Ball-Nogues Studio combines multiple disciplines to create captivating installations that capture the imagination.
A visit to the Ball-Nogues Studio website reveals a stunning portfolio of captivating works bringing surprise and joy to their surroundings. From universities to hospitals to parking garages – these commissioned, larger-than-life artistic endeavors are the imaginings of entrepreneurs Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues, who describe their works as something between “architecture, art and industrial design.” Some installations are transitory; others are permanent, but all are crowd-pleasing delights to the senses.
The two aspiring architects would travel very much divergent paths before their lives intersected at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, Los Angeles. While Benjamin grew up in Colorado and Iowa, Gaston was born and raised in Buenos Aires. And while Benjamin was influenced by his mother’s involvement in the theater, Gaston was inspired by father’s work as an aerospace engineer. However, they share a notable biographical highlight, having worked for renowned architect Frank Gehry at Gehry Partners.
Benjamin spent his time at Gehry Partners as a student before going on to become a set designer and art director in the film industry, including working on the blockbuster Matrix franchise. Meanwhile, Gaston continued his career at the famed architectural firm for 12 years, where he earned a reputation as the “go to” guy for anything involving fabrication.
In 2005, the two designers left their lucrative professions to launch Ball-Nogues Studio, a unique collaboration between designer and fabricator with architectural backgrounds. Their goal, as they put it, was to “create environments that enhance sensations, generate spectacle and invite physical engagement.”
And it was mission accomplished almost from the very beginning with an installation called “Maximilian’s Schell” in Los Angeles. Composed of 504 “petals” made of a reinforced metallic Mylar material and joined together with clear polycarbonate rivets, the captivating tornado-shaped golden canopy became an instant hit with the public and influential art critics alike.
“We never imagined that the New York Times would run a story about our work.”
“We were hoping that the project might get published in a local paper if we were lucky,” Benjamin recalled. “We never imagined that the New York Times would run a story about our work. And that it would receive an ID Magazine Annual Design Review Award. The project definitely put us on the map and helped catapult the business.”
Benjamin quickly added that just because you’re receiving critical acclaim, press, new commissions, and prestigious museum exhibits doesn’t mean you’re out of the financial woods by any stretch of the imagination. “For example, we not only design our own projects, we are also the builders as well. And it’s the building division of our business that can be the most challenging from a cash standpoint, since we’re often expected to fund the start of a project long before we ever see any payments.”
It was that need for early funding that initially posed a challenge for Ball-Nogues Studio. “Since we didn’t have a long credit history, I figured we had basically no chance of getting a traditional loan from any large or small bank,” he said. “My girlfriend had worked with the VEDC when she started her own Pilates Studio, and she told me that they weren’t in it purely for the money, and that we would probably get to the finish line faster than trying to go through a bank. She was right.”
Benjamin said the VEDC team took the time to thoroughly understand their unique business model. “Our business really is a little different, since we’re very often undercapitalized at the start of a project, and require a fair amount of working capital up front in order to complete and ultimately get paid for a project,” he said. “Additionally, we don’t always show a huge profit and our credit ratings have been up and down. As entrepreneurs, getting our design studio up and running meant we had to sacrifice a lot, often working for very little just to garner recognition – and what profits we made usually went right back into the business. VEDC has made the vital loans we really needed to get a project off the ground. I’m convinced that most traditional lenders simply would never have bothered to make an effort to help.”
He added that Ball-Nogues Studio doesn’t run like a more straightforward print shop or auto repair shop. “Our projects unfold over long periods of time, and money tends to flow in and out of our coffers in big chunks, which is why we use an accrual accounting system. This wasn’t an issue for VEDC, either, because they did their homework, spent time with our business manager and understood exactly how we operated.”
As for advice he’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out, Benjamin believes it’s vital to have your baseline systems, professional relationships and protocols in place. “That includes having a good insurance broker, a lawyer and an accountant to keep the books up to speed,” he said. “If you are creating a business, your focus needs to remain on the creative side of the business, and your core competencies. The last thing you need is the IRS or Franchise Tax Board asking for money, or a workman’s comp claim draining your fund.”
He added that having a lending organization like VEDC that believes in your business is also an important element in the studio’s success. “We’ve received a lot of recognition for our work and are very happy about that. We’ve created commissions for Bradley West Terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport, Veteran’s Affairs Aquatic Center in Palo Alto, CA and at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, among many others in addition our work has been in some museums. Yet, in order to get many of our most successful projects off the ground, we often require additional funding. And the VEDC has become a valued partner and integral factor in the continued success of Ball-Nogues Studio.”
We encourage you to check out their website at www.ball-nogues.com to see all of the amazing works they’ve completed to date, and those on the horizon. For more information about the many small business loan options at VEDC, call 1-800-304-1755.