CONVERSATIONS I LOCK & MORTICE
At ADAPTURE, we are driven by both technology and creativity, and are curious as to how these elements push brands to new levels of innovation. We strive to make connections with like minded people who share the pursuit of these ideals. In our first CONVERSATION series, we spoke with Josiah Peters, one of the Co-founders of Lock & Mortice.
Lock & Mortice is a Vancouver-based furniture designer and manufacturer that creates solid wood pieces for residences and commercial spaces. Since its inception in 2012, Lock & Mortice has been crafting hardwood furniture, adhering to uncompromising levels of quality and sustainability. In our conversation, we discussed how systems driven processes, and challenging the way we look at technology can help innovate towards greater sustainability.
While visiting the Lock & Mortice studio, Josiah explained how his team uses modern manufacturing processes to reduce their production waste. We learned how environmentally driven processes like eco-cautious solvents and proprietary natural hardwax oil help create a connection to and appreciation of the natural beauty of each individual Lock & Mortice piece.
We also spent time at ARCADE, the joint showroom shared between Lock & Mortice and Matthew McCormick Studios in Gastown Vancouver, to further explore their product range.
Interview: Courtney Chew
Words: Matt Potocki
Photography: Shane Long
Lock & Mortice was founded in 2012 by three people with different interests, although all centered around industrial design. We didn’t start out wanting to be manufacturers - we were originally a creative house working in different mediums doing anything from furniture to set design. After a few years of this exploration we settled on becoming a furniture company, but were haunted by the idea that the world doesn’t really need any more furniture companies. So what were we hoping to achieve? What would differentiate us from other furniture companies? As time has gone on We have become a lot more disciplined and process driven. The driving force in the earlier years of our business was more around exploration or our own personal expression
I remember the moment I fell in love with design, and it actually was a picture of a Wishbone Chair. I grew up in very traditional heritage style homes, and I wasn't really exposed to a lot of architecture and good design. My dad is a builder, and always worked with his hands, but at some point in the early 2000s, he bought a furnishing company that made park benches out of plastic lumber for cities and municipalities. Ryan, my business partner today and I, we were the skate kids and we started building skate ramps on plastic lumber because all the wood ramps were being built and putting aside wood rot.
I believe in design that functions and solves problems that need to be solved, opposed to ego driven design of younger years. Early on, everything was about attention. We were trying to create those pieces that would shed light on us. Designing products in a world that doesn't need more products felt insincere and full of ego, or interest in designing and manufacturing products of enduring relevance and utility. Combining creative and even old world knowledge of a medium with future thinking technology.
SUSTAINABILITY IS A HUGE PILLAR FOR L&M. CAN YOU SHARE WITH ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW TECHNOLOGY AND DESIGN COME TOGETHER TO PUT THIS PILLAR INTO PRACTICE IN YOUR FURNITURE?
We wanted to use technology to reduce manufacturing waste. We are confident with this static direction and values we've chosen, we became obsessed with developing a system based region specific modern manufacturing model, meaning we want it to work out modern systems to build furniture for people in specific regions. This worked well with our values of sustainable product design and manufacturing. And so we've, we decided to own that space and serve our local area of the Pacific Northwest. Mainly, our eventual goal is to use our systems and replicate them in other regions, with different manufacturing facilities, serving their own regions with a product lineup, which of course impacts how we design products, and ensure scalability and ensure scalability, clarity. The world doesn't need just another chair "just because".
TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION IS ALWAYS ABOUT PUSHING FORWARD, THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE, ADAPTING AND EVOLVING TO CHANGE. IT HELPS TO MAKE PROCESSES MORE CONVENIENT AND EASIER, BUT IN A WORLD THAT IS CONSTANTLY PUSHING TO BE FASTER AND BETTER DO YOU FEEL THERE IS A NEED FOR TRADITION TO BALANCE?
Well I guess that depends on the problem you're trying to solve. Good design I believe solves problems that require solving. We produce in one of the most expensive cities to manufacture in the world and the cost of labour and doing things by hand simply doesn’t align with the economics of what people are willing to pay for a product. Now there’s always going to be an element of hand in everything we do, the board selection process planning and edging or the fact that we’ve deliberately chosen to do use a plant-based finish in a manufacturing process, that requires a lot of touch time there’s nothing to hide so there’s real artistry in the entire process.
