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Cooper Reynolds Gross runs a high-end custom furniture-making company formally called Spark & Dowel, but now named after him. Originally a photographer, Cooper started building furniture in his garage 10 years ago.
“Friends really liked the stuff and started asking me to make some for them, and finally about seven years ago I moved into a 1,000 sq. ft. warehouse in North Hollywood,” Cooper said.
Cooper had learned about Industrial Metal Supply while working as a production welder for an exhaust company.
“IMS is well-known in the industry as a distributor that can get just about anything, but that also stocks most commonly used items,” Cooper said.
“I didn’t realize when I first started [my shop] that you don’t have to be a big company to work with IMS,” he said. “So when I finally called the outside sales department, I told my new rep Jim Colley, ‘I don’t need a lot yet, but I will in the future,’ and he always made sure I got a fair price.”
The shop grew steadily and by its third year, Cooper had a team of 13 people working in a 5,000 sq. ft. space.
“We were just cranking stuff out, but I wasn’t particularly happy with what we were doing because they weren’t my designs – it wasn’t stuff that I really loved,” he said.
Downsizing For a Better Fit
“Some of my clients and mentors told me, ‘You need to figure out who you want to be because you’re going to get stuck in that rut,’” Cooper said. “I decided I wanted to go back to building low-volume, custom, one-of-a-kind pieces, so I changed gears and went down to two team members.”
He taught them his way of building furniture, and both are still with him today.
“We tend to take on very challenging, very complex pieces for clients that can afford anything they want,” Cooper said. “So the fact that they’re choosing to buy something that I designed and we built in-house is special.”
Cooper has become known in the interior design industry for his work in brass, steel and wood, done in monumental sizes – for example an 8-ft. desk or a 25-ft. dining table. He also creates large architectural pieces including handrails and entry gates.
“I try to work on architecturally significant projects with interior designers whose taste matches mine,” he said. “If designers approach me with something that is not in my wheelhouse, taste-wise, I’ve learned not to do those, because I won’t be happy with it, and at the end of the day it’s kind of a reflection of me.”
Clientele Around the World
The business has grown to the point where it has contracted to build indoor-outdoor dining tables for a series of restaurants opening around the world. The tables feature a solid brass surround with a spun steel base and aged marble table top.
“The approvals process is very intense, with a lot of details being reviewed, and it’s great knowing that any time I need more material I can call IMS,” he said. “Even though I may only need enough for a prototype, my rep knows I have a huge order for a massive production run on hold, so I never feel taken advantage of when I put in a small order.”
Generally speaking, Cooper found that when he orders something from IMS, he has it the next day, though there are exceptions if there’s laser cutting, water jet, or other custom cutting services involved. He builds a lot of brass railings, for which he orders laser-cut 1/8th inch brass parts used as brackets to be inserted into the brass tube – 100 at a time.
Patinas R Us
“Every metal piece of everything that I make, from the raw material before I fire up the machine, all the way through to the patinas I use, are all from IMS,” he said.
For patinas, Cooper uses Sculpt Nouveau products, especially the brass and bronze rubs. He recently completed a 16 ft. x 7 ft. brass gate, with an accompanying pedestrian gate, made of 1/8th inch solid brass plate welded to an aluminum sub-structure.
“The patina was important because the client was very particular about how he wanted it to age,” Cooper said. “We did a ton of samples before and during the process and they ended up very happy with a combination of two IMS products – the base coat was Sculpt Nouveau Black Magic, and the second round of patina was Antique Brown.”
Cooper’s pieces have become collectors’ items, and each one leaves the shop with the clients’ initials and his signature engraved on them – for example, a large, kidney-shaped leather desk with brass legs boasts a slide-out drawer with his initials carved on a plate inside made from an aluminum billet supplied by IMS.
“It kind of hit me at one point when clients started asking me, “Hey where did you put your signature?” And I said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to start doing that!’”
As a full-service supplier of metal and metalworking tools and accessories, including patinas by Sculpt Nouveau, IMS is proud to showcase unique metal artists/builders in our community, such as Cooper Reynolds Gross.