Who would've thought that an "amazing, large red neon 'R'" would inspire the name of a business? Evan Synderman, who graduated from the glass program in the School for American Craftsmen, now known as the School for American Crafts at CIAS, in 1992, dealt with just that. After graduating from RIT, he went on to found R & Company, a (furniture) design company located in New York City, in 1997.
When asked what the 'R' stands for in R & Company—Synderman stated that it does not stand for anything in particular. "When we were first opening, we found an amazing, large red neon R and we used that as the original sign and the inspiration for the name," he added.
Not only is he the founder (alongside business partner Zesty Meyers) and principal of R & Company, he also provides assistance in giving his fellow designers a career, rather than have them be one-hit-wonders.
Q: As displayed on your website, it says that, alongside your partner Zesty Meyers, you founded R & Company in 1997 with the idea of combining both 20th and 21st century design. What would you say was the biggest challenge after starting up?
A: The biggest challenge for us in the beginning was getting people to look at furniture and design in general as more than just a functional object to be used in the home. We wanted our clients to understand and appreciate the deeper beauty and history of an object on a collectible level, as an asset to a great art collection, for instance.
This is still something we're teaching people and talking about. One thing we have done consistently was to challenge the conventions of our own market, rather than play by the rules or follow what others were doing in the design world. We wanted to preserve and share the stories of the designers we appreciated and collected.
Q: What would you say you consider your biggest personal accomplishment to this day?
A: I don't know that I have any one accomplishment that I can say I am most proud of. However, one would certainly be the acquiring of the Greta Magnusson Grossman estate and reestablishing her as one of the most important female designers of the 20th century through a series of exhibitions and publications. Her work is now highly collected globally and she has been the subject of many other exhibitions and press articles.
Q: What criteria do you use to hire designers for R & Company? What makes their work “among the most innovative and finely crafted of their time”?
What we look for in a designer is longevity. We want to create a career for a designer; not have them become a one hit wonder. All the contemporary designers we represent approach design with a degree of skill and understanding of their craft and materials. The designers do not follow the traditional models of an industrial designer. They are more interested in creating unique works, limited, editions, and site specific installations. The bulk of our clientele come from the contemporary art world and are collecting, rather than decorating. Our goal is to build collections with our clients and to sustain the market for collectible design for the long term.
Q: How did your experience at the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences aid you on your journey?
A: Although I am not currently making glass, what SAC taught me was a deep understanding of process and appreciation for the skill of the craftsmanship. That knowledge has given me an edge over other gallerists in the field, as I feel well equipped to discuss the work I represent on a much higher level.
Q: What advice do you have for up–and-coming artists/students that want to go into the furniture design field?
A: My advice would be to push yourself to create work that stands out from the crowd. To take chances and to always be passionate about what you do. So much of what we have created at R comes from passion.