March 27, 2019
Rhode Island’s O&G Studio Puts a Modern Twist on Traditional New England Craft
Founded in 2009 by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) alumni Sara Ossana and Jonathan Glatt, O&G has made a name for itself with its line of heirloom-quality wooden furniture.
While vernacular design can be found in every part of America, New England’s historical craft culture is arguably the most influential. Its woodworking tradition, which ranges from boatbuilding to cabinetmaking, reflects the Yankee virtues of discipline, thrift, and disdain for material excess—the antithesis of modern throwaway culture. Passed down through the centuries, New England furniture making has experienced a revival of late as the next era of craftsmanship emerges.
One of the leaders in this new cohort is Warren, Rhode Island–based O&G Studio. Founded in 2009 by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) alumni Sara Ossana and Jonathan Glatt, O&G has made a name for itself with its line of heirloom-quality wooden furniture. Notable among its offerings is an updated take on the Windsor chair, a traditional 18th-century British design, with its characteristic spindle back and turned-socket legs. Colonial craftsmen produced the utilitarian design in great numbers, making it so ubiquitous that its likeness can be seen in depictions of the Founding Fathers, such as painter Jean Leon Gerome Ferris’s series The Pageant of a Nation. Hand-built in the company’s 20,000-square-foot facility, the O&G versions of Windsors are tasteful modernizations that pair careful, elongated profiles with bold, colorful finishes like hunter green and sky blue. “I look at design as a continued conversation over time,” says Glatt. The pieces are a testament to O&G’s understanding of historical woodworking techniques as well as the studio’s ability to bring new life to a deep-seated vernacular while remaining true to the craft.
Glatt, who is a visiting professor in RISD’s furniture department, recruits talent from the university community and the local boatbuilding industry, often training the new hires through apprenticeships. Manufacturing the simplest chair requires a minimum of seven hours, while the largest and most complex settee requires upwards of 100. Since its 2014 acquisition of Warren Chair Works, a Windsor chair manufacturer founded in 1981, O&G has seen its production capabilities grow to encompass a broader range of wooden seating typologies, lighting, and a line of brass hardware.
The sole creative director since Ossana’s departure this year, Glatt views design as an ever-evolving continuum. As he sees it, societal wants and values are constantly shifting, so being able to translate a cherished tradition into something relevant and desirable should always be the aspiration. Ultimately, though, it’s love for the job that drives Glatt and his team: “Craft, for me and for all of my craftspeople here at O&G, is about joy and pride of work.”
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