Torben Wilson the artist and owner of Neoterica Designs began the company and designs in 1994, after obtaining his degree in Industrial Technology. Torben moved to California with his design experience to create furniture designs for JW Furniture. In 1997 he dedicated his full artistic talent into Neoterica Designs and has been designing unique pieces of art for close to 20 years now.
Torben creates all the art pieces for Neoterica Designs from the inception of the design to the creation of each individual piece. Fixtures to Finishes: How Torben Wilson Became the Mirror Master
Though a mirror is the main attraction, it’s just one of many materials that comprise Torben Wilson’s hand-crafted, reflective art. What is a mirror to him? For this 6’4” man who rarely looks into a mirror, a mirror possesses a mystical quality–“a window into another world; it’s whatever you want it to be,” says the North Carolina native.
I first met Torben Wilson at one of those disastrous Sundays at Jack London Square. We remember that day well because it was windy, cold, and wet. We were all trying to sell our art while we held down the legs of our tents, wondering why we’d even bothered getting up that morning. It was not a fun nor prosperous day. Amidst the unfriendly weather, Torben and his mirrors remain my only pleasant memory of the day.
I was glad to meet him again under more tranquil conditions. A man who speaks frankly and fluidly about the world according to Torben, he tells it like it is—take it or leave it. I thoroughly enjoyed his rapid stream of stories–little vignettes that held golden nuggets of wisdom. A mirror of his own mirrors, Torben reflects a character as creative and unique as his designs.
Knowing how to woo his customers into a world that marries a bit of funk with sophistication, his mirror art will bring a smile and a possible wink to anyone’s day. Whether it’s a her and his mirror over closet doors, a curvy mirror adorned with clusters of luscious blue grapes over a bed, or a sleek martini glass and shaker over a bar, Torben’s designs satisfy a full spectrum of clientele. In a world that’s super cool, Torben knows how to turn up the heat and tease the senses.
A student at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, Wilson’s original ambition was to be a furniture designer. With High Point, North Carolina, the furniture capital of the world, was right down the road, it was easy to be inspired. After graduating in 1994 with a degree in Industrial Technology and completing an apprenticeship with a family furniture business. Shortly after, Torben’s career quickly spun into orbit. After seeing his portfolio the owners of JW Contemporary Design, a furniture company in Livermore, CA were instantly smitten by Torben’s eye for design. Because he also constructed his designs–to further demonstrate their sustainability–with a snap of the fingers, he was hired as a freelance designer.
He flew out to the Bay Area in December 1997 to for the first time and, by some quirk of nature, the weather just so happened to be 80 degrees. A warm-blooded creature of comfort, Torben was sold. The next step was to find a place to live. He rented an apartment in Walnut Creek, an easy BART ride to sleepy Livermore and to sleepless San Francisco. Returning to North Carolina, Torben hastily packed and announced to friends and family he was off to California. Working for a mega-furniture company, however, was confining and frustrating—painfully piercing Torben’s wings. Within a year, disgruntled and tired, it was time to move on.
In North Carolina, he happened to visit a friend’s beauty salon. Oddly, Torben noticed there were no mirrors in the salon. He asked his friend, “How is it that you have not one mirror in here? Don’t you know women love to look at themselves?” Torben got busy and made a beautiful mosaic 3×4-foot backsplash. After installing it behind the shampoo bowls, his enthusiasm mounted as he visualized a set of matching mirrors hanging above. He went home, designed and constructed a set of mirrors accented with the same mosaic inlays as the backsplash. On the following Sunday, he went into the salon and hung them on the wall above the bowls using fishing line to effect a floating, ethereal sensation. When his friend returned to work, he was so enchanted by the beauty of the mirrors that within days he removed them and hung them in his own home. Fortunately, the mirrors had already melted the hearts of enough customers, and much to Torben’s surprise, he was inundated with orders.
Enter Neoterica Designs—Designs for a Modern World. Using a combination of mirror and metal, held together by a secret black resin formula, and supported by a wood backing, Torben’s designs have a modern abstract yet familiar, down-home, friendly appeal found nowhere else on the planet.
Generally, he’s found that “the funkier it is, the faster it sells.” After finishing a piece and stepping back to give it the once over, he shakes his head and mutters: “Oh, no, no, no! No one’s gonna want this!” His line of Good Luck Panels exemplifies this: feathers, leather, bones, beads, bells, shells, stones—little scrap flea market pieces cluttering his studio—were used to embellish the Good Luck mirrors. They were so funky, he thought they’d never sell. However, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and he was surprised when they were all gone in a snap. And if it doesn’t sell right off, with confidence he says, “I’m not worried. My pieces always sell,” adding affectionately, “These are my babies.”