Flush with alluring objects and equipped with precisely polished points of view, galleries are seemingly custom tailored for the Instagram age. And yet, few galleries seem to have actually cracked the medium’s potential. Let it be known, however: Susan Clark, founder of Radnor Gallery, is not one of those people.
Founded in 2016, Radnor is the result of Clark’s laser-like vision: a curation of beautiful items with purpose. Clark isn’t just a purveyor of eyeful items, however, she’s also their digital world advocate, projecting them into the world via expertly curated social feeds and a series of cutting-edge, cross-medium projects. Up most recently? Outfitting the luxury residences at Midtown’s The Bryant in designs dreamed up exclusively by Radnor-represented artists.
Clark’s deliberately social approach has not only earned Radnor a staggering 12.8k Instagram followers, but has made her a model for what a next generation gallery may look like. An obvious expert in her field, we recently sat down with Clark to ask more about her guiding gallery ethos, her predictions for what’s next in U.S. design, plus her secrets for curating a ‘gram worthy brand both on screen and off.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and the inspiration for Radnor?
As a creative, community is essential. I always want to be surrounded by different perspectives, aesthetics and thought processes. I believe these variations in viewpoint push us to think beyond ourselves and often generate better work because of it. The exchange of ideas and community is also one of the primary reasons I decided to create Radnor.
Dedicated to high quality materials and natural production processes, Radnor seeks out and supports designers who create unique, mindfully-made objects. Radnor’s role is to facilitate and support—acting as consultant, retailer, and manufacturer. Its brand identity is communicated indirectly through curatorial choices, and its value is expressed through the quality and success of the designers it showcases and represents. We believe that being surrounded by well-made objects significantly improves quality of life, and we strive to enable more people to enjoy the texture and depth of handmade products in their homes.
How do you select artists for Radnor?
Radnor Made Designers, Bunn Studio and Adam Rogers, along with Radnor Represented Designers, Julianne Ahn, Workstead, Marie Eklund, OYYO Studio, Loïc Bard, Egg Collective, Pat Kim, PELLE, and Farrah Sit were all sought out as they all carried two key values in their work: a true understanding for the process of making and an understanding of a given material’s value to their core design.
Are there any especially unique ways you’ve come across designers for either the Radnor gallery, or Radnor Made?
Radnor Made has always been at the core vision of Radnor’s plan. Whenever I start planning a project or idea, I immediately start working through it verbally. I love to soundboard ideas in order to bring them into focus. It was in these dialogues with friends and colleagues that both Adam Rogers and Bunn Studio were introduced/ recommended to me. Each source who recommended them had the same sentiment; “They are the perfect fit for the ethos of Radnor and Radnor Made.”
What excites you most about the design being made in the U.S. right now?
It is such a unique time to be a part of American Design. The Studio Design movement currently occurring here brings everyone back into the realm of being a true maker—this is what excites me the most!
We were not given the same opportunities that a traditional European model of design was afforded—the larger companies, picking up designers and launching their work directly out of school, etc. The American Design Community had to learn to craft and create their own visions, invigorating the industrial and craft community here in the U.S. It is an honor to be able to be a part of that movement.
For those looking to bolster the design and makers communities, what would you recommend?
Investing in the designers and the products they create is the best way to support, but understanding what goes into all the work takes education. There are beautiful craft schools all over the U.S. that offer classes: Haystack, Penland, Pilchuck and more. Take a local ceramics class, read more on the history of design, which all begin in the traditions of craft.
Can you tell us more about the Radnor Experiential Showroom at The Bryant residences?
“Material Interiors,” the inaugural installation at The Bryant, is part of an ongoing series of events presented by Radnor that transform the traditional retail experience through seasonal installations. The plan is that each conceptual exhibition/installation presents a puzzle of what we at Radnor need to add to our collection. By working with different designers/co-curators such as Workstead, we begin to see the physical parameters of each space based on the finishes and environment. The installations become our case studies; sculptural work for a gallery condition, residential furnishings for an apartment, contract pieces for a lobby or hotel etc.
Radnor’s current expanded experiential showroom is located in residence 28B of David Chipperfield Architect’s The Bryant, a spacious two-bedroom-with-study that overlooks Bryant Park. Radnor transformed each room of this unique space, curating works for the bedrooms, study, living room, kitchen and baths to create a site-specific arrangement that responds to The Bryant’s existing finishes—most notably its distinct herringbone oak floors, honed terrazzo borders, and wall cladding. Building on a clean and neutral palette, the showroom conjoins design and craftsmanship, bringing together a selection of works that are deeply rooted in natural materials and intuitive forms. The result is a space filled with depth and texture that is at once highly refined and profoundly livable.
What speaks to you about the residential-gallery cross-collaboration?
Though the Internet has begun to challenge the need for a traditional brick and mortar, our clients were the true inspiration behind Radnor’s new direction. We found context and perspective are paramount. Having a truly experiential space, rather the feeling of a sales showroom did more to express the value and livability in the work we represent.
One of the most unique attributes of the Radnor model is our co-curators. Each experiential showroom is done in collaboration with a co-curator, typically our clients. For The Bryant we worked with Workstead, for our 2020 space, we are working with Elizabeth Roberts Architects.
As a gallery, you’re dedicated to natural production processes. Can you tell us a bit more about what that means?
Radnor is dedicated to the art of making. We believe that the connection between traditional craft and design is the best way to drive innovation and design. We work with the Amish and Mennonite community here is the U.S. for all of our woodworking, selecting a manufacturing partnership steeped in decades of tradition through their craft.
Are there any materials that feel especially of the moment, or you think will be gaining more popularity in the coming year?
Great question. Ceramics, stoneware and plaster have been having a really exquisite moment in design right now. They’re such a lovely way to blend the exterior into the interior. My instinct is that cast metal will be a material we will see more of in the coming years.
Also honed in on materiality is your Instagram feed. It spotlights visuals that feel both supremely textural, soothing, and transporting. For those who are interested in seeking out similar feeds with a design bent—especially ones with a materiality focus—do you have any recommendations?
Thank you so much!! Cereal Magazine, Norm Architects, Workstead are some of my favorites.
Any general thoughts about what you love about DECASO so far?
We are quite excited about joining DECASO. It is a platform that feels truly supportive. Since we are New York based, we have been most excited about its reach into other parts of the United States. We hope to continue to grow with them.
Lead image by Matthew Williams