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Collective Security

Losantiville artists and designers collaborate to sustain viable small businesses

By Kelly Tucker · January 8th, 2013 · Culture
jesse foxPhoto: Jesse Fox

On any given winter weekday morning, John Dixon and the other Losantiville members can be found around their downtown shop, hunched over computer screens at tables scattered with art supplies. They bundle in hats and hoodies in order to withstand the lack of heat. Wires, wood and boxes clutter the general area. A few random art pieces hang on the wall, leftover from the last time members used the front of the building as a showroom. 

This is what happens when nine artists come together to create under one roof.

Six local companies make up Losantiville Collective, located on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. The collective is owned by Dixon (Dixon Branded), Chris Heckman and Matt Anthony (co-founder, The LaunchWerks). These men, each with different ideas and goals, joined forces under Losantiville, a place where they could pool their funds and resources under one roof to accomplish more than they each could on their own.

While each company differs in artistic specialties, the general desire of Losantiville members is to market themselves, manage their own companies and thrive as artists in Cincinnati. 

“I never was interested in having a real job,” Dixon says. “I’ve never applied to an industrial design job or anything like that. It’s just not something I wanted to do.” 

In 2009, Dixon investigated the cost of renting a storefront in the Main Street district, simply out of curiosity. When he found an available space for $650, he called Noel Gauthier (co-founder, The LaunchWerks) to talk business. 

At Losantiville’s first location, progress moved slowly. The group’s few members worked odd hours. In October 2010, however, Losantiville moved to its current storefront (still on Main Street) and picked up more interested artists along the way.

“When (Such & Such) came on and when Tim (Karoleff, Ampersand) came on here, it started to gel and people started to get stuff done,” Dixon says. “I think that’s just sort of how long that sort of thing takes.”

Today Losantiville includes Such & Such (Alex Aeschbury, Mike Nauman, Zach Darmanian), Dixon Branded (Dixon), Ampersand (Karoleff), The LaunchWerks (Anthony and Gauthier) Ian Keller and Heckman.

“I think Ian’s the only one in all of Losantiville that doesn’t have an (industrial design) degree,” Dixon says.

“He’s got a sculpture degree. And then Chris is the only industrial designer that doesn’t have a degree from DAAP (University of Cincinnati’s school of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning). So it’s like 10 people that went to the same program.”

Such & Such’s pointedly vague slogan, “We make things,” is probably the best way to describe what these companies do. Because nearly every member of Losantiville holds a degree in industrial design, there is a heavy focus on creating products and conducting business in that field — producing furniture, signs and urban-inspired art. But talents range from The LaunchWerk’s design consulting to Keller’s sculpture and lighting work to Heckman’s intricate wooden ornaments. 

Losantiville functions on a balance of collaboration and independence. Each member is essentially part of the collective because he wants to have complete control over his business — they’re all entrepreneurs. At the same time, sharing tools and splitting rent keeps these growing businesses alive through the delicate beginning stages. 

“I mean, especially in the beginning, none of us really had the capital to start anything,” Nauman says. “We didn’t have a full wood shop that we could use, we didn’t have that much money and I think everyone was kind of in the same boat. It wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”

Some equipment shared at Losantiville includes a laser cutter, band saw, drill press and several other blades and tools. Each member of the collective pays more than the actual cost of rent each month in order to cover for the shared machinery and tools. Some shared equipment is owned by Such & Such, Dixon or Karoleff, while the rest of the tools are individually owned and stored in locked cabinets.

Losantiville members share more than space and tools, though. Free marketing is an additional perk to working as part of a collective. The name “Losantiville” connects each of the companies, so when one company earns praise for its work, the rest of the collective benefits, potentially creating more business opportunities for everyone involved. And while it’s not common for the companies to directly collaborate on projects, it isn’t unheard of. 

“Alex from Such & Such and I went through the Springboard class (ArtWorks’ business planning and development program for creative entrepreneurs) and when they got their space built out, they contacted us both because we both do furniture,” Dixon says.

It’s difficult to pinpoint precisely what the collective will be producing and achieving in 2013, since each company has its own projects and goals. Such & Such is working on some restaurant fabrication projects and plans to release new products through their company. The group also has a show coming to the Contemporary Arts Center titled The Living Room, in addition to an Ohio Arts Council show in Columbus for modern furniture.

Dixon’s aspirations are simple: Start making as much through Dixon Branded as he does teaching industrial design classes at UC.

“With my individual stuff, my goal within the first few months is to start to really market myself in terms of (being a) furniture manufacturer,” Dixon says. “Right now, I’ve got prototypes. The biggest challenge for me so far has been coming up with money to the point where I can actually produce stuff.”

Overall, it seems the goal is to increase marketing and continue to put out quality work that Cincinnatians are beginning to see more and more. After three years in existence, Losantiville is thrilled to be accumulating local recognition, which it hopes will lead to more business and satisfied clients eager to see what the Losantiville artists will take on next.

For more info on LOSANTIVILLE and its individual companies, visit losantivilleltd.com



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