Coffeeklatch

creative chit-chat

Jon & Masa

Designer duo LMBRJK

 

There’s something exciting stirring at Het Eilandje. After a lot of intensive development work, this former gritty area by the water in Antwerp is finally transforming into a bustling and upcoming neighborhood. For Jon and Masa, the duo behind the design studio LMBRJK specializing in hand-made wood products, it’s the perfect location to realize their dream. “LMBRJK should be more than a studio that works with wood. It should be a place warm enough for people to hang out and attend an amazing event we curated or buy something we really like, whether it’s one of our products, good food, a nice cup of coffee”, says Jon, who actually looks like a modern lumberjack, riding a fixed-gear bicycle and cutting wood with a laser instead of an axe. We met and had coffee in their amazing loft space. 

 

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After organizing pop-up events in Amsterdam and Berlin, you decided to go for a more permanent residency in Antwerp. How did the idea of a multidisciplinary platform come about? 

Jon: It’s an idea that has been moulding in our heads for a while.

Masa: When we lived in Berlin, you had these small restaurants run by young people everywhere. Constantly new things were opening and we said to ourselves: why don’t we see this happening in Belgium? Small initiatives like these made us say: we can do that too. We really want to have a permanent space in Antwerp where customers can just come in to hang and buy nice stuff. 

Jon: The idea is to have a continuous studio here, but half of the space can be used by other creatives too. This way the space can operate as a sandwich shop and a café during the week and a lunchroom during the weekends. 

Masa: The idea is to transform LMBRJK into more than just a studio that works with wood.

Jon: It’s all part of this romantic vision we share after visiting these amazing spots in Berlin and in Brooklyn. I’m in love with Fette Sau, which is this crazy and homey place in Williamsburg looking like a canteen, where they serve every part of pork prepared in the most delicious way. But there’s also Egg, Marlow & Sons and Marlow & Daughters, …These incredible small businesses are all about serving good food in a setting or context, which is unlikely. And we feel close to those ideas – bringing together all these elements we love, in unusual settings, letting other people into our lives, works and ideas and letting them in on those specialty events.

 

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What is your relationship with food? These blackberries topped with chocolate are very enjoyable.

Masa: I love cooking. And I love cooking together with Jon. We are totally self-trained. When I come back from work, the only thing I feel like doing, is cooking. No matter what’s happening in the studio, we always find the time to cook and to relax.

Jon: It’s Masa’s dream to perfect her cooking skills and she’s even planning on going to Paris to master it. She’s got my full support on this.

 

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Paris, Brooklyn, Berlin and now Belgium. With you Masa being from Slovenia and Jon coming from Los Angeles, you two are probably the most international couple featured on Coffeeklatch.

Jon: My family is originally from Pittsburgh but I studied architecture in Los Angeles, adopting it as my second home, and worked in New York for Asymptote Architects, who did a lot of digital architecture.  My idea from working with the laser came from working there. The crisis hit New York pretty bad, I chose to leave and found a job in Berlin at Barkow Leibinger Architects. 

Masa: We got to Berlin at the same time. We met, fell in love and we stayed in Berlin for 2,5 years. After that we wanted to head back to the States but I got this job offer to go and work for the European parliament in Brussels. 

Jon: Brussels wasn’t so far away from Berlin and I wasn’t ready to leave the city yet, so Masa and I went back and forth every weekend for a while.

Masa: But that was wearing on us. 

Jon: So I moved to Brussels where we stayed for two years. Brussels was somewhat of a starting point for us. We knew we wanted to start our own thing, but we weren’t sure how to handle it. We got this wonderful studio space in the center of the city through this organization called MAD. Their philosophy was: be there, do what you want, just know we’ll be renovating the whole place within the year. The ideas we had, were not just about product design. They were about curating events and doing little pop-up shops. So to have a space of our own has always been a big dream. When this space in Antwerp came about, we decided it had to happen.

 

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After visiting the space in Antwerp, you took the leap and moved to Antwerp, without knowing the city at all.

Masa: Exactly. When Jon showed me pictures of this construction site in Antwerp, I wasn’t excited, in fact I talked Jon out of the whole mixed house, atelier idea. But when I took the train to Antwerp to see it for myself, I got completely overwhelmed by so many possibilities. I knew we were bound to come and explore this side of Belgium as well.

Jon: The couple we are renting the place from, built the site a few years ago and they spent a couple of intense years in renovating it. They even cut a hole into the house to create a nice patio and terrace. 

Masha: We are super happy to be here. It’s a space with tones of history and lots of individual details put in. It was love at first sight.

 

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Tell me more about LMBRJK. How does the word that evokes tradition and craftsmanship, relates to what you do, in terms of the contemporary digital methods of fabrication using the laser? 

Jon: The idea was to find a word that encapsulates the essence of the studio, which is about taking natural materials in a raw state and transforming them into finished pieces of lumber. What we do, is a modern interpretation of the lumberjack in a way.  A lumberjack was someone who cut trees with a handsaw, a person who was close to the material he worked with, one with a closer tactile appreciation of the wood.  Today, this industry is defined by modern machines, and we feel that we should take inspiration from both. 

Masa: Everything we do is part of a big learning process. Jon is not a trained carpenter, he is an architect, and what we do, has always been about creating crazy unusual forms that one wouldn’t associate with wood, or that couldn’t be delivered through any kind of other process than through digital manipulation. 

Jon: LMBRJK is a continuous rub between super high technology that you can create digital forms with and the aspect of the handmade.

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Do you think there’s some kind of revival of carpentry?

Jon: It goes hand in hand with going back to the crafts movement where people want to get their hands on materials and want to get away from the plasticity of the digital era. 

Masa: Spending some time in Brooklyn, you could really feel the revival of this crafts movement, which is all about going back to quality materials. Not just being a designer in terms of production, but to be the one owning the product and handling it from the beginning to the end.

Jon: One of our inspirations came from Brooklyn from Joel Bukiewicz, owner and operator of Cut Brooklyn. He was a writer, but when the economy was bad, he went back to his basement and started doing what he always wanted to do, which was making knives. At the same time, this foodie movement was happening in NY with chefs becoming rock stars. Bukiewicz ended up making knives for them. He cut the wave and it was this perfect storm.

 

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Now Jon and Masa are ready to unleash their perfect storm of international and multidisciplinary creativity in Antwerp.

 

www.lmbrjk.com

 


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Coffeeklatch stands for ‘Slow journalism using a fast medium.’ Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen created the blog as a creative chitchat featuring creative entrepreneurs in their homes over coffee, including interesting people telling intriguing stories. It celebrates storytelling and creativity in all its forms, from fashion design to architecture. Read More

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