One to Watch: James Hopper
Saskatoon furniture designer James Hopper makes modern, timeless pieces.
Based in Saskatoon, furniture-designer James Hopper is no stranger to a long winter—so it’s fitting that his work embraces a Scandinavian design ethos. “In both places, we spend a lot of time indoors, which creates a real intimacy with the objects that we live with.” His signature piece, the Scando chair, celebrates classic modernist design and North American materials: think handcrafted walnut and organic lines. “I try to make objects that people feel comfortable spending a lot of time with.”
Though he grew up in a hockey-crazy Prairie town, James Hopper preferred the creative process to sticks and skates. “I’ve always been a person since I was twelve years old that enjoyed making things,” he says. At 18, he set off for the Seljord art and craft program in Norway, where, surrounded by craftspeople, he was inspired to turn his passion into a vocation.
Now, 30 years later, he crafts Scandinavian-inspired furniture in a large Saskatoon workshop that’s gained worldwide success—not bad for a kid from the Prairies. His work (like his celebrated Scando chair and custom banquettes) pairs elements from the ’50s Scandinavian modern movement with personal touches: think handcrafted walnut or oak, organic lines and smooth finishes. “It’s an honest design for me, because my mother was Norwegian” Hopper says. “It’s the style that I find most comfortable and honest to work in.”
Hopper’s furniture is based on the long cold winters and other similarities that Canada and Scandinavia share. “We spend a lot of time indoors, which creates a real intimacy with the objects that we live with,” Hopper explains. He and his wife travel to Norway annually to reconnect with friends and to observe the visually light, well-chosen objects in their homes. “They’re pieces that don’t overwhelm the space, and that’s what we want to do, too,” he says. “We try to make objects that people feel comfortable spending a lot of time with.”