Arts Business Institute grad and NICHE Award winner Joe Diemer makes incredible birdcages and other metalwork. We caught up with him for a quick interview.
ABI: What inspired you to make birdcages?
JD: I’ve always liked to draw, and I’ve made birdcages and things out of wire since I was a boy. My dad’s side were woodworkers and my mom’s side were glassworkers from Italy, so there were plenty of workshops to tinker in. Even though I worked in construction after high school I kept drawing and painting, and at twenty-three I went to collage for illustration. I love decorative ornamentation and beautiful linework, so wirework is very enjoyable because it feels like drawing three dimensionally.
ABI: Who buys your birdcages?
JD: It would be easier if I could pinpoint my market to an age or gender, but I’ve sold them to a very wide variety of people. It is more about their mindset: they are bored with modernism, respect traditional aesthetics, but yet they want something fresh.
ABI: Do your customers actually keep birds in them?
JD: They’re fully functional with lots of operating doors, slumped glass trays, and spun copper bowls, but only 1 out of 5 actually put birds in them – most are used as sculpture. I’ve also seen plants and light put in them.
ABI: Tell us about your technique.
JD: I use surgical-grade stainless steel and bend it on a variety of hand-cranked machines. Then these pieces are lightly tacked together on articulating jigs. I use a small resistance welder to do this, which allows me to further play with the designs. When I’m happy with it, I slip it off of the jigs and silver solder the joints to make a permanent bond. The whole piece is then electropolished, which is the reverse of plating, to bring it to a permanent shine.
ABI: What plans do you have for future work?
JD: I just got a commission to do a hotrod grill that I’m really excited about. I love the birdcages, but the custom jobs are also very satisfying to figure out. In fact, the birdcages make up less than 1/3 of what I do. I recently made a large spice rack and I do a lot of candlesticks and coat racks.
I was granted an artist residency in southern Bohemia for October and November, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that affects my work.