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Making a Scene: Fargo artist, MSUM grad trades drawing for furniture making

Brandon LaPlante sits in the chair he designed for an exhibit at the Plains Art Museum. John Lamb / The Forum

FARGO – Earlier this year Brandon LaPlante put down his drawing pencils and picked up a carpenter’s pencil. Now the Fargo artist is making his mark on timbers instead of paper.

“This turns art into function,” the 30-year-old explains at the DIY Wood Studio in Fargo.

LaPlante, who has been working with wood for years, graduated in 2007 from Minnesota State University Moorhead’s art department with an emphasis on drawing.

After years of trying to make a living as a portrait artist (his most visible work remains the koi mural at the Aquarium in Fargo), he took a job this spring renovating the first floor of the Fargo Startup house, a live-in entrepreneurial incubator. The finished product featured his hand-crafted coffee tables made of glass and large wooden utility spools.

“More people see something of value more in the furniture than in the portrait,” he says.

His work was noticed by artist Heather Zinger who asked him to create a couple of chairs for the “Living as Form” show at the Plains Art Museum.

“I’ve never built a chair in my life. That terrified me. They have to be built just right. Desks do not have to be comfortable,” LaPlante says, gesturing to a wood slab and glass reception desk he’s working on for a client.

LaPlante made the chairs of three notched Ash slabs which slide into each other with tension holding it all together.

“I don’t like nuts or bolts. I like building with the cuts I make,” LaPlante explains. “I got really into the idea of putting chunks of wood together to make a chair. It’s a perfect allegory for how a community is built, different groups coming together.”

LaPlante’s work is heavily influenced by his philosophies on materialism and minimalism.

A display tower built for the non-profit Plants for Patients features two parallel upright boards with eight slim glass sheets extending to either side to hold the planters.

“You never see the shelves. Only see the planters,” he says. “I want to build furniture that allows people to concentrate on why they own things. I hate putting things behind doors, that way you never have to consider what you own … I hope the things I make add enough value to people’s lives, that they get rid of some of their (stuff).”

That belief is reflected in his company, Link and Timber’s motto: “elevating value through minimalism.”

“Everything I build is art,” He explains. “It’s not just a chair or a desk or a shelving unit. It’s 100 percent original design, unique, hand-crafted, functional art. It’s pretty much a piece of my creativity, a piece of me.”