Portrait Mirrors Reflect Classic Fashion

TUX and ZOOT, a pair of portrait mirrors, earned the Design Portfolio award for specialty products. The pieces are offered by I.A. Keer - The Art of Furniture in Minneapolis, MN.

By Beverly Dunne

TUX and ZOOT, a pair of portrait mirrors, were inspired by the idea of tailored furniture, says their designer, Ira A. Keer. “I wanted to create spirited dressing mirrors that were as classic as the traditional tuxedo and the retro zoot suit,� he says. The mirrors won the Specialty Products category in this year’s Design Portfolio awards. The art pieces are offered by I.A. Keer - The Art of Furniture in Minneapolis, MN.

TUX (top) and ZOOT are a pair of portrait mirrors inspired by the classic tuxedo and the retro zoot suit. They feature solid maple and purpleheart, plus recut veneers in sapele pommele, brandied peach bird’s-eye and tay. Photography by Peter Lee

“TUX reflects the hallmark of timeless tradition,� Keer says. “Cut with classic proportion and elegant tailoring, this wide-shouldered, narrow-waisted and beautifully buttoned package will easily suit society’s most discerning. The use of dark brown, black and deep reds with brass accents fits the classic dress codes,� he adds.

ZOOT, with its curvilinear design, is more free-spirited. The addition of teal green to the red, white and black woods breaks the mold of formal fashion. While the look is retro, it retains a timeless appeal. ZOOT transcends fads, Keer says.

The design for each piece took nearly 75 hours from thumbnail sketch to prototype. The work is designed to be easy to produce, though in limited edition. Fabrication takes less than 10 hours per mirror. Many frame pieces are interchangeable, and the mirrored glass insets for ZOOT and TUX are the same size. Mirrors measure 36-1/4 inches high, 19-1/2 inches wide and 2-1/2 inches deep.

Designed on AutoCAD, full-scale paper masks were printed and used as cutting templates for a scroll and bandsaw. Each piece was then machine sanded to exact shape and size, and profiled edges were applied using a piloted router. All pieces were carefully hand-sanded, stained and dyed, then finished with hand-rubbed lacquer and fitted into a layered jigsaw puzzle-like composition. The mirrors are engineered without complicated and time-consuming joinery, and instead are simply screwed together from the back.

The wood fabricator on this project was Gene Thompson, Apple Valley, MN. Keer says that all his furniture pieces are fabricated as “work for hire� through a collaboration with select Minnesota craftsmen. The initial design, engineering, detailing, staining and final assembly of furniture works is done by Keer himself.

The mirrors are made from solid maple, purpleheart and veneered multi-ply substrates. TUX and ZOOT are fabricated using recut veneers from Brookside (sapele pommele and brandied peach bird’s-eye) and Ventec (tay).

“I have become enamored with the beautiful textures and color range of recut veneers,� Keer says. “Made from a kindling wood, the stack-laminated veneer layers are arranged, dyed and recut into new veneer sheets which replicate highly figured woods. This real wood product is inherently de-stressed and very stable and honors the environment.�

Dyed solid woods are derived from Van Gogh artist-colored transparent oil paints and ebony stain. Other components include Carolina optical-quality glass mirrors, hand-rubbed lacquer finishes and hand-assembled brass and rubber buttons from the lamp industry.


Name: I.A. Keer - The Art of Furniture, Minneapolis, MN
Year established: 1985
Annual sales 1999: Not available
No. of Employees: 1
Specialty: Design, manufacture and marketing of limited edition art furniture and accessories.
Project Fabricator: Gene Thompson, Apple Valley, MN.

I.A. Keer - The Art of Furniture offers TUX and ZOOT in limited editions of 50 each. Mirrors are signed by the artist, numbered and include a Certificate of Authenticity. Suitable for residential, commercial or corporate interiors, the mirrors retail for $850 each. The pieces, which previously sold through art galleries, are now available direct from the artist. Keer is beginning to market his artful furnishings directly to the public via brochures and his new Web site, www. concentric.net/~iakeer.

I.A. Keer is a practicing architect and furniture design artist. He is employed as a senior interior project architect and custom furniture designer with Ellerbe Becket Minneapolis. Under the signature name of I.A.Keer - The Art of Furniture, he maintains a parallel and blossoming career in the design of studio art furniture.

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