Jeremy Kamiya walks around the bright, open exhibition space and points to a striped entryway table with spindly legs and a smooth, buttery top. He notes where the joints of the piece meet, the corners flush, not a single screw in sight.
“In the old days they would hide the joinery,” he says as he holds the lightweight tiger-maple table upside down. “But it’s cool cause you can see that someone made it.”
Rather than using hardware to put together his pieces, Kamiya says he prefers his method of sliding perfectly complementary parts together, like pieces in a puzzle, and gluing them into place. The result makes his pieces look like single, continuous pieces of wood, like sculptures carved out of marble. Actually, Kamiya says, each piece is made from a single tree but that the components are fitted together like Legos.
“The leg is constructed by a square peg and square hole,” he explains.
Behind the table, three more similar designs stand in a row, in darker wood. Next to those, smaller, circular side tables create a boundary between his pieces and another designer’s. The showstopper is a warm, Mid-century Modern-inspired coffee table with a floating shelf underneath.
The pieces are part of Kamiya’s upcoming exhibition as part of High Point’s furniture market and is housed at Plant Seven, a newly opened textile factory-turned-creative makerspace downtown.
The market opens in early April and it’s Kamiya’s third time showing at the international event that draws thousands of buyers to the area twice each year.
“We wanted to activate creative juices,” says Tim Branscome, the CEO of Plant Seven. “We are particularly focused on younger generations coming into the industry.”
And while Kamiya is in his early forties, he’s one of the artists that Branscome says is revitalizing furniture making in High Point.
“We formed as a focused and affordable option for makers and local artisans to access the High Point furniture market,” Branscome explains. “We were looking at ways to create a collaborative workspace.”
Kamiya is part of the Mill Collective, a branch of Plant Seven that acts as a coworking space as well as an exhibition space for furniture makers. Until last year, he was in the business of importing and selling furniture, not making it. He owned and operated Kamiya Furniture Gallery out of Durham for about three years, importing furniture from countries like Indonesia, where his wife is from.
“People would say, ‘This is beautiful, did you make this?’” says Kamiya. “And I got tired of saying no.”
Building on his background in graphic design and photography, Kamiya began watching YouTube videos on furniture-making to start. From there, he began deconstructing the old pieces of imported furniture he had and using them to actualize his own designs.
“I just thought, ‘I should try to do this,’” he says. “‘I could probably do this.’”
In 2015, he made his first piece, a side table, for his wife, Irene.
Now, he’s pursuing a full-time career in furniture. He’s moving to High Point with his family to be a part of the city’s deeply rooted furniture-making tradition. The home he’s moving into formerly belonged to a man who worked at the textile building that houses Plant Seven. He looks forward to converting the garage into his new workspace.
“It just dawned on me that my best chance of making a run at making furniture would be with the Mill Collective and with this showroom,” Kamiya says.
So far, he says he’s made about 40 pieces to date and sold half of them.
“I make for myself in a way,” he says. “I make what I like.”
Growing up half-Japanese, Kamiya says he’s inspired by the aesthetic of Asian and Japanese buildings. He notes the minimalist approach that melds with the style of old-school temples. He mentions that a lot of Asian furniture designs omit the use of fasteners like he does.
“If you want something to be valued, you have to develop a brand,” he says. “That is my trademark. I hate to admit to that commercial aspect but that’s how it is. I like the rarity of it.”
And his unique designs are what caught the eyes of Branscome and his partner Luciana Mikos, Plant Seven’s operations manager and co-founder of the Mill Collective.
“We brought him on board because he has a unique perspective of woodworkers,” Branscome says. “We want to stand in front of the world and say, ‘Look at what we’ve done here in North Carolina. We’ve got creativity; we’ve got innovation.’ We’re trying to create a new perspective for the market and the state in general, and Jeremy is the poster child for that.”
After opening Plant Seven in April 2018, Branscome and Mikos say they realized that there was a larger community of makers and creatives in the area than they initially realized.
“This particular community was fragmented,” Branscome says. “They weren’t properly networked.”
Now, they hope their efforts help bring more artists like Kamiya back to the area to continue the tradition of making high quality craft furniture.
“Am I wrong to think that we might be at the beginning of a renewal or change in the tide for new appreciation for limited quantity, for passion-inspired furniture?” Kamiya asks. “Where people are putting their time into it? That wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case. It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s something that society is looking for.”
Find out more about Jeremy’s Kamiya’s furniture at kamiyafurniture.com. Learn more about Plant Seven and the furniture market at plantseven.com.