Brad Golden – A Midas touch of Mindfulness

Brad Golden – A Midas touch of Mindfulness

By Arden de Raaij

Brad Golden (1983) is an artist, designer, traveller, surfer, philosopher and most of all, a thoughtful human being with a movie star name. He operates out of Long Beach, California where for the past few years he’s been creating magnificent sculptures that very much reflect the calm of the man himself. Although our encounters have always been brief, it’s been such a pleasure following Brad on his literal journeys across the world and his introspective journey towards new creation. This is why it’s my absolute honour to present you with this interview with Mr Brad Golden!

Your recent ‘open studio’ day looked like a lovely event, congratulations! How did it feel to open up your place of work and the work itself to all of the senses?

Thank you! I doubled down on making more work during the pandemic and coming out of it I wanted to share it with people. The gallery angle seemed like it would take some time so I decided to throw a little party and open the doors to my studio so people could engage with the work. Everything that I have made is meant to be experienced in person.

The Ball and Two Sticks table

I’ve only been able to see your works in pictures but it’s clear that they’re about more than being aesthetically pleasing or utilitarian. What does your creative process look like and how do you ensure that the final product is not just a pretty object or a tool, but something for the mind/touch/nose as well?

Most of my process is based around a feeling and I try to connect with people through whatever I am creating. For example, I like to read before I go to bed at night and I found myself shuffling through a stack of books battling indecision. The process of sleep should be calming and I wanted to remove this unpleasant experience near my bedside so I built the One At A Time table that can only hold one book. I have been finishing books and sleeping great ever since! The upside of this process is I can get lucky with my raw skillset the first time I make something but I usually struggle to duplicate a piece as the feelings are fleeting.

Two of the recurring themes I see in your works and your captions are a connection to nature and mindfulness. In what way do you try to bring these themes into your objects, and how do the objects represent your themes?

It means a lot that you have pulled those two themes out of my work. Thank you. Both mindfulness and nature are important to me to find balance in the connected world we find ourselves in today. I am obviously not anti-technology but I do think it’s important to find a balance. I feel like art and design can explore this balance, especially in our homes where we spend much time of our time these days. Regardless of your social status and preferences, there is some note of nature that will connect with you to bring you back to the present moment. My dream is to bring some of nature’s beautiful music back to you in some way.

As you’re an avid surfer, the pictures of you shaping and shaving wooden pieces are reminiscent of shaping boards. Do you see any relation between your love for surfing and the pieces you create?

I love surfing so much. My good friend Martin Diaz with Metric Surfboards shaped my board. I am in awe of his process. I have listened to good shapers talk about their process and there seems to be a theme of empathy to how a person connects to the water with the board they are shaping. I see a lot of parallels in what I create to the art of shaping a board.

You carried a rock halfway across the globe and carry it around in your pocket on a regular basis. You get lost staring at rocks when you’re out in nature. What is it about rocks that captivates you?

I highly recommend everyone trying this out. Go to the local beach, mountain, outdoor area and go rock hunting for one that can fit in the palm of your hand. There are so many rocks out there but inevitably there will be one that calls to you. Pick it up and hold onto it. That’s your rock. There is beauty all around us but rocks are this tangible object we can hold in our hands and carry with us. Beauty is a mirror of ourselves and we all are weird people finding different intricacies beautiful to only us. The rocks are a gateway of sorts to remind us of the beauty we hold within ourselves. I don’t think we have enough time to even get into the energy of them as well. Hahaha Next time!

You used to work for Herman Miller, a company well known for comfy, expensive desk chairs. Do you bring any of the knowledge or lessons you’ve learned out there into your current work?

Herman Miller was a great company to work for and opened my eyes to a world of design I had never seen before. There is so much consideration in all of the touchpoints of this company both customer-facing and internally. There is an empathetic sort of play Herman Miller shares that reminds me to create great work but don’t take it too seriously. I try to hold onto that lesson from my years with them.

Photo by Grant Puckett

A few years ago you decided to leave the sales world behind and focus on following a new path. Looking back, was it a difficult decision and what would you’ve liked to know back then what you know now?

The decision for me was pretty easy. There was a pattern happening in my life that continued to repeat itself and I found myself unhappy. I could see that my career was congruent with who I was which played a big role in that unhappiness. The skills I acquired during that time are still with me today. I think I would just remind myself to trust myself even when I fail. Whether I am leaping or taking baby steps the answer is in me.

…every day is an opportunity to learn [and] while travelling provides us with many lessons I am also starting to really appreciate the lessons of staying put.

As a well-travelled man and a known wanderer who’s always planning his next trip, not being able to travel as much must have been quite a change of pace. How has being grounded in Long Beach for a while been treating you?

Long Beach is an incredible city and it’s been nice to establish my home here. I am biased but Long Beach has some of the best food in all of Los Angeles. There is just a great mix of people and cultures here that come together always providing a vibrant experience whenever I step out my door.

In a past interview, you said “Travel is our greatest teacher”. Do you feel like you’ve learned less in the past 18 months or are the travels just different?

Travel is kind of like when you first peel an orange. Your senses are awakened by the smell and you get a little juice on your hand. There’s this immediate feedback from the orange. Being at home I would relate to mindfully eating that orange. One slice at a time and going slow. There is so much more depth than that sweet and sour vibe you get hit with right away. Haha What I am trying to say is that every day is an opportunity to learn [and] while travelling provides us with many lessons I am also starting to really appreciate the lessons of staying put. Not that one is better than the other but I try to be open wherever I am in life.

Brad standing on a mountaintop in the Himalayas
Travel Life

You mentioned the Eames Case Study House 8 as one of your favourite pieces of architecture. What is your favourite piece of furniture, or a piece that has importance to you?

The Eames Case Study House 8 was one of my first encounters with architecture that was different from where I grew up. Since then I have come to appreciate many other great architects like Aalvar Aalto, Zaha Hadid and Shigeru Ban. The Ball and Two Sticks table I made a couple of years is probably the most important piece of furniture that I will never sell. That table challenged me in a lot of ways that gave me the confidence to continue on this path. It’s incredible to have that reminder in my living room every day.

The Ball and Two Sticks table

I know one of your dreams is to start a guesthouse and be able to host people yourself. Where would you like that place to be and what would you definitely include in the interior? What would you acquire and what would you make yourself?

Yes! It’s still a dream of mine. I have honed it to be more of a creative retreat where people can connect to nature while being comfortable. My vision for it lies in a forest or maybe a mountain forest somewhere with a few acres for people to explore while they are there. A sauna and a fresh stream would be ideal. With all of this being said the home would need to have beautiful natural light with simple materials to not disrupt the creative process. I would want nature to be the inspiration and hopefully, the interiors would provide a nice backdrop for the guest experience. A solid coffee setup is a must and I the touchpoint of a good mug like from Hasami Porcelain. A Noguchi Akari 1n lamp would be nicely paired with a vintage Eames Lounge Chair and a TOGO sofa.

What are you working on at the moment and what can we expect from Brad Golden in the future?

I just finished a Meditation Stool that I am really excited about. I am carving a new sculpture out of cedar from a fallen tree in Los Angeles. There is a collaboration in the very early stages on creating some lighting. The goal is to be able to build that dream retreat and give back to communities that might not have the opportunity to get out of the city to experience some space to think differently. I think if we can find a way to reconnect with nature that could positively influence us in the right direction with our awareness of climate change that we desperately need here in the States.