Building OZ

Inside Oz from Ryan Bush on Vimeo.


This was an incredible project.

It’s rare, I think, when we get to work on projects we love from brief to delivery. We must consider ourselves lucky when a client gives us full creative control, and is as professionally supportive as the Ozgener family, whom I’d like to introduce you to.

This family came to the United States from Turkey. They raised a family here, did good business, and now have reached a point in their lives when they’d like to do passion-based work. To this family, this means opening a contemporary art gallery and event space in their hometown, Nashville.

There are varying degrees of cultural and story-based richness to draw on when looking at this sort of project. First in branding, and second, in the extension of identity. How can one communicate deep story, authentic branding, and expression of service in a single mark? How can you encourage viewers to lean-in and become fans of the brand over long-term, meaningful interaction?

“OZ” was chosen deliberately. First, it’s a portion of the family name. But more importantly, it’s an idea. Cano Ozgener, the family patriarch, expresses that The Wizard of Oz is his favorite film, and he understands the cultural nuances of the Emerald City and its wizard. When I first heard over the phone the new company’s name, my mind started to spin. Those two letters, one completely curvilinear, the other it’s opposite, were going to be fun to play with.

And so I played. And listened. “You must go to the mountain now” Mr. Ozgener told me in his living room in early 2012.


The part of the brief that is covered in the short film (top of post) is a design installation that lives in the entry way to OZ Nashville. The family requested a permanent design, based on everything I’d learned in the discovery phase. I decided to make a custom mosaic, utilizing cultural cues from Iznik (famous Turkish pottery and motifs), and extruded typography in a dramatic setting.

The building phase began. I realized I needed help, and so I used Instagram to it’s greatest utility – to bring people together. I put out a plea for helping hands, and was humbled and shocked to have an immediate, butt-saving response. Ryan Bush, Allison Berg, and Alex Taylor stayed till 4 am one night, and got up early the next morning and returned for more. In the midst of their portfolio reviews at PSU. Amazing.

Ryan J BushAlex R TaylorAllison BergMirtho PrepontNishat AkhtarMathew Foster
Will BryantAlisha HensonEthan FurnissJanice GrubeKate Bingaman-Burt
Seamus HolleyJon James Staton

Once done with the mosaic, I separated each item by size and ganged them up onto 4 x 8′ documents, which was then cut out of 1/2″ medium density fiber board (MDF). This material is incredibly heavy, and after 8 sheets were fully utilized, the scale of this piece began to reveal itself. Nothing like creating something you are somewhat frightened of. Only the expertise of Seamus Holley could handle this sort of request, I am incredibly grateful for his knowledge.

Hundreds of pieces were hand sanded, primed, and painted with 3 coats of matte paint, which took an incredible chunk of time. But the challenge then was attaching them in a permanent fashion from behind, one by one. We’d work in groups of 4, two under, and two above, guiding the tackers with LED lights shone through pilot holes. Untold hours, untold gratitude for my helpers. Did I mention they were not getting paid? Oh right there’s that. I owe you one guys.

Letters were cut from the same material by CNC. Layered, counter-sunk by carriage bolts for a seamless finish from the front. Behind the letters we placed strips of true-white LED lights that would separate the letters from the mosaic.

We then drilled directly through the mosaic pieces for the 8 carriage bolts. A harrowing experience. 1/4″ error in any direction would have killed the entire piece. We “kerned” these letters, looked, re-kerned, looked again from across the room, adjusted here, nudged there. Fretting very much. A few words of encouragement from Kate Bingaman-Burt, I held my breath and drilled into the mosaic. Safe.

Then the scariest moment of my adult life. The forklift.

I’d like to never repeat this moment. The protective skeleton cracked and bent when the forks went under it. And then the entire 650 lb. oblong piece swayed in the wind for a moment of terror as it was lifted from the street. It stabilized, and somehow (I don’t know how, I blacked out) these stalwart men guided it gently onto the bed of the truck. That was awful.

The piece arrived, damaged, and 3 days late. We fixed it. Worked it. Stressed out, re-painted, installed it and secured it in a matter of hours. More help arrived, at one point we had a proper crew of 6 professionals making it happen. Right up until 20 minutes before the opening reception.
Ryan Bush and I raced back to our hotel, ironed our shirts, changed into suits, and rushed back
just in time.

Growth, I’m finding, often comes from nauseatingly stressful situations.
I’m so grateful to have been a part of this one.

Citius, altius, fortius.

4 Responses to “Building OZ”
  1. Ryan Bush says:

    Seeing all of the process in one place gives me chills. Being there during the whole process almost blinded me from the progress we were making – it was just move, move, move and then we were back on the plane home. I don’t know if I have ever learned so much from one project as I did working on Oz. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity, Aaron.

    Job well done.

  2. Greg Fisk says:

    You did it again Aaron!! I was wondering what the OZ was all about. I’m always inspired by your dedication to process. Good stuff… I love the FORTPORT!



  3. Beautiful work! I enjoyed keeping up with the work via all of the contributors Instagram updates.

    Ryan, another killer video piece.


  4. Debbie Rayburn says:

    That’s MY son!

Leave A Comment