Southaven, MS (Nov 2023) – Austin Allen James is an artist, designer, poet, entrepreneur, educator, and father of two. Austin, or AAJ as some refer to him, will be sharing the inside scoop behind both his creative and design processes. Austin’s lifelong passion and love of color, words, phrases, and objects has led to his experimenting with paint and design to become a professional artist, poet, object designer, and trendsetter. Celebrating more than three decades of experience in fine art, Austin has successfully translated his designs into creative compositions. He has taught literature and creative writing since 2012 at Texas Southern University, which is a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in Houston, TX. Austin was also on the committee that created the Professional Writing Concentration at TSU in 2016. A total of five creative classes are included in the concentration.
Austin takes us beyond his life as a creative and shares how his career has evolved to become a nationally recognized artist and object designer, from his first start in the industry to how his design business has shifted since he began collaborating with StyleCraft in 2018 with the launch of their capsule collection of original art. Discover how the success of Austin’s collaboration has grown, not only in the number of objects, but in product categories as well, and is now expanded into a fully realized lifestyle collection.
Austin Allen James x StyleCraft Lifestyle Collection first debuted in the spring of 2023, and soon, Austin will celebrate his largest expansion with 125 – 150 designs launching at each of the January 2024 market in Dallas, Atlanta, and Las Vegas. AAJ is inviting market attendees to a special “Storytelling with Austin Allen James: Poetry Reading & Design Inspiration” during the Dallas launch. This special event will be held on Saturday, January 13, 2024, from 4-5 pm in StyleCraft’s Dallas Showroom at the World Trade Center Space 608 will feature a “Meet & Greet” and poetry reading from Austin Allen James, who will share several of his published poems, while sharing the design inspiration of “Instinctive Field Verse” behind his lifestyle collection. StyleCraft’s Storytelling event hospitality will include bubbles & lite bites and features Austin’s full product collection. (For buyers who want to experience the Austin Allen James x StyleCraft Lifestyle Collection, click on this link to preview the newest collection in advance of markets.)
Describe your own brand of creativity.
AAJ: “Instinctive Field Verse” is what I call my brand of creativity. Everything within my field of vision, range, scope of perception, and abstract consideration is open to perspective. I freely associate object-to-object. I instinctively allow for the unusual that captures both function and harmonious beauty. I disassemble items within my impression field, and in my mind, I re-arrange the components from one item to another—chair to chair, chair to couch, lamp to chair, console to pouf, and so on. It’s a blast. Does it all make sense? No. Do all the arrangements have potential? Yes.”
What is your favorite part of your creative process?
AAJ: “My favorite part is the mystery behind where the inspiration for my next design will emanate. Will I be driving, sleeping in a hotel, or staring into the sky. Objects inspire objects. Function inspires function.”
Tell us about your collection with StyleCraft.
AAJ: “Celebrating more than three decades of experience in fine art, I am incredibly proud of how we have successfully translated my designs into creative compositions, fine art, and more than 100 designs for esteemed home furnishings manufacturer StyleCraft. The designs spread across categories including furniture, case goods, lighting, accessories, pillows, artwork, mirrors & wall decor. There are surprises ahead for 2024 market participants.”
“The AAJ collection with StyleCraft is an evolution. Currently, the collection has a coastal vibe. Through time and experimentation, the line will evolve from out-of-the-gate practical design to empirical, visionary design and back again. The abstraction helps me find the practical. I will always maintain the intention of beauty, harmony, and function.”
Where do you get your inspiration?
AAJ: “I imagine a concept. I find an idea. I notice an object and discover a new use. Then, Christy Pennington of StyleCraft and myself brainstormed the idea into reality.”
Describe your design style.
AAJ: “My everyday living near the Gulf Coast influences my furniture and art. I capture energy and color in harmonious compositions. I always aim to create art, furniture, and objects that grow more beautiful and precious through time. I am developing my inspirations, impressions, and designs to capture concepts worldwide.”
What made you embrace designing furniture?
AAJ: “I love designing objects. My creative mission in art and furniture design is to continue the tradition of the color field and lyrical abstractionists along with the designers of the 20th century. I intend to contribute to form development through experimentation with shapes, techniques, function, and materials.”
What made you want to evolve your business and get into licensing?
AAJ: “I wanted to create marvelous items for the myriad of individuals from continent to continent. I wish to create magnificence for the many. I desire harmonious design in homes, offices, and common environments. To reach this scale, I needed to partner with an organization that looks to serve and grow in vision and clientele. StyleCraft is perfect! We have fun daily!”
Tell us about your design background.
