Get Back, Inc. Reworks The Elegance Of The Industrial Age
Adjustable dining table.
By CB Wismar
The Industrial Age has returned to Kent, Conn. in the newly opened Get Back, Inc. gallery in the Kent Barns. Tim Byrne, the founder and designer, melds the relics of old industry with the post-industrial world of art and design. At Get Back, the remains of the industrial past become reborn as dramatic furniture and engaging pieces of art.
“We make new art on old ground,” cites Byrne who emigrated with his family from Ireland and worked his way from carpenter to antique dealer to furniture designer and fabricator. “I started by collecting mid-century furniture and selling it in New York flea markets. I realized I had a decent eye for good design.”
On those visits, some items continued to capture his attention. They were far from the mid-century grace of pieces by Aalto and Saarinen and Eames. The objects of his fascination were cast iron industrial forms, derelict reminders of the age of heavy machinery and forged iron fittings.
Propeller blade sculpture.
For Byrne, however, these unique bits and pieces were a challenge. “I wondered how I could work with them… redesign them to become heritage pieces of functional art,” he says.
The creative process began. Brushes taken from an old conveyor belt became a framed piece of art. An aluminum blade from a pulp paper mill was polished and set upright to be soaring sculpture in the fashion of Brancusi. A geared frame from a lumber mill became the base of a glass-topped dining table.
Byrne started offering his re-imagining of industrial forms and fittings 20 years ago. At first, he’d travel all over the country to industrial auctions, looking for pieces that could be carefully taken apart, cleaned and rebuilt into something fresh and engaging. As the word spread both nationally and internationally, “pickers” started coming to Byrne, bringing the best of the past to become the art of the future.
(Not all of the pieces are immediately reworked, however. His inventory has been used to provide film-industry clients with authentic and period-accurate set designs, as seen in “Gotham,” “The Irishman,” “Boardwalk Empire” and others.)
Get Back, Inc. celebrates the enduring marriage of form and function that characterized 19th- and 20th-century American industry. It was “the Machine Age,” when industrial designers carefully created pieces that would maximize strength and durability while minimizing waste. Curves, tapers and balance were all factored into the creation of pieces that would function while minimizing the need for too much costly iron and steel.
When the simple elegance reminiscent of the “Hanging Egg Chair,” introduced in 1959 by designers Nanna and Jorgen Ditzel, is supported from the imposing strength of the “Portable Crane from D. Round & Son, Cleveland, Ohio,” patented in 1904, Mid-Century meets the Machine Age and magic ensues.
There is a certain eclectic poetry about the collection gathered in Get Back, Inc.’s Kent showroom. A second presence for Tim Byrne, his base of operations will continue to be his workshop, warehouse and showroom in Oakville, Conn. Aaron Fagan, a poet in his own right, will manage the Kent showroom.
“We think Kent will be a fine place for us,” says Byrne from the egg chair. “This area has a grand tradition of iron mining and blast furnaces. We’re bringing the iron back… to live in a more genteel age.”
Get Back, Inc.
7 Fulling Lane in the Kent Barns, Kent, CT
Open until 5 p.m. Wednesday – Friday; until 6 p.m. Saturday & Sunday.