#089 / 2008

IZM: Edmonton

Similarities in backgrounds and some serendipity led to Jerad Mack and Shane Pawluk forming IZM to design and produce contemporary furniture in Edmonton. Both had entered the non-woodworking trades after graduating high school, then gravitated toward furniture production. Mack was mentored by Ron Genge, a master furniture maker, and Pawluk became a convert when working for Northern Touch, a manufacturer of health care furniture.

Both come from design-conscious supportive and artistic families who, coincidentally, each owned the same contemporary "Scandinavian" coffee table. Eventually, the two business-partners-to-be "ran into each other through friends of friends" in the diverse Edmonton design scene that includes IDEA (Industrial Designers of Edmonton Association), MADE (Media Art & Design Exposed), THAW/FROST annual furniture exhibits, the Works Art and Design Festival and an annual street furniture design competition.


3 Hi / 4 Lo dressers

And both Mack and Pawluk eschewed the option of formal design education - despite having on their doorstep a furniture course offered by the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and the industrial design program at the University of Alberta. Explaining their mutual decision to furniturelink, Mack said, "We were at the point where we could fly into this [venture] and try to make money, or go to school for four years - and who knows what [would] happen after that?"

Choosing the present over the future, in 2004 they opened their northwest Edmonton workshop to design and produce furniture and used the savings in school fees to help finance their early mistakes. And in 2004, IZM made its first sale - a coffee table, coincidentally - to Inspired Home Interiors, an Edmonton-based furniture retailer. "Maybe we got lucky, but we're still here," Mack adds.

In explanation of the minimalist three-letter moniker they chose for the business, Pawluk said, "We didn't want to pigeon-hole ourselves with a 'name,' which is why it is just IZM - nice, clean and simple."


IZM Edmonton showroom

When IZM added a 110-square-metre showroom in 2007 (above) to the workshop facility, the partners decided to make Edmonton their own direct sales territory. This limited their business with local retail competitors to custom-designed pieces only.

The IZM furniture line consists of pieces predominantly made in solid wood (often black walnut and white oak) with oiled finishes. They also incorporate eco-friendly panels where appropriate, including the late, lamented Woodstalk panel (made in Eli, Manitoba, until Dow closed the plant in late 2005).

For production technology, the IZM designers prefer quality Italian and German woodworking machinery, not the low-priced Asian equipment often found in start-up workshops. Pawluk mentioned their recent "lease-to-own" purchase of an Italian sliding table saw from Casolin, which aptly confirms their commitment to high-standard manufacturing.


Beam bed

Future plans include expansion of their manufacturing operation, as well as retail opportunities. In addition to 4 Living, a retail store in Calgary, a new client in Kelowna will soon be handling IZM products. March brings Mack to the IDSWest show at the Vancouver Convention Centre, where he will assess BC sales potential. As production increases, their manufacturing space will likely absorb the IZM showroom, and the partners will relocate their showroom/retail outlet.

Coincidences, serendipity and luck - for Edmonton's IZM this "plan" worked, as emerging designers Jerad Mack and Shane Pawluk continue to succeed in Canada's furniture manufacturing sector.

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