AAJ: “I have been painting and creating poetry since 1994. I believe that an education in art is an education in composition. Composition transcends the boundaries of one art to another: poetry/visual art/furniture/sculpture/objects/storytelling. Composition is simply the syntactical order in which items are combined. There are millions of compositions. Only some of them feel ‘just right’. To master art is to master composition. The journey continues as long as I have breath.” “I have always had a fascination with object design. When the furniture epiphany struck, I had already been painting, running a gallery, writing poetry, and moving forward for about twenty years. In 2014, I had been showing my art at the Dallas Market for seven years. As I was setting up for a summer market, I was carrying a piece of resin art over my head toward the loading dock. A fellow across the lot asked if I had a chunk of marble over my head. My white resin painting can resemble marble. Those who know me know I was not carrying a marble slab in my twenties, much less in my forties. Boom! The vision hit. If what I had over my head looked like marble, why not incorporate my art into metal-fabricated furniture? Furniture with resin art surfaces began that day in the Dallas Market Center loading dock lot. I didn’t skip a beat. I told the fellow it was art, and I kept walking. I knew that I had a furniture line idea with intention. The most heralded item in the AAJ furniture line is the Ping Pong Diner. The surface is resin art painted to the specifications of the client. The net is fabricated from metal and easily pulled from the table. Many owners of the Ping Pong Diner hang the net on the wall when they use the surface as a table.”“My education includes Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX, Bachelor of Arts in Business with a minor in English and Political Science. University of Dallas, Irving, TX, Master of Business Administration. My Master of Fine Arts was accomplished in Boulder, Colorado, at Naropa University. My MFA allows me the credentials to teach creative writing at Texas Southern University. I thoroughly enjoy teaching at TSU. I am a fortunate human.”“My grandfather was from Starkville, CO. I am, in some way, related to Jesse James. I wanted to get my MFA in Colorado, and Naropa was the perfect choice. I wrote poetry and painted for two years. On the other side of Naropa, I viewed myself as a career artist. I am an academic by nature. I enjoy research and study. I find harmony in producing art from my research, observations, and life experiences.”
How many collections do you now have with StyleCraft?
AAJ: “I began working with the incredible team at StyleCraft in 2018 to develop an original art collaboration. We have expanded our licensed collaboration with our 2023 Spring launch that featured 90+ SKUs including furniture, case goods, lighting, accessories, pillows, artwork, mirrors & wall decor. For January 2024, we will likely have 120-150 SKUs. We are always designing forward.”
Tell us how you bring your designs to life.
AAJ: “Bringing designs to life requires a team. I am fortunate to have one of the best designers in the industry in my corner, Christy Pennington. Christy is my immediate contact and design go-to at StyleCraft. She is talented, experienced, insightful, blunt, and knowledgeable. I love working with Christy. I develop a rough idea, a vision, an impracticality of craziness, and the team led by Christy brings the vision to reality. I am a lucky dreamer.”
What sets your collection at StyleCraft apart?
AAJ: “Intention and Destination set us apart—the intention to create unique, harmonious design pieces. The Destination is infinite. We Design Forward. I see AAJ designs with StyleCraft developing and unfolding through the years, lending inspiration, harmony, and bliss to many generations.”Yudi Kaufman of YKD Associates, Austin Allen James Licensing Agent, commented, “Austin’s designs are the perfect addition to StyleCraft’s collections as it combines a hint of ethereal glam with an urban feel. Austin has been creating new designs feverishly, and I can’t wait to see the new collections launching in January 2024.” About their collaboration, Yudi added, “Austin’s unique artistic vision combined with StyleCraft’s commitment to creating stylish home décor has consistently yielded some of the best home furnishings the industry has seen. This much-anticipated expansion of their collaboration is not to be missed.”
How has your collection grown over the last year?
AAJ: “StyleCraft and I desired some base hit designs from the get-go. I aimed for simple designs with ease of function and beauty. Through time, the designs have developed items that maintain ease of function and the unexpected. Design is a process; It takes time, wild ideas, experimentation, and a dose of pragmatism. As the line continues to develop, I want to incorporate the “never quite seen before” intention, iteration, and consideration that Instinctive Field Verse allows.
Is your AAJ x StyleCraft Lifestyle Collection aimed at the residential market? Or at hospitality as well?
AAJ: “We design for all clients. Our goal is beautiful, harmonious, unique objects that transition from one environment to another. We target the residential, corporate, hospitality, and multi-family markets and your freshman’s dorm room.”
Are you seeing certain collections that are trending more in certain regions?
