Click here to read what Trace West has in store for its first appearance at the American Craft Council Show.
With destination unknown, a 20-something Andrew Golish packed up his life in four totes, hopped a train from the Midwest and headed west.
He landed in Oregon, and, with a background in the graphics industry, Golish quickly landed a job installing large format graphics, affording him the opportunity to travel along the coast. “I’ve been an artist my whole life, but I’d never experienced anything like the culture and open mindedness of the West Coast,” he says.
“I had images in front of me constantly,” he says. “It was brand new; everything was different and exciting. I was working with big brands with top-notch graphic designers. I got to be in that environment day in and day out. It wasn’t just one thing all the time, every day was different … It was like an explosion of diversity of design.”
Days off found Golish relaxing in the city, sketching architectural tableaux or painting scenes from a vineyard. “This was so different than what I had experienced growing up in a small, Midwestern town, where things were very traditional,” he says.
That experience influenced Golish in innumerable ways, and it also had a hand in his Eden Prairie business’s moniker—Trace West, featuring handmade furniture and home décor, which he launched in 2018. “I wanted the name to reflect something about myself and my experience on the West Coast,” he says. “I wanted it to be more than just a brand or a logo. The name had to be more about learning, exploring and discovering something new.”
“West” is reflective of the values Golish experienced and adopted while living in Oregon; “Trace” was chosen because “it can be defined as discovery through exploration. Together, these words are a constant reminder to me of the values and mindset I gained through my travels and keep with me,” he says.
After he purchased a home in Eden Prairie, Golish then had woodworking space, and it freed him in an important way. “I’d been in the graphics industry on and off for nearly 20 years, and realized I had reached as far as I wanted to go,” he says. “I wasn’t utilizing my ability to create anymore, and I realized that corporate life was just not for me … I wasn’t happy; I wanted to be happy again. The job had a lot of meaningless stress, and while running a business comes with its own stresses, they are all meaningful stresses.”
Golish quit his corporate job in February 2018 and started working with shop equipment (which he had been gifted and needed to be refurbished). Golish spent most of April of that year designing and building his first pieces. He exhibited at his first show, Art-a-Whirl in Minneapolis, in May. “The show went significantly better than I had anticipated,” he says. “I sold nearly every piece of furniture and decor that I brought and was busy with commissions for the next three months.”
That early success might have come as a bit of a surprise. “I’ve been an artist my whole life, but I didn’t start focusing on wood primarily until this year. My only formal training, per se, was working for two contractors when I was out West doing everything from demolition to finish work … The projects I was involved with included high end, custom home remodels … Nobody ever specifically taught me the art of furniture. It was something I just picked up on … It was basically ‘here’s a saw, figure it out.’”
Trace West offers coffee tables, end tables, consoles, benches and kitchen islands. Golish even transforms cut off/drop pieces into charcuterie boards, serving trays and geometric shapes, all the way down to coasters.
Geometric items have their own space on the Trace West website. “I don’t think it’s an essential part of the vibe of the brand; however, I do believe that the clean lines and simplicity of geometric shapes allows me to showcase other elements of each piece, like the attention to detail, the natural beauty of the wood and the mirror-like smooth finish of each furniture piece,” Golish says. “In contrast, I use very organic shapes for my charcuterie boards; however, they are each made from a single, solid piece of wood, and the shape is, in part, determined by the grain and pattern of the wood. They also have a sense of simplicity.”
Chalk and milk paints have had a firm hold on the refurbished furniture market, but that grip might be slipping. “Whenever possible, I prefer to showcase the natural grain and color of the wood that I use and am very selective about what boards I choose for a given furniture piece and how they flow together,” Golish says.
Selecting the right boards and layout for a piece is the most challenging part of any project, Golish says. “I work with a variety of hardwoods, but mostly domestic,” he says, noting materials include walnut and maple, for example. (He also works with a variety of imports, including ribbon stripe mahogany.)
With chosen materials in hand, Golish employs traditional building techniques—with a twist. “Instead of hiding joinery, I like to show it,” he explains. “I believe in tried and true techniques, like dovetail joinery and spline work—anything that I know is going to hold up. Whenever possible, I like to showcase the beauty of these traditional techniques.” He avoids using nails and screws, even in the main structures of his furniture. (Golish only uses them to attach hardware, like metal legs or handles.)
Custom work is available. “Clients will see something they really like at a show that has already been sold, or they might want the size to be altered for their needs,” Golish says. “Also, I have had designers bring me ideas for their clients, and I have assisted in the design process through to the finished project. The goal is to eventually have a storefront and plenty of inventories to choose from.”
There are plenty of other craftsmen/designers in the Twin Cities, but Golic’s work has a vibe of its own. “My pieces are clean, contemporary and unique,” he says. “I use solid hardwood throughout, and all my pieces are bench made … I am dedicated to achieving a very high level of craftsmanship. I want my designs to feel new and different.”
Surprisingly, it only takes Golish a few minutes to come up with a design idea. “But those few minutes are so rare—snuck in between constructing projects and managing the business that, when I generate new ideas, that’s when it truly feels like mine,” he says. “At the end of the day, I think it’s what people feel about my work—not what I feel—that sets it apart. It’s more like art.”
Art and the work of others inspire Golish in developing his own imprint. “On a recent visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, I saw a couple of Frank Lloyd Wright’s furniture pieces and was fascinated by how advanced his designs were for his time,” he says. “To me, that’s inspiring. And I like to pull that same feel into my own work. He was a pioneer, and I’d like to be a pioneer of my time.”
Golish believes he’s on his way.
“I feel like I’m making my mark,” he says. “I feel like I finally found a way to inspire and feel I’m doing my part of contributing to the world. People enjoy what I do. And to me, when someone really, truly appreciates a piece of my work, it is truly rewarding.”