Judson Beaumont, designer, sculptor, educator and founder of Straight Line Designs, has died. He was 59 years old.
Judson is best known for his skillfully crafted, sometimes-fantastical, one-of-a-kind furniture and interior designs and products. Born in Saskatoon in 1960, Judson came to Vancouver to study art at Capilano College, graduating from his studies in the 3D department at Emily Carr University (then known as the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design) in 1985.
Within a year, he’d founded Straight Line Designs, the company which would earn him a reputation for his wildly imaginative sense of design. In a 2011 interview with Design Lives, he said his unique approach was deeply influenced by his training as a sculptor.
“I would think of my stuff more as functional art,” Judson said. “I was trained as a sculptor and … I always thought right from the beginning, why can’t art be functional? Why can’t a sculpture have a drawer in it, or a clock in it?”
Architecture, he noted, was another huge influence on his practice.
“I almost look at my sculptures or my furniture as little buildings,” he said.
Among Judson’s many works are playgrounds and family areas for the Vancouver International Airport, furniture for a BC premier, installations for public spaces, and an incredible range of reality-bending furniture designs for public sale.
Throughout his life, he donated a number of pieces to charitable organizations including Arts Umbrella, the Vancouver Art Gallery, BC Guide Dog Services, AIDS Vancouver and BC Children's Hospital. He also frequently gave talks and slideshow presentations to students of all ages, as well as design professionals.
He was also well known for his reuse of scrap materials, or materials that were considered less desirable, such as blue-stained mountain pine beetle lumber, culled from BC forests.
Patrick Christie (BDes, 2011), President of the Alumni Association and program coordinator at Material Matters, got to know Judson as a fellow maker of wood-based furniture and ECU alum. Both also served on the Alumni Board together.
“We talked a lot about the importance of getting students and alumni working and participating hands-on together,” Patrick recalls. “And making it fun. Because Jud’s attitude was, ‘If it’s not fun, what’s the point of doing it?'”
Judson was a regular fixture at events all over the city, Patrick says, and made it a priority to attend openings and show his support as often as possible.
“Jud knew the importance of showing up,” he says. “He knew how important it was for him to participate in an art show, even when the average age was way younger than him. He always showed up and said ‘yes’ to everything. And he wasn’t showing up to be ‘Jud the artist,’ he was showing up to be himself, because he understood the value of being in a space with people.”
Judson also had an outstanding sense of humour, Patrick adds, and took great pleasure in making others laugh.
“In a city that can sometimes be pretty selfish, he knew what it meant to participate.”
Judson was an active member of BC Wood, Woodlinks and the Furniture Society and a regular speaker at woodworking related workshops at BCIT. In 2015, he collaborated with Joanna Karaplis and Breanna Cheek to create a children's book entitled Timberland Tales: Chester Gets a Pet, which features characters modelled after his furniture. And in 2009, he received a BC Achievement Foundation Award for Applied Arts & Design.
His advice for young practitioners?
“Get to work. Quit talking about it, quit thinking about it. Just roll up your sleeves and get to work. And don’t be afraid to take chances.”