Form Follows FunktionArt

StudioDesign meets salvage.

Written by Brett Levine

Photo by Jerry Siegel


For Shea Scully, Sara Jackson, and Remy Hanemann, founding FunktionArt was the way to bring three sets of complementary talents together. But their personal paths to this realization were not simple or straightforward. “I was on my way to law school and I got derailed by my love for salvage,” Jackson says, sitting in the workyard of the FunktionArt studio. Hanemann continues with the same theme. “I had moved to Louisiana thinking I might give up art completely,” he says. “It wasn’t for me. I moved back to Birmingham wondering what I was going to do and literally days later I was a partner here.” Scully smiles, knowing that this is the team he had been looking for all along. “I had a business called Stolisma that I started in 2002. It was something I loved, and it was going really well. But I got to the point where I knew I didn’t want to do everything on my own anymore.”

It is this combination of passion, humor, and experience that makes FunktionArt so diverse. Hanemann brings his 20 years of foundry skills, and he has recently begun constructing a foundry on his property outside Birmingham where he will be able to do custom metal pieces. Scully can machine anything, and he has a range of AutoCAD skills that simply add to the process. And Jackson has a network of contacts in the demolition and salvage communities that would make Fred Sanford jealous; she also brings the eye to know what’s a jewel and what’s junk. These abilities harmonize in custom pieces that combine expertise with imagination. “Before,” Scully explains, “if I didn’t think of it, it wasn’t happening. Now, we have the capacity to conceive of projects that use any combination of steel, glass, wood, other metals, and stone.”

“We like to say our motto is, ‘If you can dream it, we can build it,’” Hanemann adds. With all of these skills they don’t just dream up big ideas—they deliver. Scully and Hanemann worked together on a complex series of pieces for Baker Donelson including a custom-built door with individually machined components that were operated by a flywheel constructed with enormous cotter pins. A custom cantilevered desk also pushed their design and fabrication skills to the limit, but for Scully it was simply a way to learn what more could be done. Now, they apply this knowledge to anything from range hoods to individually cast cabinet handles.

The FunktionArt team begins every project with the belief that they will combine their individual skills during the design process. They outline how they do this as they describe their commission for the exterior signage that adorns Melt, Paget Pizitz’s restaurant in Avondale. “I knew we could build it from lath,” Jackson says, “which is one of the most readily available and readily disposed materials in local home renovations. When I mentioned it to Remy and Shea, at first they were a little skeptical.”

“I was really surprised we’d be starting from something so…reclaimed,” Hanemann explains, “but once we had refined the design concept further, we built a custom metal frame for the lath and just played with the material.” It is this capacity to share ideas throughout the design process that truly defines FunktionArt.

“I wanted to build a team,” Scully says. “We all came into the business as equals and partners,” Hanemann continues. Jackson adds, “what we did was combine a trifecta of contacts across the salvage and deconstruction, foundry, and fabrication and welding communities.”

Of course the professional community is not the only one Funktionart is connected with. They are also deeply committed to being engaged with whatever community they are a part of, emphasizing that they are not simply a custom design and fabrication shop and foundry. “We want our shop to be a place where people feel comfortable having anything done,” Hanemann says. “We see Funktionart as a place where we could use our tools and our skills to make a difference, and that is something that can occur at every level, not merely in the sphere of high design and one-off works.”

Jackson, Hanemann, and Scully are in the midst of designing a series of limited run furnishings that they plan to offer. “We see small-run production as a way to showcase our skills and to refine our ideas,” Scully says. “Production pieces are something we have all always wanted to explore, but custom work has always taken precedence,” Hanemann continues. “With the eye we all have for repurposing unique objects, creating limited-run works is the natural progression from salvage and design,” Jackson says.

As FunktionArt grows, their business plan includes even more diverse approaches to the passions they all share. “We will continue developing our as-is salvage business,” Jackson explains. “When we have our foundry up and running, off-site, we can also do large and small-scale casting work,” Hanemann adds. Almost in unison each says, “We want to embrace the community.”

As a team of three creative professionals, Remy Hanemann, Sara Jackson, and Shea Scully understand what a fantastic opportunity FunktionArt is. “The public wants the handmade and the well-made. We are continually learning from each other, and we know that this is truly a collaboration. Now,” Scully says, “we simply have to try to take these passions and these ideas a little further every day.”

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