When designers say they like to make things with their hands, they’re not usually talking about chocolate. But for Mary Matson, a former senior designer at Kate Spade who now works freelance from the Brooklyn home she shares with her husband and co-conspirator Matt Even — an art director at Wieden + Kennedy — food has always been part of the equation. “When you’re in art school, everything is critiqued, every moment, every mark,” Matson says. “I loved painting, but I wanted to do something physical where every nuance wasn’t commented on. I was in Boston for graduate school, I’d done some kitchen work — and somehow I bullshitted my way into a job as a pastry cook.”
And so a few years ago, when Matson and Even began toying with the idea of opening an online shop, they naturally kept coming back to the idea of sweets and chocolates, and in 2009 Chocolate Editions was born. Under the name Mary & Matt — as the two call their company and blog, which chronicles their collections and obsessions, from plastic New York deli bags to Yves Klein blue — they began producing candy bars from their Brooklyn kitchen. They started out with pop-inspired confections, like a slab of dark that resembles a block of Scrabble tiles, and soon moved on to 3-ounce solid bars and simple striped ones in nostalgic flavors like Neopolitan, a selection of which are now for sale at Partners & Spade. (It helps that while at Kate Spade, Matson did design work for the famed New York chocolatier Jacques Torres, who’s become a bit of a mentor in exchange for continuing package designs from Matson.) Artisanal, home-based production has become something of a trend lately, particularly in Brooklyn, but for Mary & Matt, it was never about locavorism or Slow Food or any other Sunday Styles sort of buzzword. “We’re totally on the other side of things,” says Matson. “We want to use good ingredients, too, but our take is a little more pop, a little sweeter — more what you remember as a child.”
Matson and Even met as skate-obsessed high-schoolers in the D.C. suburbs, and after so many years together, the two have developed a shared set of references that pop up in everything from their chocolates to their identicallydesigned websites to their home, which I had the pleasure of visiting last month. We’re calling their aesthetic “unsentimental nostalgia”; click through to see what we mean.
Long ago, wallpaper was reserved for royalty — a handcrafted thing made with high artistry and hung with equally high aspirations. But since then, with a few very recent notable exceptions, it's become the ambitionless cop-out of modern-day interior design, a failure blamed on wimpy printing techniques but which probably has to do more with a lack of imagination. Among those getting it right is the Athens-based design collective 39.22., which draws both its name and its stable of talent from its own geographical coordinates.
The story of Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings began, like many Dutch stories do, in a church. In the late ’90s, Baijings was working for an agency whose headquarters were located inside one of the country’s many abandoned houses of worship. Scholten, a graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven, had a burgeoning design practice nearby. Scholten was asked to design a small bar for the agency’s office, and “the rest is history,” says Baijings.
It's easy to imagine the backstory of a Prada print: Miuccia has a concept for the season, and either a high-end Italian fabric vendor or her own design team supplies prints just for her. But consider a patterned polyester work shirt from Kmart, and you'd never guess that a RISD textile-design grad like Amy Voloshin might be behind it, translating those runway looks into something that appeals to mainstream Americans. It's an art unto itself: "I have a list of things I roll through in my head when I design for those clients: Is the print pretty? Is it scary, thorny, or edgy? If it is, it's not going to work."