Local Innovators Take Center Stage at Denver Art Museum

Design Lab: Three Studios showcases Colorado’s diverse creative community

Experience the unique offerings from Colorado’s ever-growing design community this summer in the Denver Art Museum’s (DAM) Design Lab: Three Studios featuring DoubleButter, MATTER and tres birds workshop. Utilizing inventive approaches to architecture and design, the installations in this exhibition challenge the rules of traditional design practices and illuminate the process of constructing an object, a space or the components of information. Design Lab is on view July 27 through September 2, 2012 in the Martin and McCormick Gallery on level two of the Hamilton Building.

Recognized for their pursuit of alternative design strategies, DoubleButter, MATTER and tres birds workshop present three distinct installations highlighting a range of disciplines from typography and communication design to furniture fabrication and architecture. The installations provide a glimpse into the design process, providing insight into how concepts evolve from initial spark to final form.

“Throughout Colorado, there is a distinct community of entrepreneurial designers that are blurring the boundary between art and design in a variety of mediums,” said Darrin Alfred, associate curator of architecture, design and graphics at the DAM. “Conceived and produced locally, their work challenges the status quo, exhibits a high level of craft and is of superior quality – all of which is embodied in the distinct work of these three studios.”

Conceived and constructed by each studio, the installations illustrate the designer’s willingness to take risks and push the boundaries with their work. Each installation will force visitors to confront their own commonly held notions, leading them to reconsider what objects can be refashioned into furniture or the scope of mediums that can be transformed into building materials.


Denver-based furniture design and manufacturing company DoubleButter, formed by David Larabee and Dexter Thornton, has been hand-crafting pieces, from concept to construction, since 2006. A small-scale production studio concentrated on hand-built furniture of superior quality, DoubleButter is committed to keeping assembly local, as well as using sustainable materials.

For Design Lab, they will fabricate a new line of adaptable, modular furniture based on devices commonly used to move materials such as hand trucks and utility carts. Featuring multi-functional objects as well as prototypes, the installation is a window into DoubleButter’s creative process.


Largely self-taught, MATTER design studio founder and printer Rick Griffith’s work centers on communication and the use of language. Years spent amassing type-specimen books, wooden type forms and extensive knowledge of traditional and contemporary printing techniques are evidenced in his body of work.

Large-format paintings, stacks of printed materials and wall graphics come together in Griffith’s installation, creating a space to explore the nature of communication. It will serve as an annex, accommodating activities held at the studio, including production and letterpress printing on a smaller scale.

tres birds workshop

Eco-friendly principles guide the work of architectural design and general contracting firm tres birds workshop (TBW), established in 2000 by architect Mike Moore. The work of TBW can be seen in numerous showrooms for snowboard brand, Burton, as well as in Denver’s own historic McNichols Building, restored by the studio in preparation for the 2010 Biennial of the Americas.

Using reclaimed materials that are locally sourced in the building process is just one way the studio supports its goal of creating synthesis between people and the natural systems around them. The discovery of new building mediums and their insulative abilities is central to TBW’s installation. Three vessels of varying size will measure the thermal value of regionally repurposed and unconventional materials, giving visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the process involved in evaluating building components.

All summer long the Denver Art Museum is celebrating design, a key component of the strong creative community Denver and the Front Range have become known for. Along with Now Boarding: Fentress Airports + The Architecture of Flight, Design Lab invites visitors to explore the impact of architecture and design on our day-to-day interactions and consider how it continues to be shaped by history, time and notable events.

In July, members of the public are invited to share their own designs with the community and submit them for display at the DAM in Open For Design: A DAM Community Challenge. Full details about the design challenge will be announced in June. For more information on all of the summer 2012 exhibitions, please visit www.denverartmuseum.org.

Design Lab: Three Studios is organized by the Denver Art Museum. The exhibition is funded by Design Council of the Denver Art Museum, the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), and the donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign.