Brian Shimansky Is the Model Woodworker Crafting a Legacy

Brian Shimansky Is the Model Woodworker Crafting a Legacy

The model talks about his love of woodworking, his first piece of Shimansky Design, and his hopes of imparting the craft on the next generation in this first look at VMAN37, coming March 2.

The model talks about his love of woodworking, his first piece of Shimansky Design, and his hopes of imparting the craft on the next generation in this first look at VMAN37, coming March 2.

Photography: Bruce Weber

Styling: Paul Cavaco

My dad works with his hands. He's got a very specialized automotive shop and as kids we would go down there, taking stuff apart—just doing little, simple, easy tasks, always working with our hands, doing something. And then, moving into middle school around age 10 or 11, we were able to have an elective and do woodworking. So, I absolutely jumped right into that. Our first project was a jewelry box type thing. I did a football-shaped one, cut out my number, glued it on there. I still have it.

From middle school through high school, I was always in the woodshop. I made this complicated windmill one year with these super complex angles. I built a big oak frame and panel dry bar for my uncle as a wedding gift. I was always working with my hands, building something. But, when I went to university, I got out of all that stuff.

I got into modeling in 2008, after university was finished. Through traveling, being on different locations and sets, and taking note of the furniture and great books, I took a liking to the simpler, more industrial-driven pieces that I would see. The most striking location that I remember—that is still an inspiration for me-—is John Lautner’s Goldstein House in Beverly Hills. Its foundation is steel beams driven through the bedrock-—it cantilevers off the side of this steep hill.  I read about Lautner's philosophy and how he studied with Frank Lloyd Wright.  Around the same time, my brother had just purchased a house with his wife. They ripped out and gutted the whole thing and there was a whole wall with this beautiful bookshelf that they just tore out. They stacked up all this solid wood out by the garbage, so I took it and I started building shelves. It was the first Shimansky Design product that I posted. It was a little repurposed bookshelf that I put under my cabinets in the kitchen to create extra space. A friend called me immediately and was like "Oh, that thing is really cool! Could you build me one?" And just like that, I'm in business.

In terms of my process, it's been more about starting with the material. Seeing something like, Oh wow! We could use it like this. You know, seek another purpose for it essentially. It's also an experimental process—there is no woodworking without mistakes, it's just a matter of how well you can deal with them, how you recover and turn it into something else. Whether you have the most drawn-out meticulous plan or you're just pulling ideas out of your head based on materials that you came across, there's always a solution.

With fashion modeling, being blessed with the career that I've had for the last eight years, it's a gift to see the places I've seen, to be directly inspired by all of that, and then to have the time to fuss around in the studio and stare at something for half an hour and think. It's just fantastic. I also want to teach one day. I want to teach people how to cut joints and create. The guy who supplies me wood has been a great mentor and he builds some amazing furniture himself. Awesome stuff. He has taught me everything. To continue to share that knowledge would be ideal. To see a piece go to the next generation is what's going to be cool. I really hope to see that with some of the pieces that I've created, that they leave a legacy of craftsmanship.

-As told to Wyatt Allgeier

See more of Shimansky's work in the slideshow below and on his website here.

BRIAN WEAR PANTS AND WATCH HIS OWN
Credits:

Hair Gerald DeCock  Grooming Regine Thorre  Prop stylist Philipp Haemmerle Production Gwen Walberg (Little Bear Inc)   Photo assistants Chris Domurat, Jeff Tautrim, Ryan Michael Petrus, Sunny Facer, David Weiner  Stylist assistants EJ Briones and Nicolas Eftaxias  Makeup assistant Christina Natale  Hair assistant Aki  Production assistants Dawn Tomassone, Archer Cox, Logan Taylor

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