Artists In Their Own Words: Michael Dalle Molle and Jordan Gurren
Who: Michael Dalle Molle and Jordan Daniel Gurren
What: Woodworkers, metalworkers and designers
Where: Irish Channel (Mike), Uptown (Jordan)
Artists’ Chosen Location for Interview: GoodWoodNola studio and shop at 1523 St. Ferdinand—next to a dusty pool table and with Ross, Mike’s pit bull, at our feet
Q: If you were going to create a wooden statue for each other that best represented the other person’s traits, what would you design?
A: MD: I would have Jordan standing like this [stands up, legs wide and arms raised in victory pose] with a level in his hands. The very first project we did, we were busting out a large chunk of a wall, and we had to cut from the outside without knowing where our studs were. We traced the line based off of a few measurements, and we had a circ saw, so we went for it. Jordan cut it out, kicked it in and it was a perfect cut. He stepped right in the cutout, grabbed his 4’ level and held it up to the sky. It was this perfect stance, and he was also wearing his classic Chacos. Although, maybe we should leave the part about him wearing sandals out.
JDG: It was all right. I had a bum pinky toe from playing soccer, so I was wearing sandals for two weeks. I’m in closed toe shoes now.
MD: That’s right. We’re always safe.
JDG: For Mike, I would have him in a stance where his hand is out and open, and he’s leaning forward a bit. It’d be a statue of him ready to talk to someone because Mike talks to everybody. But I’d make it out of plaster because it has that old school touch to it. And plaster is another medium we use for GoodWood. Our name is a bit of a misnomer because we work with plaster, metal, acrylics, concrete and all kinds of finishes.
MD: Yeah, we have scenic backgrounds. We worked for the Solomon Group, and we met when building the Road to Berlin exhibit for the World War II Museum. I got an opportunity through friends of mine, Aaron and Chris from District Donuts, to design and build a big shelving unit so I took Jordan and a couple of other guys with me to make it happen. After a week we gave them a design and they loved it, but they had just signed a lease for the new District Hand Pie & Coffee Bar. One thing led to the next, and we ended up doing the whole interior for District Pies. Everything in there is us—the floor, the ceiling, the doors, the bar, the windows, the tables, the walls, the shelves, everything. That’s how GoodWood started.
JDG: We never did build that shelf.
MD: [ Laughs]. You’re right, we never did build it. It’s a cool shelf. We should really build it one day.
Q: What word—beyond normal, average words—do you think you most often use?
A: JDG: Well, we do NOT use the word organic. That’s one word we don’t use, for many reasons.
MD: [Shaking head]. He’s right. We don’t use that word.
JDG: It doesn’t really do justice to work. The word organic doesn’t describe work. The earth is organic. Trees are organic. Making something in our studio is not organic. But, common words we use...
MD: We use the word faux a lot, because we do a ton of faux finishes to give pieces an older, more authentic look.
JDG: Reclaimed. We use that word a lot. We try to use as much reclaimed materials as we can. That means weekly dumpster runs. And making sure we have our tetanus shots. You pay for the materials in a different way when you do it our way. We typically don’t take the easy way on anything.
MD: We definitely don’t. Oh, and GoodWood. We use that to describe 'good' materials all the time. It’s a fun name that we feel really represents us and the work we do.
JDG: It rolls off the tongue.
MD: It does, and we’re pretty loose and easygoing. We like to keep it light. We’re very professional in the way we work and act, but we don’t want anyone to feel any barriers when they talk with us. We want them to speak their mind about the designs and ideas. We want to be people, artists and creators rather than a business that punches numbers and signs checks.
Q: If you were to turn your shop into a museum, what would people see at the exhibits?
A: MD: A lot of times, especially with the welding and metal work, we’ll start something and not necessarily get it to be perfect right off the bat. Rather than scrapping it, we keep it, play with it and turn it into something cool for our own use or another project. We’d probably display all of those 'half projects'.
JDG: Yeah, I find that when I’m working I go through iterations of things. If I’m making something and decide that I can make it better, I’ll scrap the first draft and do it again. We could put all the betas on display.
Having exhibits is something we want to do with the space that we’re in. It’s perfectly set up to be a gallery space. I want to put everything on casters, so we could push it out of the way and make space for any kind of art exhibit.
Q: What’s something you wish someone would explain to you?
A: JDG: I’d like someone to explain to me why people don’t use their blinkers. [Laughs]. I would love to hear the answer to that one.
MD: Yeah, me too. And also why everything is under construction at the same time. It’s like they decided to rebuild all parts of every different neighborhood in New Orleans at once.
JDG: Although, that is great for us. New places means new work for us.
MD: We stay away from construction work, though. We aren’t licensed to do that kind of job, anyway. We’ll build interiors, we’ll do wall treatments and we’ll build all kinds of furniture and light fixtures— but we let the contractor for our full-scale jobs handle the 'construction'. For example, we made the sign, all the shelving, the pallet wall, and all the sewing station and tables for Chateau Sew and Sew but let the contractor handle everything structural.
JDG: And that sign is all hand-burned. We love it when we get projects where we can do everything for the client.
MD: Like District Pies. Or Stonefree at The Paramount is another place where we did everything—except the clothing racks. And now the Besh group is renovating their offices, so we’re doing all their desks, conference tables and wall treatments. Their space has beautiful brick walls with these huge beams in the ceiling, so we’re sticking with an old, rustic look. There is an old door that used to lead to a studio that was dry-walled and closed up, so we’re going to turn it into a gigantic chalkboard.
JDG: We love taking on these projects, and we’re learning how to balance the artistry with the timeliness. There’s a fine line between the two for a business like ours. We love having intense attention to detail and getting everything to be perfect. I could work on one thing forever—making small changes here and there—but we realize that part of this is getting the pieces out the door on schedule.
MD: A friend told me once, ‘If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur’. I really took that to heart. Anything I’m a part of, I want to go the extra mile: research it, learn anything I don’t already know about it and take my time to completely understand it. We all have that same mentality here, and that’s why we work so well together.
JDG: We pride ourselves on making pieces that last, and we will go back and fix anything that’s not right as soon as we have the time. Working with wood in this city is difficult. New Orleans is hot, it’s humid, it rains, it’s got intense sunlight and everything swells and shrinks.
MD: If you can build a piece of exterior furniture that stands the test of time in New Orleans, you can build a piece of furniture anywhere.
Michael Dalle Molle and Jordan Daniel Gurren are co-owners of GoodWood Nola. To contact Mike and Jordan and see their work, you can access their website (www.goodwoodnola.com). You can also follow them on Instagram, as well as Facebook.