Notable Vancouver Young Creative: Kate Duncan

Kate Duncan first caught our eye when we came across a beautifully handmade cutting board while doing some early Christmas shopping on Granville Island. The contemporary design balanced with the use of natural materials piqued our interest, so we hopped on her website to learn more. Turns out this gorgeous little piece of kitchenware was just the tip of the iceberg. Her real talents come to life in her collections of custom wood furniture.

Kate’s creativity was first ignited in middle school shop class where she built her very first piece of furniture. She continued to follow her passion and hone her craft, eventually teaching a high school woodworking class of her own. Her love of natural materials and traditional craftsmanship techniques inspired her to create a series of her own custom furniture.

The magic happens in Kate’s East Vancouver studio, where she personally hand crafts every one of her pieces, often spending over 100 hours on a single item of furniture. Pieces are available for virtually any room in the house, and are available through custom orders. One-on-one consultations allow clients to customize shape, style and function. The resulting creations evoke a modern simplicity, and are made to last for generations.

What makes Kate such a Notable young creative?

Describe your creative process. 
I like to start from a problem-solving standpoint as opposed to a position of ‘creating’ something. I aim to address and deeply understand the end functionality of a piece. All my collection pieces were first prototyped to full scale, then revised again before final sample pieces were constructed. This was a time-consuming endeavour but one that really helped hone the pieces into something that I would be more than happy to make again… and again and again. “Pen to paper first, then saw to stick.”

Who do you look up to most in the design world? 
Nicholas Purcell, who I share my woodshop with, is the most knowledgeable, accessible and honest inspiration. I wouldn’t be where I am today without his quiet guidance and expertise.

Where do you find inspiration when experiencing a creative block? 
Sam Maloof and George Nakashima are my big name go-tos when I’m faced with a challenge or rough day in the shop. I just spend 20 minutes flipping through a book on one of these two masters and I’m back working with a sparkle in my eye.  

What advice would you give to young creatives aspiring to make it in their field? 
Work hard, then work harder. You have to unconditionally love what it is you’re doing to get up every day and work hard enough to make it. It’s more work than I ever imagined, but at the end of the day I go home with the biggest smile on my face knowing that I’ve spent the day doing what I love. 

If you weren’t designing furniture, what other creative field interests you? 
I love writing. I imagine I’d like to work in journalism of some kind.

What is your dream project? 
I love working one-on-one with clients, but I’d also love to do something in a public or community space. I absolutely love Vancouver. I’d love to leave a little woodworking mark on it somewhere. 

What design trends are you excited about? 
Leather! I am loving the use of leather as a veneer. It’s really durable when laminated onto a hard surface (as opposed to upholstered with padding behind it) and I love how the grain in leather contrasts and complements the grain in wood. It feels so sexy to the touch too. It’s one of my favourite materials for a headboard.