We pull up to an old brush factory in a run-down, once semi-industrial neighborhood of Cincinnati called Brighton, and the sign hangs out front with a big crack running through the middle like some kind of ominous signal. But inside, the scene—a fantastic mess of spooled thread, measuring tape, antique sewing machines and rolls of fabric—is hardly deteriorating. Rosie Kovacs and her longtime boyfriend Hayes Shanesy have turned the 120-year-old factory into a creative laboratory for their collaborative brand, aptly called Brush Factory. She designs and sews clothing on the first floor, and Hayes, who refurbishes vintage motorcycles in a garage-like room off the back, also has a wood shop upstairs, where he started handcrafting design objects (like walnut spinning wheels, bottle stoppers) and furniture when they opened their retail shop in Oakley (about 15 minutes away) and needed more stuff to fill it. “We thought we should open a shop in a place where there are actual living people.”
And, indeed, the store is great–a polished collection of their finished product. But the studio, where they sit across a huge work table sketching a pattern and debating the closures for a new bag design (“How can you finish that so you can’t see the cording?”), their idealistic design vision and simple, high-craft aesthetic come to life. The approach, whether working on an apron wrap-dress or a hand-turned walnut bowl, is all about honoring method—“the way things should be made”–and for that very reason, their work feels like an extension of where its created.
Upstairs, a lot of the furniture is Shaker-inspired, like the bench with a woven seat made from unbleached, cotton twill tape found in an old building across the street with a stamping machine. It was probably used as tie-down strapping for finished goods leaving the factory on big trucks. Hayes, whose dad just retired as the Editor of Popular Woodworking magazine last week, said he learned everything he knows from his dad. “I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher.” And with any luck, his newly retired dad will be joining him in the wood shop shortly, bringing his cabinet-making skills and experience to The Brush Factory floor. “Hopefully, he can help make me a better businessman,” laughs Hayes.
For more photos from the road, go to the Lincoln-Designtripper site!