Made In Milwaukee

by Peggy Schulz Riverwest’s own Flux Design, Ltd. is the subject of “Made in Milwaukee,” a new show that makes its debut this month on the DIY Network.  Starting with two MIAD graduates camping out in a Third Ward warehouse space and growing to a flourishing design/build/installation firm in Riverwest, Flux Design has had a remarkable history.   It began operations in the warehouse space the founders dubbed Gallery 326 on Water Street in 2000. In 2003, Flux moved to its current location at 811 E. Vienna Ave. where it occupies 20,000 square feet.  “Made in Milwaukee,” with a 13-episode season on the DIY Network, debuts on January 4, 2013, at 11PM (EST). DIY is available on Time Warner On Demand and the Dish Network (check with your provider for availability). The premier episode will feature the work Flux did to transform a young couple’s dated basement into a stylish, updated entertainment and recreation space. DIY, in its description of “Made in Milwaukee,” uses words like infuse, artistry, inspiration, signature style, amazing and original works of art. Neither Jeremy Shamrowicz nor Jesse Meyer, the founders of Flux Design, could have foreseen that they would be sharing their design/build work with the entire country a little more than ten years after beginning in that bare-bones warehouse space where they both worked and lived. The now-thriving business has shared its design magic with many residential customers and at least 50 restaurants, whether it was designing, building, installing – or all of the above. In fact, the range of Flux Design’s services is one of the things that made them stand out when the company that produced “Made in Milwaukee” received a referral about them. The DIY Network had sent out a feeler in 2011, looking for new, unique subjects to add to its range of do-it-yourself programming. An editor at a design magazine who knew of Flux mentioned them to a production company called 20 West in Chicago. A producer from 20 West then contacted Flux, eventually asking Jeremy Shamrowicz, “You guys definitely are different. What are you doing in Milwaukee?” 20 West’s producers came to Milwaukee to find out for themselves. They were impressed with what they saw at Flux’s work space in Riverwest; sufficiently impressed to make a five minute introductory reel to submit to DIY. Shamrowicz and Meyer were cautioned against over-optimism by the 20 West staff. They were told only a small percentage of prospective subjects even get a chance at that five-minute intro. An even smaller percentage move beyond that point to get the opportunity to create a pilot. About six months after the first reel was taped, Flux got the great news that they were, indeed, among the small percentage of subjects to be asked to make a pilot. DIY’s response, after the pilot was taped, was swift. They asked to see the tape even before the 20 West crew had finished editing it. Within two hours of DIY receiving the rough tape, they called 20 West to say, “It’s a go.” All twelve episodes, plus the pilot, were taped in 2012, one every three weeks or so, working around Flux Design’s schedule. The design projects were brought together through an invitation on 20 West’s website, asking people to submit their homes to the masterful talents of the Flux Design crew. Shamrowicz recounts one of the first possible spaces he visited with the team from 20 West. He was asked, “Can you do something with this space?” He replied, “I can do something in any space.” But he turned the question back on the production crew: “But will it be ‘Flux appropriate’?” “By that I meant,” Shamrowicz continued, “not super weird, but with character, intriguing, something that grabs your interest.” The Flux crew, especially when working in residences, always try to make their design/build/install work a significant improvement over the current space, and something that’s personal to the resident. “We create experiences,” Shamrowicz said. “And we create things that, hopefully, will become family heirlooms.” Another aspect of Flux Design’s operations is that they’re as green as they can be. The sawdust gets vacuumed up and sent off to Growing Power for use in their farming operation. Small chunks of wood are taken home by workers to burn in their fireplaces. The fire ashes often are used as plant fertilizer. The growth of the business has stemmed in large part from return customers. And from residential customers who saw Flux’s work in commercial spaces and wanted a similar feel in their homes. Shamrowicz came to Milwaukee from his hometown of Oshkosh in the mid-1990s, to attend MIAD. And he’s here to stay. “I fell in love with this city,” he said, “with its extreme diversity, and the fact there’s so much to do.” And Shamrowicz is proud, especially now with “Made in Milwaukee” about to debut, that Flux Design is part of the continuing change for the better happening in Milwaukee. “We looked at the idea of what flux means,” he said. “When multiple, different streams come together, they converge at a single point before moving forward. That point of convergence is the state of flux.” As Flux Design, Ltd. moves forward into 2013, Riverwest and all of Milwaukee will join in the positive stream, thanks to “Made in Milwaukee.” Learn More: