Teaching Functional Art and Design



Teaching Functional Art and Design:
Tandem Made


Nate and Erin Moren of Tandem Made—a design-and-build studio in Northeast Minneapolis—believe in the power of creating. They believe that a person’s environment affects his or her well-being. They believe that collaboration between artists and their communities has the power to create bonds of understanding and fill a basic human need. 

“Creating is something that clicked with me back when I was a kid,” Nate says. “From hammering nails into a piece of wood when I was little to creating pieces of furniture, it has always been with me. It’s how I communicate, and I couldn’t see it not being there. It’s part of me. It’s how I express myself.”

The husband and wife duo launched Tandem Made in 2011, turning their passion for good design and functional art into a custom and product-line furniture business. They also work with sculpture, cabinets, and household accessories.

As Minnesota natives, Erin and Nate find that their design aesthetic is influenced by the state’s mix of city culture and wilderness, resulting in a more subdued, classic design. “We go with the trends a little bit, but also try really hard to make pieces that are more timeless. We don’t want to make work that’s disposable,” Erin says. As makers who value sustainable design, the Morens believe they have a responsibility to give back to the community through education.

Erin’s passion for art education had led her and Nate to go into local schools to teach functional art and furniture design, and to collaborate with students to create pieces for their learning spaces. “Art really is all around you. It’s everything that you come into contact with. Teaching that to students really opens their eyes to the fact that even the most mundane things are designed by someone. Everything is here for a purpose, so being able to teach them about how you can change your environment to affect how you’re feeling is cool,” says Erin.

These kinds of connections with clients, students, and local businesses have proven to be the most rewarding aspect of the duo’s work so far. After seeing a client cry for joy over the beauty of a table they made, Nate and Erin knew that starting their own business had been worth the risk. “The greatest reward has been being able to work together this long and being able to be successful,” Erin says. “Seeing the look on people’s faces when we deliver pieces—that’s the best part for me.”