An Eli Chissick-designed mirror, which will exclusively be available from SwitzerCultCreative in November. (photo from SwitzerCultCreative)
You could say Renee Switzer got her love of the furniture business from her grandfather, who arrived in Canada from Poland in 1920 and opened a second-hand furniture store in Calgary. The tradition continued when her father entered the industry, too, with a company specializing in the manufacture of antique reproductions. Switzer worked in the family business until it was sold in 2010. A year later, she launched SwitzerCultCreative, motivated by a desire to create opportunities for Canadian designers.
“I love the furniture industry and the people involved in it, and I wanted to maintain the contacts I’d developed over the years,” she told the Jewish Independent. “After I moved from Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast in 2006, I discovered there’s a tremendous amount of homegrown talent that’s hidden away and needed to be developed and promoted, so that’s what I decided to do.”
Switzer builds and maintains business relationships between furniture designers, the craftsmen who create those designs and the clients who purchase the finished product. Her focus is modern, luxurious and sustainable 21st-century designs and her emphasis is on knowing every detail about the products she represents. That includes how pieces are made and finished, what materials are used, who creates and builds those pieces and why they are environmentally sustainable.
Among the collections she promotes is the Coupland Collection by Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland, the Baumhaus Collection by Jess and Nicolas Meyer, the Barter Collection from Kenneth Torrance and the AHRPA Collection created by Umberto Asnago, an Italian furniture designer.
More recently, Switzer was also determined to find an Israeli designer whose work would fit in with the collections she already promotes. “I really believed it was important to try and do something to counteract all the anti-Israel boycotts going on right now, boycotts that are nonsense,” the Roberts Creek resident said.
In an effort to find the right fit, Switzer began reaching out to organizations in Israel, making inquiries about different designers. When she saw the work of Eli Chissick, its high quality and focus on sustainability resonated with her immediately. “His pieces are unique and made primarily from salvaged woods,” she said of the 30-something award-winning designer. “He’s interested in sustainability and, though it’s hard to reduce the carbon footprint of a designer based in Tel Aviv, we are able to do that by making his pieces in North America.”
Chissick is a designer, artist and carpenter who is passionate about environmental sustainability. His latest series of recycled art is called “Wood-Con-Fusion” and each piece within the series began its life as an off-cut on the floor of a carpentry studio, destined for the scrap heap. “Eli is able to see the potential in the most unassuming pieces of fibreboard, veneer and Formica, and nothing goes to waste as he collects and sorts these pieces and presses them into sheets, which he uses to create unique pieces of furniture,” Switzer explained.
Two of Chissick’s designs are presently being manufactured in Vancouver and will be ready in November, licensed exclusively to SwitzerCultCreative. His five-foot mirror will sell for $2,800 and Switzer is confident it will quickly find a home.
Her buyers are primarily interior designers and architects for residential and hospitality projects all over North America through sales representatives with whom she has exclusive relationships and who believe in the products she represents. With no physical showroom in Vancouver, most of Switzer’s pieces are exhibited on her website, switzercultcreative.com. Her company also sponsors an annual design competition for students, where the winner has their design built and marketed for a year by SwitzerCultCreative. “Our aim is to promote unknown talent by providing a launching point for new designers to build their own brands,” said Switzer.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.