E. Kraemer Fine Metal & Woodwork is the perfect place for Erikdavid Kraemer to hone raw materials into objects that are beautiful, useful and enduring.
He hails from four generations of artisans. At 12, he began working for his father, a well-established violins maker, as a luthier’s assistant (a luthier makes stringed instruments). It’s a centuries-old tradition that Kraemer is proud to claim.
He and his wife Alyssa own the fabrication studio specializing in metal, custom lighting and woodwork.
“We work with all kinds of materials: stainless steel, aluminum, bronze … copper and all kinds of wood,” says Alyssa. They also work with finishes, like blackened steel.
She handles much of the business negotiations, and also often offers insights into the design process. The couple met in New York and almost two years ago decided to relocate their business to New Orleans.
“We were ready for a change,” says Erikdavid. “New York was becoming more tech-based because it made a smaller footprint. It was less noisy. Our workshop used things like a quarter-ton press and we made a lot of noise. It was getting harder to find a space and it was very expensive.”
Now their studio is housed in sprawling, 3,500-square-foot warehouse in the Upper 9th Ward. The office is dark and a bit industrial, but it has an air of downhome hospitality. Strong coffee is brewing in a pot, Lola, the young pup, is curled up on a comfortable couch and through a window Shop Cat Ricky cleaning herself atop an enormous piece of machinery.
The six-person crew is engaged in individual tasks as sparks fly and sparkle off angle grinders and the pounding of hammers and chisels provide a cacophonous soundtrack for the noise of precision and artistry.
He asks them to “be good with your hands; have the desire to learn something new every day; have an eye for detail, common sense and the patience of a saint; and be the person your mother thinks you are.”
The company makes one-of-a-kind, custom-made items such as a brass chandelier made with beer bottles, a hammered brass kitchen sink and modern industrial-looking shelving.
“If it’s something that’s already been done, we aren’t really interested in copying someone else’s work,” says Erikdavid. “Or if it’s something the clients [have] seen on a showroom floor and they want us to tweak the design; we tell them, ‘Just buy that one. It will be much less expensive.’ Nothing we do is a standard project. There’s no mass production here.”
Whether it’s a gleaming stainless steel bench or a solid brass table weighing in at 1,600 pounds, the work will be done with the pride of artisans skilled in a centuries-old tradition.
“And really at the core,” says Erikdavid. “We just like building cool sh–.”