Hannah Vaughan

By   |  Portrait by Gilles Uzan  |     |  Makers

Thanks to Hannah Vaughan’s vocation as a maker of chairs using unlikely materials—massive logs, rusted and junkyard metal, concrete—she has a very even temper. “I get all my aggression out crushing large pieces of metal and chainsawing things,” she says. “I’ve always been drawn to the raw energy of human industriousness, the ways we try to build and shape and construct the world.”

Growing up in Los Angeles gave Vaughan “a natural affinity for concrete, half-constructed buildings with orange fencing, rebar,” she says. “Salvage yards are some of my favorite places. The raw material is often what inspires. It’s potential energy I can pump into a rough-and-ready prototype.”

Vaughan grew up with a bookbinder mother and sculptor father, learned welding at 12, picked up pattern-making and sewing working in a costume shop at Oberlin College, and started making furniture in Chicago; while earning an MFA in 3D design at Cranbrook Academy of Art, she began prowling Detroit junkyards for materials. “They have amazing miles and miles of cars,” she says. “They don’t help you. You bring your own metal snips.”

This summer Vaughan was set to teach in the iron studio at Penland School of Craft and present new crushed and chainsaw works at the Architectural Digest Design Show, but lost both opportunities due to the pandemic. “Those big architectural pieces are my favorite,” she says. “On commissions, there’s a constant tension—you have that first exciting kernel of an idea and then try to keep the form raw and exciting, while also creating something functional.”

But the Covid-19 quarantine’s silver lining is people learning to make things themselves, and Vaughan’s designed a product for that: a Shaker chair kit. “It comes wrapped in the rope you’ll use to make the seat with,” she says. “It’s a Shaker aesthetic, with that sensibility of going hands-on.”

At home in Newburgh, where Vaughan normally works out of Atlas Studios, she’s soldiering onward, sharing the chainsaw and welder with her sculptor boyfriend. “Our pandemic prep may have been a little different,” she admits. “Got the canned goods, got the hand sanitizer, now where do we get a good supply of large trees?”


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