AAJ: “Yes, different areas of the country are attracted to different forms and aesthetics in the functional items they select. I am proud of what we have created. We have expanded our collaboration into a full lifestyle collection. StyleCraft’s entire team has been absolutely incredible to work with and I am thrilled that they were able to seamlessly deliver my furniture design visions! Through time, the collection will transcend regions, borders, and countries. I am thrilled that our industry is enamored with my designs. We have barely scratched the surface of my intention. I have friends and clients all over the country tell me they love the new collection after seeing the pieces at market.”
Has this collection sold more with retailers or designers?
AAJ: “The collection is sold to both designers and retailers. Many of our design customers own a store and sell the collection to design and retail clients.”StyleCraft’s Rodney Leath also commented, “StyleCraft’s core collection throughout history hasn’t necessarily been designer-driven. However, with the incorporation of exclusive fashion-lifestyle collections like Austin’s, we’re receiving a much higher level of traffic from the designer sector of the industry while still maintaining our character as a more affordable-value-driven supplier.”
Are you still creating your own art and furniture?
AAJ: “Absolutely. I am always creating, painting, writing, and designing. In addition to the fine art I create, I am well-known for creating one-of-a-kind pieces of functional art furniture for the home and interiors. This evolving collection brings me from my hometown of Houston to New Orleans to Sarasota to New York City to San Francisco and other metropolitan cities for custom commissions. My furniture collections consist of coffee tables, side tables, consoles, and cabinets and are available with original Austin Allen James art integrated into each piece.” To learn more and experience Austin’s original work, visit www.austinallenjames.com.
Do you have a best-selling collection or favorite piece from your StyleCraft Lifestyle Collection?
AAJ: “My favorite pieces are dancing in my head as I write. Through the inspiration I refer to as Instinctive Field Verse, I plan to cross boundaries in genres, objects, materials, and functions. My collaboration with StyleCraft will create the unexpected that is harmonious and functional. Not all wheels have been created. Inspiration and One-of-a-Kind design evolve. My poetry will play a role in future object designs. I will speak more of this inspiration and intention at the poetry reading in the Dallas Market Center StyleCraft showroom in January 2024. We move forward with intention and design. The best is always en route.”
Anything exciting to share about upcoming January Markets?
AAJ: “I love the winter markets. They happen in rapid succession. This January I will be at Dallas, Atlanta and Las Vegas for one month! There is always success to be found in three rapid-fire movements from market to market. Much of my inspiration for future objects comes from meeting and talking with clients and hearing how they feel about my lifestyle collections.
“I have a long history and love of the Dallas Market Center. I debuted as Bering & James in 2007 in Dallas with The Mix and In-Detail. Bering & James was the moniker we used to allow us to be many incarnations: gallery, wholesaler, installation services, etc. Since then, I have worked with clients throughout Texas and call Houston my home.”
StyleCraft will feature Austin Allen James x StyleCraft Lifestyle Collection at each of their Winter 2024 Markets. Visit them at Dallas Market on January 11-16, in the World Trade Center, Space 608, at Atlanta Market on January 16-22, in Americas Mart, Bldg 1, Space 11D1 and at Las Vegas Market, on January 28 – February 1, in World Market Center, Bldg A, Space A352.
About STYLECRAFT, known as a leader in design and manufacturing with a history that spans more than five decades in the furniture industry, offers more than 4000 SKUs with product categories that cover lighting, framed wall art, wall décor, mirrors, decorative accessories, and decorative accent furniture, as well as designs for dining, bar, living, occasional, and lounge furniture areas. Open to the trade, the company’s customers consist of retailers, designers, stagers, and hospitality purveyors all across the globe. Headquartered in Southaven, Mississippi, just south of Memphis, with a 400,000 square foot, state-of-the-art distribution facility that serves as office, showroom, and warehouse. StyleCraft exhibits at trade showrooms in six states nationwide, including High Point, North Carolina; Las Vegas, Nevada; Dallas, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; and Tupelo, Mississippi. To learn more and experience their collections visit: Stylecraftonline.com
About Austin Allen James, He is an artist, designer, poet, entrepreneur, educator, and father of two whose lifelong passion for the love of color, words, and phrases led to his experimenting with paint and becoming a professional artist and object designer. Celebrating more than three decades of experience in fine art, Austin has successfully translated his designs into harmonious, treasured compositions.In addition to the inimitable fine art Austin creates, he is also well-known for creating one-of-a-kind pieces of functional art furniture for the home and interiors. His furniture collections consist of coffee tables, side tables, consoles, dining tables, and cabinets, available with original Austin Allen James art integrated into each piece. Read more about his current and past collaborations here.Austin shares, “My mission in art is to continue the tradition of the color field and lyrical abstractionist painters and designers of the 20th century and contribute to the development of form through experimentation with techniques and materials.” To learn more and experience Austin’s work, visit www.austinallenjames.com.