Norbert Koehn is more than just our co-founder Sasha’s dad. For over half a century, he’s devoted himself to carving wood and stone sculptures. His pursuit of craftsmanship has been the original blueprint — the ethos behind our brand, and we’re happy to tell his story.
BM: We'd love to hear more about your background. How did you end up pursuing sculpture as a career?
NK: I was born in Germany in the 50s, and my grandfather was a church steeple builder. As a child, I always tagged along to his job sites. In those times, children were still allowed to do that, and I was fascinated by what I saw. The carvers, the painters, the stained glass makers, the sculptors — everybody was a master in their trade. I loved the carvers and sculptors best and decided at that moment that this was what I wanted to do with my life. By the time I was of age, I had taken an apprenticeship as a carver and eventually went to the local art institute, where I completed my master’s degree in sculpture.
At that same time, I met my wife at school. She was studying abroad, and she happened to be from Cleveland. We got married after five years, ended up back in Cleveland, and never left.
When Sasha and my other son Aaron were around 5 or 6 years old, I handed them their first chisels so they could come to work with me. So they grew up in that environment, and both pursued the arts. I actually tried to talk them out of it! I mean, this is a tough profession to be in. But they really enjoyed it, and they’re still enjoying it. You have to do what you love.
I actually tried to talk them out of it! I mean, this is a tough profession to be in. But they really enjoyed it, and they’re still enjoying it. You have to do what you love.
BM: What you’re speaking to comes down to values. You value your relationships with your clients and want to be proud of the things you’re creating. Is that right?
NK: Yes, and I've done a lot for churches and temples, which is my most fulfilling work because you have so many people going there specifically to find peace in that sort of space, and they appreciate that work in a different way than they might if it was a temporary installation in a gallery. It’s a totally different relationship, permanent, not transient. I have many long-term clients because I’ve held that relationship in such high regard. The compromise is that sometimes there are low years where you’re just trying to make ends meet, just to exist. You have to be willing to compromise.
BM: That’s great life advice in general. To bring this back to the clothes, do you wear a lot of Buck Mason clothing?
NK: Well, from the start, I think I’ve been the brand’s Cleveland representative. I only wear Buck Mason clothes. First of all, I genuinely like it. When I go to meetings, I get compliments, and I’m proud to say who made it, where it comes from, and where you can get it. Many people say, “I want to wear those clothes too,” and they’re all around my age. I think that speaks to the brand because it’s not incredibly trendy. It's quite rooted in neutral colors and styles. You don’t need a stylist’s advice because it's all designed to be worn together. So, yes, I wear a lot of Buck Mason.