The Modern Designs of Nick Hernandez
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Wakebloom FurnitureNovember 2015
Story and photos by Fache Desrochers
Those were the words of Charles Eames, one half of the iconic Eames design duo, who have been celebrated for decades for their game-changing contributions to modern architecture and furniture. With their quintessentially minimalist, modern aesthetics, the Eameses were communicating something as undeniable as it is advisory: the devil is in the details.
Nick Hernandez – founder and chief craftsman of Wakebloom Furniture – understands such observations about detail to be perfectly true. To be someone who believes deeply that anything worth doing is worth doing with focus, high standards and attention to the small things is part of Hernandez’s personality, but it was his foray into building midcentury furniture that truly drove the point home. “I first started building furniture in the reclaimed style, which is often very forgiving, but midcentury is kind of the exact opposite of that,” explains Hernandez. “Because with these modern designs, there’s just no margin for error. I found out pretty quickly that it is not easy.” Hernandez laughs reflectively. “My first midcentury piece; I don’t think I’ve ever sworn so much in my life.”
For those who swoon over the clean lines of Hernandez’s work, he is more than equal to the challenge that building midcentury furniture presents. “I had to learn a lot of new techniques, but that’s perfect for me,” says Hernandez. “I do really enjoy making these kind of spotlight pieces that people buy to not only use, but to love. And that’s why I want to make sure that I do a good job. I’m a bit of perfectionist that way.”
A native of Exeter, Hernandez’s educational and life pursuits took him all over, but it was his passion as an educator that brought him back to mold young minds at Fresno State and College of the Sequoias. “It’s been good being back,” he says. “I’ve run into a lot of the creative crowd that has also moved back here, and there’s a lot of people doing very interesting things.” Inspired by the efforts of his peers and eager to add some creative balance to his life, Hernandez founded Appendage & Bough with fellow furniture craftsman Ryan Ratzlaff, and began to carve out his identity in the medium.
But after building reclaimed pieces for awhile, Hernandez began to feel as though his efforts were becoming lost in a sea of similar builders. He also felt a familiar hankering for a new creative challenge, and the midcentury style with its history, iconic contributors and timeless aesthetic was just too perfect a fit to pass up. “I got into midcentury furniture because it’s more than just a trend,” explains Hernandez. “When the Eameses were designing, for example, they were criticized a lot for being strange and too progressive. I think what a lot of people don’t quite realize about the midcentury look is that it wasn’t just a fad; it was a time when a lot of forward-thinking designers were working on art.”
It comes as no surprise that a good deal of the educator’s connection to the midcentury style comes from his understanding of its history. And with this understanding, Hernandez is able to establish his role in the ongoing celebration of modern design. “I like to understand the history of things, because I think it’s important to the design of the piece,” says Hernandez. “I really enjoy researching the lives of these great old designers, and what inspired them to make what they made. Because it’s their designs that I’m making. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel; my work is more of an homage.”
As a creator, Hernandez is something of a self-contained universe. But as someone who is inspired by challenges, he sees great potential in connecting with other local creatives. “There’s a friend of mine who loves to cook, and once every few months, she gets a bunch of people together, they all pay a bit of money for ingredients, and then they all cook together,” says Hernandez. “And I think that might be neat for me to try, to assemble a group who are interested in building to work together.”
“I guess I’m interested in mobilizing creative people,” continues Hernandez. “That kind of network is so important to our artistic community. People can sometimes be a bit fragmented, so it’s exciting to think of ways to bring us all together.”
At the end of the day for Hernandez, the devil may be in the details, but salvation is in the sum of all their parts. And with his devotion to history, craftsmanship, and the creative community, the resulting pieces of Wakebloom Furniture are nothing short of nirvana.
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