sculpture appears like crumpled paper.

For Multidisciplinary Designer Bradley Bowers, Design is Boundless

With a fiercely independent art and design practice, Bradley Bowers sets an example for a more interdisciplinary design industry.

“For me, it’s never been about blurring boundaries since I don’t think there are any boundaries to blur,” says Bradley L Bowers. “In design, you can create graphic layouts, trend forecasts, explore the emotive qualities of certain colors, play with material, explore new ways of making intricate things, and how people interact with their surroundings.”

To simply call the New Orleans-based artist and designer a polymath would do little to describe the full scope of his practice. For him, design is holistic, a medium that can inherently encompass all other creative and intellectual pursuits. From Bowers’s debut at the Salone del Mobile’s young talent exhibition SaloneSatilite in 2012—the experience of which he recounted for Metropolis—to his recent success at last December’s Design Miami/, the Savannah College of Art graduate has spent the past decade forging an illustrious career without being typecast or beholden to passing fads. And yet the designer’s style can be codified as organically expressive and geometrically contained. His aesthetic is playful, colorful, engaging, experimental, and formally irreverent.

Headshot of Bradley Bowers
Bradley L Bowers

Whether imagining a strategy, textile, chair, adornment, or interior, he applies the same no-holds-barred approach, finding bespoke solutions without being held back by disciplinary hierarchies. “I draw inspiration from everything, including philosophy, anthropology, science fiction, and cooking,” he adds. “I honestly look at anything as a new type of lens.”

This agility has allowed him to stay afloat and remain independent in an industry that hasn’t always been forthcoming with stable jobs or opportunities. He doesn’t focus on specific mediums but is instead driven by concepts, client briefs, and personal fascinations. Bowers tries to learn just enough from the craftspeople he encounters to fashion his own interpretations. In doing so, he avoids the pitfalls of cultural appropriation. Zapotec is a series of carpets that the designer conceived using age-old Oaxacan weaving techniques. Rather than reconstitute the traditional motifs, he created parametric patterns that reflect a similar yet entirely new type of composition. 

An image of a large vase sitting on a parquet wood floor in a gallery
Cala on view at Emma Scully Gallery’s 2021 Cast Iron show. Courtesy the artist.

Combining the latest virtual and digital innovations with re-tooled craft traditions, Bowers continuously develops fresh concepts while also riffing on function. Created for Emma Scully Gallery’s inaugural Cast Iron exhibition last fall, Cala is a planter cast in iron using 3D-printed molds. And Moire is a collection of optical illusion wallcoverings the designer conceived using digitally generated algorithms. He aimed to evoke different interior moods by calibrating various motifs and harnessing the power of color. 

Halo is a series of crumpled cotton paper lanterns that garnered Bowers a best in show accolade at Design Miami/ 2021. Presented by gallery The Future Perfect, the various iterations harken back to the designer’s early material experimentations but are ultimately studies of light and shadow. 

“Craft isn’t dead but what craftspeople traditionally produce isn’t in demand anymore,” Bowers concludes. “Long-held traditions honed over the centuries are being erased. If we can learn their languages, we can also think of a new way to express them. Technology is one avenue. It isn’t just CNC milling, laser cutting, or 3D printing but also Whatsapp, a tool that can provide resources to isolated communities that would otherwise sit in solitude and fade away.” The designer has formalized this socially- and culturally-responsible methodology in a manner unlike any of his contemporaries. 

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