Modern Ethic LLC is Modern Danish style plywood furniture made by Isaac Hurst, working out of a shop in the county outside of Bellingham, WA.
Just out of college I made my first furniture piece, it was a garage sale coffee table which I cut in two and then re-glued at a new angle. I was proud of it then, even if it wasn’t very functional. I found other used cabinets and objects that I could refinish as well. During the time I was working as a graphic designer for a large national company and needed the outlet that furniture provided as a way to use my physical energy. I made a bunch of pieces out of upcycled items that were interesting and different but nothing of very high quality.
Next I took a job doing CNC programming for an even bigger global aerospace company. Through doing this I began to understand the power of a reliable programmable tool like a CNC in a manufacturing environment. I moved from programming to engineering and spent five years designing airline furniture from a CAD workstation. Part of the design process was walking downstairs and talking to the people building the pieces I had designed. Having the feedback loop was invaluable toward training me to design in a way that made things buildable.
I knew I needed to get out of the big company. Since leaving college I had spent the last 11 years working in a cubicle and I wanted a shot working for a small company, a place where my contributions would be felt more directly. I found an architecture company which specialized in northwest modern eco-friendly design. It seemed like a good fit, and it was. I enjoyed three years working for them doing CAD modeling and drafting for custom homes. I enjoyed the work but I was always drawing furniture on my spare time. I began to build Modern Ethic on the side during the evening and weekends.
The biggest hurdle was the expensive tool I needed, a CNC machine. They are 15-50K new and at the time I really wasn’t aware of the used options that might be available. I began to read forums online about building one. After reviewing other people’s designs I began to feel that it was something I could do.
It took about 6 months of work to get a rough functioning machine entirely of my own design. I ordered the parts from all over the world. Most of the steel I got locally and welded myself. The final challenge was designing and wiring the computer box and spindle control.
With the machine working I began designing my first product, my Maple Cut Chair. The prototypes were for my house, and when the design was mature enough I began to offer it to others. The company has grown from that point and now I make a variety of interior items.
I am an enthusiast for doing. I want to make it, I want to build it, I want a say in how everything looks and is. My first inclination is to design a tool or machine before buying one. I have made nearly every piece of furniture that I own. I love mental thought challenges and solving hard design problems.
I am a slow thinker. I don't like to be rushed or play speed games. I try to make a cup of coffee last as long as possible. I like hard problems and having enough time to consider all the possible solutions.
Modern Ethic LLC
I did my first year as a sole proprietorship but recently I’ve incorporated Modern Ethic into an LLC as it has become my full time job. I work alone in my shop and build everything you see offered. I also offer my work on the Etsy marketplace here.
I make my products from plywood made here in the Northwest. I finish everything with the lowest VOC finishes I can source. I try to source external parts like inserts and screws and dowels from American companies who manufacture their products here. I ship in all paper based packaging to reduce the use of plastics and foam.
You can read more details here.
I like being involved in the process. Making and doing everything. I take pride in the work that I do and the products that I make. I don't ship something unless I'm happy with it. I test everything on myself and when it's cool enough I make it available to you. Check out what I'm making now in the shop.
My friend Keith came out to my shop and shot a short film where I spend some time sharing about what led me to building furniture and about the collection of beliefs I have about ethical woodworking. This is the full version, the short two minute recap is on my front page.