American Design Hot List 2015
New York, mattermatters.com
Most know Gray as founder of the influential New York furniture shop Matter, but few know that some of the store’s best designs are his own.
What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?
Ten years ago my answer would have been so different. American design has really evolved since then and become an integral part of the international design landscape. So much so that I would say American design, more than anything else, is this growing group of designers, makers, and manufacturers who have uncompromisingly invested themselves in putting — and keeping — contemporary American design on the map. And while there are definitely moments that contextually make references to American design history, it no longer feels as though we’re having a separate conversation than designers elsewhere in the world. As one of the people who’s championed American design and manufacturing since opening Matter in 2003, I find that pretty exciting.
What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?
There are a number of commercial projects that the studio is currently immersed in which incorporate our existing lighting collections and some new custom fixtures as well. I continue to (obsessively) tinker with, refine and re-engineer things, so next year during design week I’ll introduce the latest iterations of the various lights I’ve developed. On top of that, I’ve started a new project, Wherewithal, with my girlfriend Olivia Sammons. We’ve always wanted to work together creatively and are finally finding some time to explore that. We’ve yet to define exactly what it is we do, but for the moment we’re collaborating on some product, furniture, and interior projects.
What inspires your work in general?
Form is the first thing I always respond to, whether in something manmade or something found in nature. I’ve always had this very physical reaction to the things that shape the world around me, but I’d have a hard time saying one thing or another informs or inspires my work. It’s more broad strokes. After form comes materials and assembly. I have a great amount of respect for things that are manufactured with a reverence for materials and are engineered to the highest degree. Swiss watch movements are a current obsession. The parts are so fragile and precise; it seems almost impossible that inside such a small object are these tiny springs, ratchets, jewels, gears, and a rotor that make up the automatic movement of a watch. It’s magical.