Alex Reynaud: Fusing modern techniques in traditional framework
Alex Reynaud is the man behind “Under the water Design”. Inspired by nature, he mixes materials, methods, and techniques to create one-of-a-kind pieces. We sat down with him an early morning in October, and learned more about how fusions can create the most beautiful synergies.
Looking back, you’d think the road to carpentry was carved in stone for Alex Reynaud. His parents would flip homes to make ends meet, and as he got older, he got to (read: had to) help out. They’d buy a house, tear it down and build it back up. From framing to structural work and finished carpentry, Alex did it all growing up. He had access to all the tools, and the experience to go with it, but it would take him well into adulthood before he’d pick up the craft again.
“It wasn’t until I met my wife. We bought a trailer and renovated a three-acre farmhouse. It was crazy. My father-in-law started questioning what type of life I was providing his daughter! We gutted everything and started from scratch, but after nine months it was ready, and we moved in. That’s when I decided I wanted to do carpentry professionally.”
He started taking online classes, and quickly realized that he’d specialize in fine furniture. Initially focusing on commission jobs, he’d come into people’s homes and do one-off custom pieces for specific spaces. As he explained it, people tend to want to over-design things, and he’s had to talk clients off the edge a couple of times.
“I like simplistic pieces. For me, the design has to be practical. My style is very Scandinavian mid-century modern. I like the look of it, and it goes well with the materials I work with.”
Alex blends metal and wood in his pieces, an esthetic he came in contact with while taking classes. The materials work well together, and in his original work, he’s been trying to push the boundaries of that union.
“Metal has a hard, cold rigidity, and wood is warm and soft. I like the option of working with different materials. It gives a lot of failure because nothing is set and I’m experimenting with it, but that’s where art happens. You can take an idea, look at the environment it’s going to be placed in and create something unique.”
It’s clear that nature is a huge inspiration for him, mountains and streams, rocks, and trees. Growing up, he lived close to the water, and so he holds deep affection to its natural landscape and the symbiosis that live and thrive there. His love for the ocean even inspired the name of his company “Under the water Design”. He likes looking at natural shapes, see how they connect and emulate it:
“Materials can be combined in many different ways, but if you understand the relationship of what works in nature, that gives you a clue of what might work in the shop. Another thing it teaches you is structure. Nature creates some of the strongest constructions around. There’s a lot to learn and be inspired from.”
Alex is all about family, and he describes himself as a husband and a father. Family has certainly influenced his choice of career, but not just his own. His wife’s grandfather was a professional cabinet builder, and has meant a lot to him:
“We had a great relationship! He loved teaching, but we’d always joke about what a terrible teacher he was! He never explained anything, he’d just tell you to move out of the way and then do it himself. He was always pulling out drawers and looking at how the doors lined up. He had an incredible skill level, and I feel like I missed him by ten years. I didn’t have the knowledge to understand him then… I wish I still had him around.”
Although he’s been gone for some years now, Alex still likes building little things for his wife. Carpentry is more than just a profession for Alex. It’s a communal thing, shared with friends and family. He loves teaching too, and happily gives advice while hosting company in his shop. The shop itself is quite impressive, with not just one, but two workbenches:
“My primary bench takes a lot of beating. I use it mostly for assembly and needed a space to finish up and do the final details. I’ve always loved and supported the traditional framework, so working with Sjöbergs was a natural fit. A lot of people ask me about it since I’ve mounted the Shaper Origin, a handheld CNC-router, on the bench. It’s amazing how you can fuse a workbench that’s basically the same since the 1800’s with a state of the line modern appliance!”
Even if commission work is where he started, his future is in originals. He already has enough pieces that are uniquely his own to start a collection, and after 11 years, he’s beginning to grow out of his shop. He’d like to have a space big enough to teach classes, and take on a new type of assignment:
“Creating an original piece is hard. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. I use the materials around me, study techniques and try to make an interpretation of my own. There’s so much inspiration to be found. I love the world of art, paintings, sculptures, and carvings. I could definitely see myself making abstract art for someone’s backyard in the future, incorporating elements of water, wood, metal and rock. That would really be pushing my limits. I’d like that.”