In selling unique objects however, one should be concerned with the dashes of the circuit, all of the irrationalities that the consumer brings to the exchange. The dashes are a leap of faith that determines success or failure in selling the object.
- We envision the process like a fishing trip, you prepare yourself before you enter the sales floor by saying to yourself, “today is the day, today we will find that customer who will buy our objects.”
- In our limited experience, the consumer doesn’t act as willing to buy as they do in our minds. They walk through our wares sometimes with an awkward contemplation, sometimes an ambivalent meandering around the objects, as if the objects never existed.
- The problem for us becomes selling our products to people that don’t feel an immediate need or desire to buy them. Customers donâ€™t seem to buy contemplatively. This feels to us unrealistic and completely different from how other business operate.
- It’s really hard to actually get what an object is worth to produce. How long it takes to make or how many design failures happen before arriving at the finished product are arbitrary factors determining the price. It could be totally fair to price an object at 3,000 dollars, but if it isn’t perceived to be $3,000 by the consumer, then it is actually worth less. The question then becomes for us, “is this object really worth making?”
- Art and design are exactly like venture capitalism. We had a relative who recently passed away who was a venture capitalist. He attempted to sell revolutionary fleet management technology to the United States military. He worked on his idea for the last 15 years of his life, with the military pondering the technology for that entire time. He attempted to sell them with the only compensation being his dream of the big payoff. He died of a simple complication with diabetes he didnâ€™t know he had. We saw him in the final weeks of his life as a blind man failing to sell his good health to his family. We think of him when we are selling. We think of him when someone loves one of our objects, but not for the amount that we are asking.
These thoughts are reminders that help us keep track of the indeterminate time we wait for a customer to make a decision. Design masks our restrained desperation for a sale and it masks our failures from our customers. As we continue to design and sell, these thoughts will always accompany us.
Scott Cartwright &
Jenny Lynn Weitz Amaré-Cartwright
May 2, 2010
Managing Editor & Art Director