Inside The Studio: My “New” Old Banker’s Swivel Chair

I’ve always liked banker’s swivel chairs, so when I furnished my studio nearly two decades ago, I bought one from the Bombay Company (which no longer has retail outlets, but still operates an online store).

While their furniture wasn’t as cheap as Ikea’s cardboard-and-staple-quality offerings, it was still cobbled together in the Orient, which meant is wasn’t as durable as American products manufactured in the first half of the 20th century (come to think of it, not even today’s American-made products are as good as they were back then). Modern manufacturing methods which focus on keeping costs down necessitated a design that was far from being as comfortable as an authentic banker’s chair. The Bombay Co. version isn’t at all as ergonomic, with its straight, tall back and small seat.

Several years ago, the seat on the Bombay chair cracked in half, and now the armrest popped off the front post. Also, the wheel casters began losing bearings — either that, or someone has been discharging a BB-gun inside my studio. Anyway, it seems like every joint on the chair is loose and the entire thing is literally wobbling apart. It was time to introduce the chair to the fireplace.

So now I decided to look for an authentic, vintage banker’s chair, with the low, curved back. Most of the samples online went from $250 to $650, but I found one on Craigslist and paid $80 for it. banker's chair

From what I could find, this was made in the early half of the 20th century. Even after all this time, this thing is solid. And it’s so comfortable that it doesn’t need padding. Sure, it has a patina — “patina” seems to be the new way of saying that the finish has taken a beating, which is supposed to be part of the charm.

Anyway, I’m glad to get rid of the hunk of junk Bombay garbage. It served me well enough for a while, but, as usual, new stuff seems to be intentionally manufactured to be disposable. Does anyone make anything to last anymore?

Banker's chair

The is Bombay Company's version of a banker's swivel chair. Not at all as cozy as the real deal. Here it is after being tossed out of the studio.

This is Bombay Company’s version of a banker’s swivel chair. Not at all as cozy as the real deal. Here it is after being tossed out of the studio.












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Starting My Workday

Many a day I wake up at the crack of noon, get dressed (in something that covers my underwear), and walk to work (down the hall) to begin work by “warming up”.

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My Art Studio

My drawing board which hasn’t been getting as much use since moving to the Cintiq. (The typewriter on the desk is a 1921 Royal 10.)

I recently mentioned getting a Cintiq and one of my friends had commented whether I would show a photo of it in my studio, so I figured I’d do so for today’s post. This got me to thinking — I recall encountering a book devoted solely to documenting artist studios. While I’ve always been fascinated with commercial art studios, I’m more interested in private art studios and seeing how other artists surround themselves. Some artists have minimalist studios to avoid distractions while others have studios surrounded by clutter.

Frank Grau Studio Cintiq & Computer Area


If you look closely on the second level of the glass-paneled bookcase you can see an animator’s maquette of Christopher Robin which I used while designing for the Pooh & Friends figurine line. And for anyone possibly interested, the guitar on the wall is a 1989 Hamer USA Californian.

Because I’m essentially imprisoned in my little work space all day long, I need to surround myself with all the little things that inspire me throughout the day. I have quite the collection of art books, many children’s books, as well as some novels, academic books, and comics. I also have a couple of electric guitars with which to entertain myself when I need to take a break, so I’ll kick back on the window seat and make noise when I’m restless. When I want to work out ideas for something I’m writing, I’ll often rough out things on one of the several vintage typewriters I’ve acquired over the years. Anyway, since I don’t want to have to itemize everything in my studio, I’ll let you wade through the photos. I took a couple shots from different corners, as well as tried to stitch together a few panoramas (hopefully the panoramas are not too confusing, since the edges of each photo didn’t align perfectly when attaching them to one another. Plus the lens distorts things and makes them wonky, so excuse the warped, cartoon-like perspective).

Frank Grau Studio Panorama from Drawing Board

The little amp on the ground there is a 1974 Fender MusicMaster Bass amp, which, while stinky for bass is really cool for guitar, especially after running the guitar through a few pedals (for the amp nerds out there, it’s the earlier 6aq5 version, not the later one running 6v6 power tubes).

Frank Grau Studio Panorama from windowseat Frank Grau Studio_Panorama from doorway

As far as the Cintiq is concerned, you can check out the before-and-after photo and use the scanner on the top right of the desk as a reference to see what’s changed. The scanner has remained in the same spot, so you can see how the desk was routed out and another level added to accommodate the Cintiq. The iMac in the “after” shot is a newer computer and I got rid of the extra monitor and the printer underneath. The pull-out keyboard section also got dropped down. Overall, the whole thing is pretty ergonomic now. And I can see the entire iMac screen when the Cintiq is slanted down for drawing.

Cintiq computer station

As you can see, I have the required Iron Giant mascot required at every artist’s studio. The image on the Cintiq is a personal comic project on which I’m currently working in my nearly non-existent free time.