Local Artist Profiles
Nine profiles of local artists
(page 4 of 9)
Against the Grain
By Paige Pfleger // Photographs by Justin Maconochie
Alan Kaniarz’s studio
In a third-floor studio at the Russell Industrial Center, the sound of saws and the smell of freshly cut wood permeate the space. Here Alan Kaniarz plies his trade. Kaniarz (pronounced Kon-yash) is the founder and master woodworker behind Möbel Link Modern Furniture, a man who can seemingly defy both gravity and logic in his commercial designs. His Zag Zig chair looks fragile, but it can support more than 350 pounds.
Form and function are the obvious takeaways from Kaniarz’s entire collection of sleek, modern furniture, which features wooden lounges and a square table with four chairs that, together, form a wooden cube. Less apparent is his appreciation of a more classic aesthetic, along with his intimate knowledge of a complex city that has always informed his work. Kaniarz has collected myriad original John L. Gaumer hand-wrought light fixtures, which dot the ceiling of his studio and hang in contrast to the custom-made modern pieces below.
Kaniarz, 60, an instructor at the College for Creative Studies and a graduate of Pershing High, remembers with dry wit the grittier side of growing up in Detroit. “[Pershing] was such a tough school,” he says, “the newspaper had an obituary column.”
Kaniarz has watched for decades how Detroit has gone from one of the richest cities in the country to one of its poorest, and he takes that transformation seriously. On one wall of his workshop hangs a piece he calls Key to the City — a shiny, nickel-plated crowbar enshrined in a blue-velvet-lined walnut case.
“We’re all influenced by the things that surround us,” he says, “and I give speech to those things.”
Kaniarz’s work can be found in some of Detroit’s most famous structures, including the Dorothy Turkel house, for which he designed a custom, built-in bed. Unlike his students, Kaniarz never pursued a formal degree. And yet, in the classroom, he expertly shares the kind of knowledge in woodworking, metal, and design that can only come from years of hands-on practice.
His craft, he says, is really just about traveling in the proper direction of the wood’s grain, even though his unique designs go happily against it.
For more information, visit mobellink.com