Flux Design

by Kevin Flaherty Flux Design

Who says business can’t be fun? Judging by the relaxed attitude of its employees, the personal artwork scattered throughout the workspace, and the loud garage music cascading from a boom box, the six employee-artists of Flux Design, 811 E. Vienna Street, appear to be working at what they love. Flux Design Despite the loose atmosphere suggested by the good-natured gag picture of the company president, Jeremy Shamrowicz, a lot of work gets done here. In fact, the passion and hard work of the employees have paid off with accolades and growing prominence for the three-year-old design firm. The firm’s two owners, Shamrowicz and Jesse Meyer, as well as its employees and most of its interns, are current or former Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) students. Shamrowicz recalls the moment when he and Meyer, still MIAD students, were walking down Broadway. They asked themselves, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had our design-build firm?” The idea of combining a job they enjoyed with the machinery and materials at hand to make their own artwork came to them like an epiphany. Shamrowicz, Meyer, and roommate Chet Rosales (now a designer at Flux) cut their teeth and learned to work together when they won a bid to do a build-out on a building MIAD had purchased to convert into a student union. Although they briefly went their separate ways after graduating from MIAD in the late 1990’s, Meyer and Shamrowicz reunited when gallery space on North Water Street opened up in 1999. In fact, when Meyer heard that Shamrowicz was going to sign a lease on the space, he left his special-effects job and drove straight back from California. They called their space Gallery 326, named after its address at 326 N. Water Street. The craftsmanship of their early creations caught many eyes. Louis Rola of Milwaukee purchased a custom-made stand produced by Gallery 326 and uses it to display a Spanish Bible. Later–as the gallery expanded into a design firm–Rola admired how Flux Design’s interior work on the nightspot and restaurant, Eve, transformed the space into someplace, well, someplace that doesn’t look like Milwaukee. “As far as the decor goes, [Eve] is beautiful…they did an absolutely great job,” says Rola. Visitors to Eve will notice how Flux turned a cold material like steel into lush, organic creations: tables of white, weaving branches and unique angles and objects abound. All of Flux’s fabrication is now done at its Riverwest location on Vienna Street in a building which once housed the Hunger Task Force. Shamrowicz found out about the space from the owner of Big MPG, a marketing firm also in the 811 E. Vienna building. At first, Flux used Gallery 326 for design and did only fabrication at the Riverwest location, but nine months ago both operations were consolidated on Vienna Street. Gallery 326 is currently closed as an art gallery, but talk is underway with a local retailer, Eden Floral, to manage the art gallery for Flux’ owners. Eden currently carries consigned furniture and objects from Flux. In addition to its well-known organic tables, the firm has also done work in dyed concrete (tables, countertops, and bars), trade show kiosks, point-ofpurchase displays, and large functional art pieces. In dollar terms, Flux’s work is roughly split 50-50 between residential and commercial jobs. Its work may be seen in the Third Ward Starbucks, the restaurant Sauce, the TomTom Club, and the Ducati (motorcycle) Cafe. To drive sales, Flux works largely with architectural and interior design firms, and refers or subcontracts out work it doesn’t feel able to do. Flux has referred several jobs to another Riverwest design firm, Sup Design, 3275 N Pierce Street. Flux Design is located at 811 E. Vienna Avenue in Riverwest and can be reached at (414) 906-1990. Their address on the web is Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 6 – July 2002
by Kevin Flaherty