This guy is chairman of the cardboard.
Terrence Kelleman, the founder of Dynomighty, a company best known for its paper-thin wallets, opened a storefront and shared artist work-space in Dumbo on April 16 and decked the place out with cardboard seating. The chairs are made from three pieces of thick cardboard cut with lasers and can be shipped flat and assembled in a jiffy. The engineering feat came out of Kelleman’s dissatisfaction with the seat-us quo when trying to furnish the shop.
“I just couldn’t find anything I liked,” he said. “The chairs I was seeing were just the blandest things.”
Kelleman started Dnynomighty 12 years ago in his living room, with a box of magnets that his father lent him $300 to buy. He made link-less bracelets out of the magnets and sold them to his employer, the Museum of Modern Art Design Store in Manhattan.
“I was a struggling artist trying to find my way,” Kelleman said. “But I’ve always been inquisitive about materials.”
Kelleman trained as a painter at the Cleveland Institute of Art, but said his work in the public relations department at the Museum of Modern Art got him into drawing fanciful products.
“It germinated an appreciation for industrial design and design in general,” he said.
Today, the company’s trademark product the Mighty Wallet is sold in 60 countries, bringing in $4 million per year, according to Kelleman.
The unique billfolds are made from a material called Tyvek, which the postal service uses for its express mail envelopes. Tyvek is paper-thin, but its plastic-like fibers make it durable, waterproof, and possible to fold into a wallet without a single stitch.
The first version of the Mighty Wallet hit the market in 2005 with a few basic designs, including one resembling a newspaper and one with the first 3,000 digits of the number pi printed on it. Once Kelleman got the process perfected, he started seeing new possibilities for the product.
“I realized that the Mighty Wallet was really a canvas,” he said.
Dynomighty now works with a network of 500 artists who all come up with graphics that can be printed on the wallets. And customers can now have their own images printed on wallets at the new store, on John Street between Bridge and Jay streets.
The Dumbo space is a place for Kelleman to test out new products, which is where the cardboard chairs come in.
He plans to show the chairs at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair next month in Manhattan and hopes to eventually sell them at the store. Other products on tap include change purses and clutches.
As for the shared work space, Kelleman wants the shop to become a hub for aspiring designers to work and share ideas.
“It’s a place where people can get advice and problem solve collectively,” he said.
Anyone is allowed to just drop in and use the space, Kelleman said.
“The business of art, and the art of business,” Kelleman said. “It’s the story of Dynomighty, and its my story. I want to share that story.”
Dynomighty store and work space [80 John St. between Jay and Bridge streets in Dumbo, www.dynomighty.com, (212) 431–3005]. Monday–Friday, 10 am–5 pm.