Jonathan Allen is still learning as he goes when it comes to woodworking. Since starting his company Brave Aesthetics in 2014, he's been specializing in installation art and furniture with an emphasis on retail design. His past clients include boutiques like Lone Flag, Van De Vort and even a gig creating displays for Urban Outfitters. Still, he's the first to admit that while his woodwork has become increasingly more skilled, he's not sure he was fully prepared for his latest project.
"The complexity of building a boat is beyond physical," says Allen, describing the 30-foot whaleboat he's been working on for a public art installation behind the recently opened Liberty Public Market inside Liberty Station. "I found that experience and doing is the best teacher. I still don't know everything when it comes to fine woodworking, but it's art so it doesn't have to be perfect."
Allen got into woodworking after finishing a stint in the Marines in 2005. He began making art as soon as he was a civilian again and, in 2010, helped open the Moniker Warehouse office space for fellow creatives in 2010. Since starting Brave Aesthetics, he claims that 90 percent of his commissions are from word-of-mouth referrals and was approached by Liberty Station in early 2015.
"They gave me free rein to go a little abstract with it and go other ways," says Allen, who hopes the boat will be installed by the end of March. "I wanted it to look like a boat on sand, but once inside, people would feel like they were on the water."
The boat itself has a five-foot gap in the middle for people to walk in and take a seat on the white oak benches. He has has lovingly named the boat U.S.S. Brave, though he's quick to add that the name isn't a reference to Brave Aesthetics, but rather a tribute to the military and the heritage of Liberty Station. The inside of the boat will be lined with quotes about bravery from various military heroes and a few that Allen couldn't help but include.
"I think there'll be one in there from the Ultimate Warrior," says Allen, referring to the popular professional wrestler whose heyday was in the late '80s and early '90s. "But for the most part, it's giving credit to the brave people in the military that have to sacrifice and be brave to keep us free."