I pulled up to their West Texas studio last September in a rented silver Mazda. The studio is open by appointment only, a fact I had somehow managed to forget while making my trip preparations. With no phone call made and no visit planned, I drove around the block, snapped a photo of the exterior for posterity, and got in the Mazda again, ready to turn around dejectedly, promising myself that next year I would not forget to call ahead.
It was then, as I was straightening the mess of serape blankets and books in the passenger side, ready to start the ignition and turn around, when Jamey Garza, — clad in a pair of denim blue jeans, a pearl-snap western shirt, and muddy work boots– walked out of the studio. I had rolled my window down, expecting to hear him tell me that they were closed, and that I really should call tomorrow if I wanted to stop by, but instead he walked up to my driver’s side door, offered out his right hand in a friendly shake, and asked; “Are you Elizabeth?” which was followed shortly by; “Would you like to come in? Constance is inside too.”
Enveloped in the endless space of Presidio county, with it’s boundless sightline of grassy scrub and heaven-scraping Sotol plants, lies the studio of Jamey Garza and Constance Holt-Garza. The couple launched their line of modern furniture in 2012, during a debut show at San Francisco’s Heath Ceramics titled ‘Marfa Amigos.’ Shortly thereafter photos of the pair’s oval chairs and exquisite pillows made from Bolivian frazadas began populating both my blogroll and my daydreams. I made a photo of their saddle leather chair my desktop screensaver, and taped images of Garza Marfa’s unique and zen-like Southwestern silhouettes to my refrigerator. I fell in love with the minimalistic, high-desert design language of their pieces — so distinctly expressive of the arid and expansive landscapes I love.
Jamey and Constance met in San Francisco. Constance’s background is in fashion design, and one day, Jamey, a designer from Texas who had grown up welding and building — came into her clothing store on assignment — to install metal fixtures and some shelving. The rest is an inspiring story of continued partnership and creative collaboration.
Jamey is originally from Austin, and the two moved back to the area from LA in 2003, where they played instrumental roles in redesigning the Thunderbird Motel as well as furnishing Austin’s fantastic Hotel San Jose. The pair’s original plan had been to move to Austin after wrapping up work on the Thunderbird, and yet Marfa’s remote, dry landscape and connection to minimal contemporary art deeply influenced the Garza Marfa aesthetic. The pair decided to stay.
About 45 minutes east of Marfa is Alpine, another sleepy West Texas town known for the public radio station, the small college, and a fantastic western emporium Big Bend Saddlery. The shop sells all sorts of tack, blankets, wide-brimmed hats, and books about the Chisos mountains. In back is the workroom where skilled craftspeople work to create custom saddles, rope and belts — ephemera absolutely necessary for this ranching community. Trips to Big Bend Saddlery, as well as the area’s deep connection to bootmaking, saddlemaking, and cattle ranching is what ultimately led the two to choose quarter-inch, saddle-grade leather as upholstery material for their welded furniture. The leather brings a traditionally Mexican-Acapulco chair and Oaxacan-style cot into a setting that is uniquely Texan and decidedly inventive.
What I love about Garza Marfa is what I love about all good design — their pieces posses a singularity of focus, an adroit expressiveness of feeling, and a mastery of craft. I love the story behind Garza Marfa because it is a narrative both inspirational and attainable. Their line is the result of continued, consistent effort, created out of a passion to design something of lasting, universal merit. Their pieces are not a flash-in-the-pan fad, rather an innovative take on the unique West Texas story of desert, sun, wind, and space. The result is beautiful and I think extremely poetic — an elegant expression of a life lived well out West.
“What we always wanted to do was create something that could go out in the world and stand on it’s own, something
that could exist outside of Presidio County.”
– Constance Holt-Garza
If in Marfa, make an appointment and call ahead. You’ll love visiting Garza. Be sure to pick up some Kat and Roger Ceramics, a nice pillow for your sweetheart, and a crewneck fleece sweater with ‘GARZA MARFA’ emblazoned across the chest.
103 N. Nevill St
*All photos my own, Portrait of Jamey and Constance courtesy of Garza Marfa.