Studio Visit: Matthew Philips Williams

Matthew Philip Williams warmly greeted us in a familiar space, Supermaker, a shared studio space located on S.E. Belmont. He is the space’s wood shop guy, running his one man show out of the converted carpet warehouse. The vibe is busy and people are getting shit done tucked away in each of their zones. We are long time fans of his work and have been seriously impressed by the shops that he has built out around Portland (MML and WESS we are talking about you). Matthew’s genuine playful spirt is reflected in his work that consistently teeters between art and design with each piece or project. There are colors where you don't expect them and cheeky shapes in a minimally modern context. And it works so well! He drives his focus on function and practicality but he just can’t help himself, it always turns out jovial and unpretentiously artful. It can’t not make you smile! 

Acquiring his initial footing in fabrication after finishing his studies at V.C.U., eventually making his way across the country to be a part of OCAC and PNCA’s first year of their collaborative MFA program; Applied Craft and Design.  Portland stuck on him, he is still here making this city a little bit prettier every chance he gets - from peoples homes, local stores to work environments. 

Check out his studio and look for the handsome Second Chair as well as a liquor-cabinet-meets-a-bar-cart that he is starting to prototype. Also we included a slide show of some stellar Matthew pieces and spaces here in Portland. 

1. Why Portland? What was it that drew you to Portland or has kept you here?

I came to Portland in 2009 for graduate school, and finished the MFA AC+D program through PNCA and OCAC in 2011 (with a follow up fellowship through 2012). Right after I got my current studio space in Supermaker, and it has been my home base ever since. I think what has kept me here is the supportive community. Portland has been an amazing place to really cut my teeth and develop my practice. I’ve found some incredible clients who have really let me loose on projects that have helped me find my style and direction. Working alone is hard enough; without my Portland clients believing in me I wouldn’t be here. 

2. What are your favorite things happening in Portland (design or otherwise)?

I actually hate what’s happening in Portland, though I recognize that I’m part of the reason it’s happening. The city seems to be homogenizing at a pretty incredible rate. 

3. How did your brand start?

I’m still not sure I have a brand. I work under my full name “Matthew Philip Williams” simply because it’s easier to get results on google than without the middle name. My creative work started more as an art practice than an attempt at business, and it has organically developed into what it is mostly because I had bills to pay and realized I could line the two things up. If I wanted to keep a roof over my head, and continue my practice, they had to be mutually beneficial. That being said, I think the introduction to design in graduate school and the exposure to Portland’s deep creative community have really pushed my work into the direction that now is my “brand”. My work feels like an extension of my personality, and as a result my personality is my brand. 

4. What has been your biggest obstacle?

My biggest obstacle has been learning how to run a business. I have worked really hard to push my practice to the level it’s at, but I’m still a complete novice when it comes to being an entrepreneur. Especially as a one person show, wearing multiple hats to fill all the needs of a small business has proven to be no easy task and every time I crunch numbers or try to file something I feel like a fish out of water. 

5. What or who inspires your design?

Lately, I’ve been really inspired by product designer Jasper Morrison and the duo of Studio Gorm. There’s something very pure and authentic in their work and approach that I’m trying to strive for. Designers can embellish all they want to make an exciting object, and this approach works, but I think the real challenge is simplicity. Making an object that can’t be any simpler and still works is an incredibly difficult challenge, and I see that in their work. 

6. What are your favorite things about Portland?

The Red Fox and Cherry Sprout combination, Skidmore Bluffs, Kelley Point Park, Powell’s, the amazing coffee everywhere, and the light (if you’re from the East Coast you’ll know the difference). The only thing that’s been missing for me is I can’t find a decent fucking breakfast sandwich. After 8 years here it’s starting to wear me down. Anyone have any suggestions? Cheap has to be part of this. A good breakfast sandwich can’t be expensive and it certainly better not be artisanal. 

7. What is your favorite part of your studio?

I share my studio space with a number of different types of folks. In the front we have a Jewelry shop and upstairs there is a recording studio. There are a few independents here doing their thing in video, product design, art and design. One of my studio mates is actually working on developing the product design for a portable Malaria testing device, while another is working on graphic design and painting a motorcycle helmet. It’s weird here, and I love that; I never know what to expect from this place.