Industry to Art Form

From where we stand in the Information Age, the Industrial era looks alternately dirty, bulky, and beautiful.

Frederick Klass Jr. appreciates the beauty and reinterprets it for a generation of consumers raised on disposable objects and plastic. In making furnishings and other decorative pieces, Klass incorporates industrial artifacts such as cast-iron machine bases and grinder pedestal bases.

“They usually have some significant age and are from a time in the manufacturing process when people put things together with pride in their work,” says Klass, a Bay City-based craftsman (frederickklassjr.com) who sells in metro Detroit, Ann Arbor, and around the country. “They added architectural detail, even in how they placed the manufacturer name. There’s embossment and filigree work.”

That explains why he named his company Industry to Art Form.

“Industrial is hot now,” Klass says. “It really appeals to the younger generation.” Established and respected antiques dealers — Judy Frankel in Troy, for example — carry industrial pieces that mix pleasantly with various collectible vintages.

“What I sell appeals to a range of people,” Klass says. He deals with New York fashion houses seeking an authentic look for their interiors. But the appeal is broad. “I sell to a cage fighter in Chicago and a super-cool grandma in Columbus,” he says, adding that the youthful audience is his most enthusiastic.

“The young people are fascinated that it’s not plastic,” he says. “They say, ‘Wow, it’s metal,’

“I hear that so many times.”

A former antiques dealer who focused on paintings, prints, lithography, and furniture, Klass is a self-taught furniture refinisher and maker. He says his craft takes what’s already there and alters the perspective.

Just as painters buy the tools of their trade in artist-supply stores, he finds his version of oils and canvas tucked away in small tool shops around the country — businesses that never upgraded to new equipment.

Industrial leftovers are raw ingredients, he says, objects that possess form, shape, and material.


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