As a lifelong artist, it didn’t take too long for Matt Pugh to grow tired of bringing other designers’ ideas to life – eventually, he couldn’t resist the need to create on his own. After a stint as a model maker, Matt decided to take his career into his own hands and began bringing his own original pieces to trade shows, where he started to gain success and recognition.
Matt’s charming designs and his use of sustainable materials in making them stood out to us right away. We’re so glad to have his unique fixtures as new additions to our assortment. Read on to hear from the rural Wiltshire, England artist about where he gets inspiration for his quirky pieces, and what goes into making them.
What’s your background like? Did you always know you wanted to be an artist/maker?
I have always been creative since I was small. We have a very creative family and were always encouraged to draw and make things from an early age. Throughout school I enjoyed my art and design classes. I studied further at college, tried a brief stint studying ceramics and focused then on 3D design. By the time it came to choose what to study at University I had been a student for a few years with no money! So I was looking for something I thought I could make a living from. I chose a model making and 3D design course, thinking I could work on creating film sets but ended up working as an architectural model maker in London for a few years. At this time I quite quickly realized that I wanted to be designing, too, not just making from other people’s designs.
I worked as a model maker for a few more years at various places, then did a bit of theater prop and set building, interactive exhibition display making, then found myself making high-end bespoke furniture for various companies. From here I kept on with the furniture and woodwork. My own designs started as a side line that I would make from off cuts I’d find lying around the workshop and sell at small craft fairs. The furniture business I was a partner in was not doing so well anymore so I jumped ship and set up on my own.
What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist/maker?
Probably the first big trade show I did and I had the buyers from all the big shops I used to read about in the magazines talking to me and wanting to place orders for my things!
How did you translate your passion for designing and creating into a business?
I knew this was what I wanted to do on a bigger more full time scale, so I took a leap of faith and took a stand at 100% Design London with a small range of furniture and lamps. These were largely ignored compared to a set of my owl ornaments which everyone was loving! The business started from there, with those little owls!
What inspired you to first create the RoboLamp and the Dog E-Collar Lamp? Do you have a canine muse at home, or a penchant for sci-fi flicks?
The Robo Lamp started on one of my design days in the workshop, I had been looking to make a little wooden robot toy for my son, at the same time I was looking at light bulbs for another design, literally the sketch book was open on the robot sketch and the laptop had the bulbs on screen and the idea jumped out at me! It was real light bulb moment!
The Dog Lamp came about as I used to have some other lamps of the same style, a man and woman, a cat and duck… I wanted to make a dog, but didn’t know which way to go with this. My girlfriend and I had been looking to get a dog, and one evening she came in while I was sketching out some ideas with a picture of a Boarder Terrier. I knew straight away this was the dog we wanted and the inspiration for the lamp! Sampson is at work with me everyday and a lovely companion and good at chasing the occasional mouse that wanders in from the surrounding country side!
Fill us in on how the lamps are made. What’s the process like, from start to finish?
It starts big with rough sawn timber boards. These go through various machines in the workshop, planed and smoothed, cut to shape (a very complicated drilling process for the dog lamps!) then hand-sanded, finished with hard wax oil and wired up.
How does sustainability come into play when you choose materials for your lamps?
I have always had a strong desire to use good quality sustainable materials, leave as little waste as possible, recycle what we can for packing and only use recyclable boxes. Even our bubble wrap is biodegradable! The oak for the dog lamp is FSC certified. I want everything that comes out of the workshop to last for years. It’s important for me that everything I do has a positive ethos behind it – so happy products that are produced with sustainability in mind and minimal impact on the environment and will last for a very long time. I want to be able to look back on my life and know I did what I could to not damage the planet and left a positive legacy with my designs. I feel very proud, happy and humbled that my products are used as gifts or as special treats for yourself – I love that they spread happiness and positivity around, and that it doesn’t seem to be limited by country or continent!
Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near as you work? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
My desk is full of things, half made prototypes, postcards of designs I like, a little Eiffel Tower which reminds me of my times at one of my favorite trade shows in Paris, Maison Objet.
Most recently my eldest son (4) made me a little wooden tool box at his nursery school, which says ‘Daddy’s tool box’ on it and is painted in lots of colors. I use this as a little pen pot, it reminds me of what’s important at the moment and why I need to work harder to support our young family!
What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
I don’t really have one, but I do feel incredibly lucky to be able to have this as my job! And so far people like what I have created. I have a great workshop in a lovely location, a nice house in the country side, a beautiful family. So to motivate myself I remind myself of this and the fact that I have to work hard and carry on working hard to keep it!