People in New York say to me, ‘Why do you live in Cleveland? You should live in Brooklyn.’ I love it here. This is my home; this is where I’ve been my whole life.
Born and raised in Rocky River, Radcliffe is owner and founder of custom furniture design company 44 Steel. He is one of many local “makers” putting Cleveland on the map.
How did you become interested in steel and learn the trade?
“I was raised around my father’s fabrication shop and grew up playing with Legos and building models before going to school for mechanical CAD. While designing and building industrial process equipment at my father’s business, I built things for my friends and my home. In 2005, a friend who worked for a small furniture store asked me to make custom pieces for her clients, and 44 Steel was born.”
What are your industrial influences?
“My influences are late 18th and early 19th century industrial revolution era machinery – durable and innovative products known for their strength and quality. I work in stainless steel, aluminum and wood, but raw steel is my specialty with its many colors, patterns and textures. I create original pieces of furniture for home and commercial spaces.”
Why is Cleveland a great place to start a business?
“People in New York say to me, ‘Why do you live in Cleveland? You should live in Brooklyn.’ I love it here. This is my home; this is where I’ve been my whole life. We have a big makers family here, and we help each other out. I know many people who started furniture businesses in their basements and garages and then moved into their own spaces. You can make a great living in Cleveland and ship furniture all over the country. The momentum keeps building here, and there’s a lot going on.”
Tell us about the new reality television show you’re on?
“In early January, Spike TV launched the first-ever furniture-building competition show called Framework which airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. I’m one of 13 furniture builders battling it out in the 10-week journey, creating original furniture from scratch. Judged on craftsmanship, skill and style, we’re trying to seal our legacy and win $100,000. The winner will also have their furniture line featured nationally at CB2. Hip-hop artist Common and furniture designers Nolen Niu and Brandon Gore are Framework’s hosts and judges. The episodes were filmed during September and October in Los Angeles.”
“It’s been a very gratifying experience. I hope that Framework puts Cleveland’s furniture makers and their custom-made, locally produced furniture in the spotlight.”
You’ve received some great press lately. Tell us about your feature in Popular Mechanics.
“In January, I was featured in a story that named Cleveland as ‘one of the 14 best startup cities in America.’ It identifies the next wave of cities building an ecosystem to turn innovators into entrepreneurs. We have a lot to be proud of here.”
SEE ALSO: Cleveland: A Start-Up Story
How does your work with steel fit into today’s focus on sustainability?
“Steel is one of the best materials to use for furniture design since it’s almost 100% recyclable. It’s extremely durable and made to last. Buying a piece of my furniture is buying a piece for a lifetime. I like to call them family iconic – items that are meant to last in style and material. This way you end up passing down furniture through your family, not putting it on the curb when it comes time to move.”
Where can we find some of your work around Cleveland?
“My work is in restaurants and retail places all over Northeast Ohio, including: Willeyville; Lola; Mitchell’s Ice Cream on W. 25th Street; Trentina; Lilly Chocolates; Evie Lou; and, Banyan Box (a shipping container in the Warehouse District). I also sell my furniture through ABC Carpet + Home, the big furniture store in Manhattan, and via the online retailer Rypen.com. One of my most popular pieces is the mouse desk. Madonna even has one!”
You’re definitely a rising star in the design world. What is F*SHO and how does it help cultivate the Cleveland design scene?
“F*SHO Cleveland is an independent furniture design event which I started in 2009. It’s a chance for our up-and-coming fabricators, designers and furniture makers to showcase their work. The exhibitors push their creativity and try to bring something new to the table. F*SHO started with just five makers and about 350 attendees, and it grew to 30 exhibitors and more than 2,500 attendees last year. The show has brought success to many and inspired others to become makers. Clevelanders feel good about buying original pieces made in Cleveland.”
What do you like to do when you’re not designing furniture?
“I love spending time with my wife, Amanda, who works with me at 44 Steel. I left to shoot Framework shortly after our wedding last June, and she was very supportive. I also love riding motorcycles and volunteering with the animal rescue organization Voices in the Dark. All of our animals are rescues – we even had a rescue fish.”
For More Information about Jason Radcliffe, 44 Steel and Spike TV’s Framework:
Spike TV / Framework –