Aurora Shoe Co.

Birds of A Feather: Assembly

We find inspiration in other businesses and organizations who, like us, work to promote a love of good design and an appreciation for fine craftsmanship.  In this series, which we call Birds of a Feather, we'll share stories and ideas from around the world that reflect our own values.  We hope that you find them as inspiring and thought provoking as we do.

Assembly  is a new design studio with a solid foundation in art and craft based practice.  Based between NY and Western MA, co-founders Nora Mattingly and Pete Oyler have coupled their passions for interior design and handcraft with a focus on natural materials and a clean aesthetic.  

Dave and I met up with Nora and Pete while they were in Aurora this summer.  We enjoyed a few beers, showed them around the shop, and chatted about small scale manufacturing and design.  We are inspired and encouraged by Assembly's support of U.S. based handcraft and are pleased to share their ideals and philosophies with you here.

Assembly Design, Nora Mattingly and Pete Oyler

How did Assembly, or better yet, the idea for a design firm, get its start?

On hour 9 of a 13 hour drive from Louisville, KY last December we decided to launch Assembly – funny what seems like a good idea when you’ve been cooped up in a car for too long!

No, but more seriously, for years Pete and I have been having conversations about all things design; from our own projects and those of our peers, the globalization of production and fabrication, to the lack of resources for young emerging designers. Most importantly, we have had countless conversations about the many and massively talented artists, designers, and craftspeople we know living and working throughout the USA.

We believe that we are at a critical junction in the development of American Design. We are dedicated to and excited about being part of it.

When I graduated from RISD in 2009, I knew I wanted to start an interdisciplinary design firm. I also knew that I wasn’t quite ready—I had just moved to Brooklyn, and needed some time to settle in to city life and hone my business skill sets. Nora had also just begun her graduate studies in Interior Design at Pratt. In 2011 and after her second year of school, we started talking seriously about starting a practice together, what that would look like and what it would mean for both of us. Our interests and aesthetics have always been aligned and our skill sets are very complimentary. However, and perhaps most importantly, we are both completely committed to encouraging and supporting studio practices and small creative businesses in the U.S.

We (obviously) love your dedication to craft based projects. Why do you find this kind of work so appealing and important?

There is such a rich history of craft in the US. I think that is important to understand where you are coming from in order to know where you'd like to go. Drawing from craft based practice(s) is one way that I do this.

On a personal level, I have always loved working with and thinking through my hands. In general, I think making things is incredibly rewarding and also incredibly important in teaching really valuable and variable skill sets.
"Design is not in the details.  Design is the details" Eames

Do you have a set of design principles that you live and work by?

Design is like life in so many ways—it is a constant practice of patience, intention, and imagination. In my work and in my life, I try (and sometimes fail) to strike a balance between these things. Of all of the really inspirational things that Charles Eames said, one has always stuck with me: “Design is not in the details, Design is the details.” I think about that nearly every day—that the details, the many micro decisions we make, are part of a much larger picture that work to shape not only our aesthetic experience but our lived experience as well.
repurposed cardboard chair

Your pieces have a simple aesthetic and really showcase the materials used. Is this an intentional part of your design philosophy?

I think that we are both really enchanted by natural textures, colors, and motifs – especially the simple ones that people experience everyday but appreciate much less frequently. This source of inspiration for both palette and process comes across strongly in most of our work. Recently, we have also been very interested in utility, a quality that has been central to the way we live in Brooklyn, which demands a strong but sophisticated sense of simplicity.

Ditto to everything Nora mentioned... Ultimately, our goal was to take archetypical forms and very raw materials and create a collection with both a forward thinking aesthetic and a strong utilitarian feel.

What can we expect from your upcoming exhibition at the Roundhouse at Beacon Falls?

The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls is such an exciting development. Beacon, NY has long been a destination for both artists and art lovers alike. When the opportunity arose for us to curate viewing spaces at the Roundhouse we were thrilled: it was the perfect opportunity to simultaneously foster creative culture and showcase the talent of so many fine artists working in various mediums. For the first installation set to open Labor day weekend we are showing the works of mixed media artists Chris Domenick and Guadalupe Rosales and painter Alexa Williams. 

Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn NY
Table and stools by Assembly for the Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn

Is there anything else new or exciting that you'd like to share?

Nora has been working on a really impressive set of textiles that will be released early next year…. I don’t want to give too much away but so far the work is looking great and I think will add a new dimension to Assembly’s home product line.

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Thanks for the thoughtful interview, Nora and Pete!

You can stay in touch with Assembly via Twitter @AssemblyUS and now on Facebook.

(Most photos by Matthew Williams, via Assembly)