Personal Space: Interview with Furniture Designer Winston Morris
Culture — 23.08.16
Photography & Words: Inbar Levi
I’m from Seattle.
How old are you?
What do you do? Where is your studio/workspace ?
I’m a designer and craftsman making furniture in my studio in Boyle Heights.
What does it feel to be young and creative in LA right now? How involved are you in the LA art scene? What’s your impression of it at this moment?
LA is an amazing place to be creative because there’s lots of space to stretch out and create something completely new outside of traditional structures. I am less directly involved in the art world than I have been in the past but there is a lot of cross-pollination between disciplines that’s probably a result of trying to create some bridges within that vast space. I definitely dig that energy.
Does Los Angeles as a base play a factor in your work ?
My LA is pretty pastoral. There are coyotes running through my yard at home and my shop is basically a big barn. I try to keep to keep my work in line with that vibe to some degree, not rustic exactly but honest and not too slick.
What are you most proud of in your work?
Building a successful furniture business has been the hardest and most rewarding process that I’ve ever gone through.
Do you like collaborating with other people or is it a one-man show for you?
I’m kind of a loner in the shop. I like the early mornings when there’s no one around and it’s quiet. I have pretty clear visions of what I’m trying to accomplish with design and I’m usually just trying to see them through on my own.
What part of creating is more important for you: The idea, the process, or the outcome?
It’s hard to make a distinction between those things – they feel very tied together for me. With furniture and craft, I suppose the outcome is really the amazing moment when the thing you’ve envisioned becomes reality. Putting that first coat of finish on a completed piece of wooden furniture and seeing the grain pop can be an almost religious experience.
In a generation when everyone is a “someone”, how do you think you and your work stand out? Why should we know who you are?
I try to make my work stand out by not having it stand out too much. I try to use beautiful materials and treat them with respect, not do too much to them and let them speak for themselves. When you reduce the number of moves you do with any project, subtle things become really important like proportion and balance so I try to excel at having a piece feel really natural and inevitable; just right.
What makes you wake up in the morning? What motivates you?
I’m motivated by the idea of doing bigger and bigger things. Getting closer and closer to what really excites me. I have plans soon to design some spaces, small buildings etc. which to me feels a bit like just doing really big furniture.
What’s your work routine? What sparks a new project for you?
Coffee in the truck on the way to the shop and think through what I have to get done that day. Go hard in the morning and try to knock off my to-do list. If I’m feeling good by the afternoon about what I’ve accomplished I’ll kind of create a second phase of the day and work on creative ideas. A good afternoon like that is a real pleasure and it’s when I come up with new projects.
Growing up, did you always know you’ll end up following this career path?
I’ve deviated here and there but looking back it’s pretty clear that I’ve always been on this path.
What do you listen to when you work ?
Changes from mood to mood, time of day, could start as an Alice Coltrane type of morning and then feel like it’s gotta be Gram Parsons by the end of the day.
Can you talk a little bit about style – your personal style and your work style and how do the two relate to each other?
My personal style and my work style are pretty related. Minimal, good materials, built well, not too fussy. A good jacket or a pair of jeans abide by the same philosophy as a good piece of furniture.
How do you deal with trends in fashion and art?
I try to keep my blinders on a little bit. I like looking at what the old guys were doing and see how I can bring that into a new context.
In a decade from now, where do you think you’ll be and what will you be doing?
Hopefully, I’ll have my couple acres in the redwoods somewhere and I’ll be finishing up the timber framing for my second house. A little garden, maybe some kids – you know the Whole Earth thing. I love the city but the ultimate goal is to find a way to make that whole lifestyle work.