Jason and Lars Dressler of Brothers Dressler contribute to the Toronto Design Offsite Festival 2013 by showcasing their philosophy of creative reuse and highlight their ability to turn raw material into bespoke handcrafted furniture, objects and lighting.  Mason Journal speaks with Jason and Lars to learn about their exhibit Ash out of Quarantine, how their workshop bridges the gap between designer and maker, and how they emphasis local making with quality craftsmanship and detailing.

Mason Journal: How do you describe your craft/expertise/practice/business?

Jason: We consider Brothers Dressler to be a furniture & lighting design and manufacture studio with an ability to take on custom installations and art pieces. Our studio brings to life the ideas and designs of Lars and I with our small group of craftspeople. We are material based designers, we look for effective ways to use wood, often combined with found objects and waste streams, to create individual pieces, collections and larger scale projects.  We work to create pieces that inspire and give pleasure to those who use them. We aim to bridge the gap between designer and maker, developing each piece with thought put into its story, where the material came from, how it was formed and how it will function.

MJ: Are there any guiding principles, core values, materials or processes that you would define as the foundation to your work?

Jason: Respect for material, process, and craftsmanship extends to all the work we produce. Much consideration is put into the materials that we choose, where they are from, how we can use resources that are considered waste or had other previous uses, as well as their history. The process needs to be rewarding for the maker with efficient use of hand and machine work.  This is combined with craftsmanship and attention to detail to create something that will last generations and fit the function with timeless grace.






MJ: Tell us a little bit about your inspiration or driving concept behind your Ash out of Quarantine project being displayed in the Junction?

Lars:  Ash Out of Quarantine is about bringing awareness to the devastating plight of Toronto’s ash trees in addition to encouraging a return to local making and material sourcing. With close to 860,000 trees to fall victim to Emerald ash borer beetle by 2017 the goal will be to protect as many trees as possible while at the same time focusing on replanting new trees to replace those that have perished. The use of this beautiful material could help facilitate new planting programs in addition to intercepting trees heading most likely to landfill. The future may hold developing localized processing enabling the availability of usable lumber as well as other by-products.

MJ: Brothers Dressler is involved in numerous ways around the Toronto Design Offsite Festival. Can you briefly describe what exhibits and in what capacity you’re taking -part in this year? 

Jason:  For design week we are up to a number of things as part of the Toronto Design Offsite Festival. 2013 marks the 10th year of the Brothers Dressler workshop and we are opening our studio doors to show give insight into our design process and history along with works-in-progress and our production process. We are also exhibiting in the Junction at Articulations where we are continuing our exploration of ash wood and spreading the word about the plight of Toronto’s ash canopy. At Come Up To My Room’s 10th anniversary we’re supplying the cart we originally made for the Stop’s Night Market this past summer for the bar at the opening of the exhibition. We will also have a new version of our Another Time, Another Airport bench, designed for our recent project for NFP Story Planet’s Intergalactic Travel Authority, on display at Creatures Collective on Dundas West as part of DoDesign2013.



MJ: What are your overall goals and objectives as a participant and contributor to the festival?

Jason:  As part of the festival we are, as always, looking to open the public’s eyes to what is happening in Toronto and what creative reuse can lead to. By opening our studio we want to show what is happening on a small scale manufacturing level right in the city. Too many light industrial spaces are falling prey to the condo boom, pushing out artists, designers and makers. We are hoping to promote our own work but even more so we want to contribute to the design community here in Toronto and encourage a return to local making and materials. Our Ash out of Quarantine project is about bringing attention the plight of the Toronto forest canopy and the real threat that invasive species can have on an environment. We hope our Airport bench brings people’s attention to the Intergalactic Travel Authority and the great work that NFP Story Planet is doing for the community and it also shows what creative reuse of discarded materials can yield.

MJ:  What hurdles do you find most restrictive for Canadian designers penetrating the market?  Are there any strengths that allow Canadian designs to be more effectively received?

Jason:  As can be seen with many creative industries Canadians are often slow to show support until something has been recognized abroad. There is definitely a lack of knowledge about what is going on with design in Canada although events like design week are helping to change that. Although it’s been evolving for years, the Canadian design industry just doesn’t have the history and support so many of our European competitors do. Much of Canada’s support goes to the technology and resource industries with less attention to small scale manufacturing. Things have been changing though and more people are looking to support local and Canadian products which increases our collective potential. Our strengths lie in the community of designers which has continued to grow over the past decade. Our focus on responsible material usage and sustainability is blossoming into a unique style with world class products.

MJ:  Have you done much work for clients outside of Canada? If so, have you found your work is received differently on an international level?

Lars:  We have had the pleasure of building many works for clients outside of Canada. Similar to our appreciation of foreign design our foreigncustomers are looking for something that is uniquely Canadian with an appreciation for our use of wood and the natural feel of our work.


MJ:  What can we look forward to seeing from you next?  

Lars: We have a number of things lined up for the future including the continuous exploration of buildingwith ash and further developing our Arc Lamp, Branches system and other lighting. We are working on a restaurant/bar in the East end that will be opening soon as well as a large commission for an exciting local restaurant. Some new work includes investigating the alteration of old antiques and giving them new life and new meaning in our Modern Heirloom furniture series with the help of a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. We will never stop experimenting and exploring creative ways to reuse and produce our unique style of objects.

Thank you to Jason and Lars for the interview.  To learn more about Brothers Dressler, visit their site at

Images courtesy of Brothers Dressler