Brooklyn-based design collective Fort Makers was founded in 2008 by artists Naomi Clark (born in Denver, Colorado in 1982), Nana Spears (born in Princeton, New Jersey in 1977), and Noah Spencer (born in Boulder, Colorado in 1979). In 2012, artist Elizabeth Whitcomb joined the group. Fort Makers combines its founders’ individual design talents to create functional and interactive art, including large-scale public installations and a wide variety of fashion and home products. Citing the Bauhaus as a major source of shared inspiration, the group notes: “The vast array of objects we’ve made is a reflection of our overall goal: we aim to create a three-dimensional and immersive, visual world, or rather, an artistic brand.”
Named for the childhood activity of making forts out of blankets, the collective is inspired by the Bauhaus movement, as well as nature and organic forms. Specializing in what they describe as mainly abstract, “useable art,” Fort Makers’ work spans a multitude of disciplines, resulting in objects including mobiles, furniture, jewelry, clothing, pillows, homewares accessories, and more. Creative director and cofounder Spears says, “Each piece reflects the unique hand of the artist and the energy and inspiration of the group.”
The three founders were introduced in 2006 in Fort Greene, Brooklyn by a mutual friend. At the time, Clark was just starting her Master’s thesis in painting at nearby Pratt Institute; titled The Blanket Project, the project involved painting on found, old, wool blankets. Clark asked Spears, then a buyer at the upscale department store Barney’s, to help curate the collection. This collaboration ultimately led to Fort Makers’ establishment in a studio just outside the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Between 2010 and 2015, the collective created and installed stage sets for MoMA PS1’s Warm Up series—a summer concert series introducing new names in experimental music. Since 2012, their love for experimental and collective based art has resulted in an ongoing project titled Action Painting. Inspired by the excitement of exploring new locations, Action Painting integrates premade art into new landscapes. Functioning as learning experiences to broaden the collectives’ understanding of their own art in relation to nature, these large-scale public installations include Texas in Marfa, Texas (2012), Lawn Quilt at the DUMBO Arts Festival (2013), and eight separate paintings in collaboration with 1708 Gallery and Richmond’s community in Richmond, Virginia, including Rock Climbing and Stick Painting (2013).
In collaboration with artist Keith Simpson, the collective created Primary Resist (2015), a series of boldly-hued, abstract-patterned vases. They also created a capsule clothing collection for the brand Anthropologie, as well as the Fort Makers/PAOM (2015) fashion collection— inspired by a 24-foot-long silk painting by Clark that includes clothing, accessories, and home goods produced in collaboration with Print All Over Me.
Creative director and cofounder Spears obtained her Bachelor’s degree in English from Bates College in Massachusetts and her Master’s degree in media studies from The New School in New York City. During her ten years working in the fashion industry, Spears gained a wealth of experience in the design and business fields. She is responsible for curating and producing all of the projects at Fort Makers.
Artist and cofounder Clark obtained a Bachelor’s degree in painting from the University of Colorado and an Master’s degree in painting from Pratt University in Brooklyn. In her exploration of breaking free from the canvas, Clark has painted Fort Makers’ ties, blankets, scarves, dresses, lamp shades, and pillows. Clark’s major influences include Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Mitchell, and Willem De Kooning.
Artist and cofounder Spencer apprenticed in furniture making under industrial designers Paul Loebach, Patrick Townsend, and Uhuru Design before teaming up with Fort Makers. Spencer’s area of expertise is woodworking, for which he has produced such designs as Candle Stick City (2012), Mobile Collection (2015), Tumble Table (2016), and Stack Shelving Unit (2016). Growing up in the forested city of Boulder, Colorado, Spencer draws his design inspirations from nature.
In 2012, Elizabeth Whitcomb, a jewelry designer and Spears’s cousin, joined the collective as project manager and artist. Originally from Providence, Rhode Island, she holds an undergraduate degree in art history and a Master’s degree in food studies. Her jewelry is inspired by nature and primitive art.
Notably, in 2015 the collective made Sight Unseen's American Design Hot List.