– The world doesn't need another chair "just because."
MATERIALS ARE HUGE FOR ADAPTURE. THE DETAILS THAT WE PUT INTO THE PROPRIETY FABRICATION OF OUR GARMENTS IS WHAT WE FEEL ELEVATES OUR APPROACH TO THE EVERYDAY TEE. HOW SIGNIFICANT IS MATERIAL FOR YOU? WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO CHOOSE TO WORK PRIMARILY WITH WOOD?
Material is everything, you can produce a design in multiple different mediums and achieve a different aesthetic every time. We don’t specifically want to continually only work in wood but what we discovered is different mediums require different sets of tools and we didn’t want to become the masters of none so we decided to devote ourselves to a medium that we were most attracted to. When we first began Lock & Mortice we asked ourselves some pretty tough questions about “who we wanted to be when we grew up,” and “sustainable” was at the top of our list. Designing products in a world that doesn’t need more products felt insincere and full of ego - our interests lay in designing and manufacturing products of enduring relevance and utility, combining creative and even old-world knowledge of a medium with future thinking technology. We tested many different mediums and eventually landed on wood because it is truly a sustainable resource, able to be sculpted and formed by hand and machine easily, and inherently structural. There is an inherent honesty to it that is beautiful - you see the story of a tree within a plank of wood. So, our philosophy is to respect and celebrate that story instead of modifying it to fit our ego or taste
Although wood is our medium, we’re not “woodworkers” - we’re industrial designers who want to be deeply connected to the manufacturing to make a difference. We’ve found that most well-intentioned industrial designers don’t understand manufacturing, and that comes through in products that are driven by ego and personal expression. We don’t feel that we’re doing anything shocking, but want our business to be consistent with our values and not flood the market with unnecessary products that have a big ecological footprint.
AT ADAPTURE WE TAKE A LOT OF INFLUENCE FROM MUSIC — ARE THERE OTHER FORMS OF ART OR DESIGN OR INDUSTRY THAT INSPIRES WHAT YOU DO? INSPIRES THE WAY YOU SEE THE WORLD AND HOW YOU WANT L&M TO FIT IN?
Honestly it sounds a little bit cliché but we draw a lot of inspiration from nature. Josie and I try to be intentional every-time we go for a walk in this forest by our house. It's beautiful, because it's always different, it's always changing. With every season, there's something new to notice and it's incredible. If you look close enough there’s incredible structure and design in everything in nature whether it be a spiderweb or a leaf. We’re furniture company that also draws a lot of influence from architecture, take our Deka Console for example that is essentially a brutalist piece of architecture from Eastern Europe.
LIFE IS FULL ON. AT ADAPTURE WE HOPE TO INSPIRE AND SHARE TOOLS TO GET THROUGH HARDSHIP TO ADAPT AND GROW AND SEE THE BEST FOR THE FUTURE. WHEN WAS THE TIME YOU FELT CHALLENGED BUT CHOSEN TO ENDURE IN HOPE FOR THE BETTER?
Honestly we’ve always been a business with a lot of convictions and those convictions didn’t always align with the economics That’s a tricky place to be in because if there’s no finances coming into your business it’s hard to grow and hire staff there have been many moments of self doubt and the temptation has been there to just throw in the towel.
AT ADAPTURE, WE BELIEVE THAT ADAPTING MEANS TO BE ABLE TO BE SELF EXPRESSIVE IN EVERYDAY ENVIRONMENT AND TO BE COMFORTABLE IN THEIR OWN SKIN DOING IT. WHAT DOES “ADAPT” MEAN TO L&M?
I guess like any industry if you’re very invested in it you’re going to see that there are people in it for different reasons. I think I’ve always been a little bit too worried about what the design community will think of us. Feeling insecure in what if we designed a product that’s not well received. I think we’re at a place now where there is a set foundation, guiding principles that lead us when we design. But also less of a concern about what is good or not good. I think what’s liberating is trusting your gut and knowing deep down what is good to you. We’ve found the Vancouver design network to be generous and community-driven, and we feel privileged to be part of it since it seems to be the most impactful design community in the PNW. Vancouver may be a small city but it packs a design punch. The amount of design coming out of this city is incredible and we’re humbled by all the creativity.