Alberto Vélez and Angie West both grew up against arid, mountainous backdrops. Hailing from Bogotá and Texas, respectively, the two first met while Vélez held a leadership role with Holly Hunt and West helmed her foundry and glassworks atelier, West Supply. “My favorite part of developing hundreds of pieces and collections for 10 years was these relationships with the fabricators,” Vélez says. “Among the
fabricators, Angie was by far my favorite.”
Halfway through 2020, Vélez exited Holly Hunt and joined forces with West to take their mutual fascination with materials and deep reverence for technique to new heights. “We hold craft up as an integral aspect of design in any medium, and we share a sense that there are stories as yet untold in collectible and industrial design,” West says.
With the help of 45 artisans at West Supply, Vélez and West are cultivating a new language with their company, Refractory. Ranging from surrealist side tables to sculptural light fixtures and seating, the series comprises singular handmade designs rendered through elite craftsmanship. Four new designs were
also showcased at this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan. “There’s a maker’s environment,” Vélez says of Refractory. “It’s enjoyable.”
West adds that, in addition to their shared curiosities, the pair’s complementary personalities fuel the brand’s experimentation. “While I am an editor and have a more conceptual point of view, Alberto has the sensibilities of an incredibly accomplished industrial designer,” she says. Take the studio’s use of bronze, a signature material that Vélez and West have reimagined. Artisans smooth out marks during casting, distinguishing it with purity that empowers the material to tell a unique story as it ages. “It’s such a resilient material that nothing will happen if you spill something,” Vélez says. “Better yet, it’s going to get interesting [over time].”
Cast glass, black walnut, white oak, and cast resin are also stars in the Refractory palette, while earthen pigments nod to the landscapes Vélez and West once called home. “The works themselves are ever-changing and iterative,” West says.
“Refractory gives us a liberated voice that can be broad and