As anyone who's toured 1000 Parker Street in Vancouver knows—more than likely on the East Side Culture Crawl—the first time you stumbled into Judson Beaumont's studio, Straight Line Designs, was a trip. The name itself was the cheeky antithesis of Judson's designs: his furniture was all glorious curves, all how-the-hell-did-he-make-that-by-hand playfulness of cartoon-like chests of drawers, the grandfather clock that was more grandfather than clock, the coffee table that appeared to lift one of its legs to piddle on the carpet.
He created a dreamscape of designs that delighted kids and adults alike. "My rule is: if you can draw and design it, you can build it," he said on Straight Lines' website. "I love it when someone tells me, ‘You cannot build that’ or ‘No one would want that.’ These words only encourage me more."
Perhaps not surprisingly for anyone who could create such a dreamworld, Judson himself was just a delightful human. He was one of the very first wood shops in Parker, and was supportive of the designers both in his close community at Parker and across Western Canada.
For this magazine, and our sister publication Vancouver magazine, he always had his door open. When we were looking for a place to shoot our inaugural Made in Vancouver Awards for Vanmag last summer (on short notice, ’cause that's how we roll) he let us take over his shop for the day—tossing us props, sharing his own work for a gorgeous backdrop. "Use whatever works for you!" he said smilingly to our art director.
And so we were deeply saddened when we heard that Judson had passed away suddenly on Monday, February 17, at the all-too-young age of 59. I spoke with a few of his colleagues over the last couple of days to share their memories of this lovely and talented guy.
Kate Duncan, Western Living's Furniture Designer of the Year in 2017, spent eight years working out of 1000 Parker before recently relocating to Toronto. "I’d see him at least every week, wandering around looking for someone or something," she says. "He’d ALWAYS give me the biggest of smiles and say ‘Hey Rockstar! How’s it going?!’ He always had a way of making you feel so special. He really paid attention, ya know?!"
Duncan credits her leap from industrial design instructor to full-fledge pro to Judson, too. "I remember the first time I walked the Culture Crawl, before I had a studio space in 1000 Parker Street, seeing his work; how and where he did it, got me so inspired!" she recalls. "I peeled a poster off the wall advertising shop space that exact same day… And a few months later I was in! That trip through his studio… And that damn poster turned itself into a career."
From Judson's Straight Line Designs Instagram Account, "Saying goodbye to his Juddie."
"I remember being in art school and Judson coming to present on his work, critique and support students way back then," recalls Jody Phillips, director of IDS Vancouver, where Judson was a longtime supporter and presenter. "There was and still is no one like Judson. He was so engaged within the community, employed and mentored so many Vancouverites in the maker and design industry and our city and the IDS fair has been made better by having him as our ambassador."
Judson with one of his designs, on a recent trip to Hong Kong.
Longtime friend and designer Brent Comber recalled his first meeting with Judson. "I met Jud several years ago when we were invited to show together in a furniture show in San Francisco," says the furniture designer, who has served on our Designers of the Year judging panels for many years now. "He however couldn't arrive until the morning of the show so I agreed to unpack his crates and get everything ready for him. I arrived early to the venue and watched the guys unload Jud's perfectly crafted crates with his name emblazoned on all sides. Even the truck driver was impressed and very intrigued what was inside the crate labeled 'Big Walter,' so he stayed and helped me open the crate. Walter, it appeared, was a cabinet or a clock or a person dressed as furniture, we weren't exactly sure. It had arms and actually seemed to possess a personality. After staring at it for some time he said 'good luck' and drove off.
The Tearaway Bench
"This is how my curious wonderful adventure began with Judson," continues Comber. "He loved people and was deeply interested in everyone's story. He poured his heart into his work as it seemed to be the best way to reach people and make them smile. He also loved to devilishly nudge you out of your comfort zone. He'd tell you to show up on time, learn how to draw and remember it's not all about you."
Designer Steven Pollock spent many years sharing the halls of Parker Street with Judson, too. "There will definitely be a large void at 1000 Parker Street," says our 2016 Furniture Designer of the Year. "At the moment there is a bizarre silence emanating in and around the building. It was impossible to not to bump into Judson at some point in the building. He was very active and usually seen carrying some unusual object of interest under his arm. Whenever I visited his shop it kind of felt like you were entering Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with helpers scattered all around sanding, gluing and assembling things. He created a fantasy land of unique experiences for all. Judson was always smiling, positive and would make time for anyone. He was an inspiration and a reminder to stay youthful and play. Oh Jud, you will be missed."
Ben Barber, who opened his studio in 2014, is another of Judson's 1000 Parker cohorts. "Jud was one of those wonderful souls who lived with an unwavering exuberance," Ben recalls. "He always took the time to share a smile and pick those up around him. He cared so much about the community, making sure to remind young designers like myself to enjoy every moment, never take anything for granted. We were fortunate to have him."
His incredibly crafted, wonderfully quirky designs will remain his legend, and the kind and generous spirit that was Judson Beaumont, his legacy. "I am not sure if Jud was ahead of his time or someone who was visiting from the past," says Brent Comber. "I do know that he made my life better and also the lives of countless others in many countries who all too briefly shared in his adventure."
Courtesy IDS Vancouver