Story by Sara E Teller
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise
THE RICHARD GAGE DESIGN STUDIO WAS ESTABLISHED TO OFFER a wide variety of art services to the City of Hazel Park and the community at large, including to “fabricate difficult or unique decorative architectural elements and sculpture with hand-craftsmanship using contemporary and historic techniques,” according to owner Richard Gage. “We work with architects, municipalities, developers, planners, designers and homeowners.”
Gage lives in Royal Oak, and has been local to the area for more than 50 years. The Richard Gage Design Studio has been in business since the late ‘90s. “I came to Hazel Park in 2000 because the City was eager to embrace new business and was interested in working with creative small business addressing their needs, wants, and desires,” Richard explained. He felt this was the perfect opportunity to show the City what he was made of. “Although involved in the creative process all my life, it wasn’t until the early ‘90s that I went full-time into the decorative arts.”
“Over the years, I have helped other artists and builders by offering access to my larger equipment, space and expertise,” Richard said, citing several artists who have taken advantage of what the Design Studio has to offer, including Mark Belchenco Studio, Lamia Metal and Alex Drew. Richard also mentioned that the Henry Ford Estate in Dearborn sought out his artistry for historical repair and replacement of the copper roof on their Rose Garden Tea House as well as iron work in the main house.
Gage, who was a technical consultant for Kresge’s community artist program, believes his architectural work has been significantly influenced by “historic standards, classic proportions and timeless craftsmanship…I admire the clean lines of George Nelson as well as the organic simplicity of George Nakashima,” he explained, adding, “My sculpture is heavily influenced by the smallest parts of nature and typically executed on a grand scale, such as Petal Parts in John R’s Art Park and Winter Wheat in David’s Gold Medal Sports.”
The Design Studio is well-versed in creating a wide range of artwork, featuring varying techniques and for all different purposes. Even when presented with a concept that includes more a “loose or random” appearance – basically some-thing not necessarily well-defined – Gage and his team can produce it. “I’ve produced gates and railings in modern Frank Lloyd Wright style as well as in the decorative Victorian Era,” he said. “I’ve recently been exploring homages to experimental art such as The Ant Farm by Paul Clark, and works produced by Piero Manzoni and Andy Warhol.”
Because of their “wide variety of skills, (the team does) simple functional things mostly for homeowners but builders, too,” said Richard. Some examples of more ‘everyday’ tasks his team has taken on include bending a piece of aluminum trim that is no longer available, repairing vintage brass toilet levers, restoring a stainless pot for canning and fixing some garden tools. “We (fixed the tools) for an elderly local, and got flowers for the rest of the summer!”
The design team keeps very busy throughout the year and Richard takes pride in the ability to be presented with new challenges every day. “Every day I have some new challenge to resolve. Today I am working on how to best wire a sign for a Detroit business. Yesterday, it was how to make a jig to accurately cut ceramic tile for a miter corner.”
Gage established The Hazel Park Arts Council along with a few other locals, including Jan Parisi, Ed Klobucher, and Jeff Shelly, and became the Council’s Treasurer. The Arts Council, according to its site, “is committed to furthering artistic and cultural initiatives…through a number of avenues, including advo-cating local artistic initiatives…collaborating with the Hazel Park Arts Fair.” He also worked on The Art Park on John R as well as the first art fair and the Phoenix Mural. “Working on the Arts Council is great because of the people –smart people offer smart discussions. Amy Aubry and Allissa Sullivan, and all our members are invested in Hazel Park’s future and that shows during our meetings,” Gage said.
The Design Studio’s growth has been made possible over the years by its reputation within the community. “My business growth is solely attributed to word of mouth and some public sculptures, such as Pollen Release in Royal Oak and Bent Brush in Ferndale,” Gage explained. “I also have signs with my contact information.”
He hopes community patrons will appreciate all art that is displayed in and around town and always appreciates feedback related to his team’s work. “Add comments through Facebook about our efforts,” he mentions as way to express appreciation. “Stop by the Farmers’ Market for our kids’ booth and buy a t-shirt, donate money there or at the City.” The studio is private, but anyone is welcome to stop by and take a look around or inquire about a project. Gage can be contacted at 248.541.7730.