Aug 11, 2023

Designer of the Day: Zoë Mowat

Here, we ask designers to take a selfie and give us an inside look at their life.

Age: 38

Occupation: Furniture designer.

Instagram: @zoemowat

Hometown: Edmonton and Montreal.

Studio location: Brooklyn.

Describe what you make: I design furniture, objects, and most recently, lighting. My approach is material-driven and often incorporates color. I have color synesthesia so that tends to filter in.

The most important thing you’ve designed to date: I would measure this as an accumulation of learning from project to project instead of one singular thing, but perhaps where I’ve been able to exercise that learning in a more complete way is with my new lighting collection, Isle. It was designed for the Montreal-based brand Lambert & Fils and was recently launched at their showroom in Tribeca. They were a dream to work with. Isle suspends an archetypal tube atop solid blocks of aluminum and stone—a play on matter and mass, light and lightness. For me, the output is a gentle balance of poetic and technical, and they were able to execute that vision beautifully.

Describe the problem your work solves: What I’m trying to solve when designing is intuitive and twofold: I’m working towards achieving some kind of wholeness, a resolution of form, color, and material. Which is a bit like a puzzle. And then it’s about having it fit into life somehow—proportionally, conceptually, and by connecting to lived experience in some way. (The latter part is why I chose design over a career as a sculptor.)

Describe the project you are working on now: I recently exhibited a new collection called Tome, which includes vertical stacking shelves designed specifically for books. I’m also working on a series of versatile storage pieces that are open source and assembled from parts that can be ordered online, including aluminum i-beams and glass blocks. All explore connections that use the weight of gravity and other means in lieu of mechanical fasteners and traditional joinery.

A new or forthcoming project we should know about: I’m very excited about this one since it’s been many years in the making. I’m starting a new audio equipment brand called Waves and Frequencies with a dear old friend. WAF will launch in the fall and our first output is a customizable speaker that sounds incredible. We’ve also got a PA in the works and plans for music-related furniture and accessories, all seen through a similar lens that I bring to my work in furniture design.

What you absolutely must have in your studio: A robust supply of the only pen I like to use and large rolls of paper for full-scale drawings and models.

What you do when you’re not working: Growing up, I spent my summers hiking in the Canadian Rockies so I love a lengthy “hike” through the city with a long-form, nonfiction audiobook. I finally finished The Power Broker recently. Otherwise, my time involves mostly food and music, and I play records out at a few bars in town once or twice a month. I’ve been an Italo Disco-phile for ages but I go for anything from the ‘80s and ‘90s that gets its claws in you.

Sources of creative envy: Nature? My mother’s work was an early and formative source of creative fuel. She’s a sculptor who works in steel and stone and she’s taught me so much.

The distraction you want to eliminate: I suppose most days I want to throw my phone in the sea… but I’m a bit of a daydreamer so I actually embrace distractions, and definitely in New York. I’m continuously distracted by this city in good ways—by a building, a tree, a weird thing on the street, or something to see at a gallery. My recent sketches are inspired by a piece of electrical equipment I saw on a subway platform.

Concrete or marble? I’ve used a lot of marble in my work in the past so it’s probably time to try concrete.

High-rise or townhouse? Townhouse with a garden.

Remember or forget? I really try to remember…

Aliens or ghosts? Aliens!

Dark or light? L’heure bleue.