PROVIDE CONVERSATIONS: JOSIAH PETERS OF LOCK & MORTICE
The Provide Series Wood Furniture Collection.
Late last year, we launched our first line of furniture in partnership with local makers Lock & Mortice. The idea of a Provide furniture line had been a passion project for us for many years – we just needed to find the right partners, and once we met Josiah Peters of Lock & Mortice, we knew we’d found that team. With Lock & Mortice’s focus on local community and sustainability, its attention to traditional craftsmanship paired with modern details – and of course, the gorgeous, high-design sketches they brought to us right from day one – we were thrilled to collaborate with them on the Provide Series.
We caught up with Josiah from his shop in Abbotsford, to chat about the Provide Series – and just how important sustainability is now, more than ever.
So tell us a little about Lock & Mortice’s origin story.
It's sort of an organic story. I remember falling in love with design: it was actually the Wishbone chair that triggered it for me, seeing it when I was 15 to 20 years old, and I thought, I'd like to do industrial design. Ryan, my now business partner – one of my two business partners, it's Rachel, Ryan and I – Ryan and I started a business when we were 15, building skate ramps for cities and municipalities all over Canada. Then we transitioned more into industrial design – we were an arm of a municipal-grade furniture company called Wishbone Industries that’s still around. We designed a bench for them called the Modena, and it’s still it's one of their top sellers.
I was going to go to Emily Carr and do their industrial design program, and then I was in a really bad motorcycle accident. That was over 15 years ago, and it put my life into a different direction – I didn't walk for four years after my accident. I was trying to figure out, what do I want to do? And I ended up starting a door company – that's where the name Lock & Mortice came from – and it lasted for less than a year.
I brought Ryan back in and at this time, Ryan was running a really successful wedding photography company. He was doing really well, but I think he was kind of bored in doing photography and wanted to get back into working with his hands. My sister came on as well, running the admin side when it was just the three of us and we had no plan, no idea what we were doing. We just knew that we wanted to create and we wanted to design.
We were learning about modernism and really captivated with it. But then there's the real-world situation where we needed to make money so that we could cover our bills. We just started doing everything from set design for film, to props for different music festivals and church conventions. And looking back at that period, it was really a vital time as we were exploring the material on process and ultimately what was the medium that we were going to land on, which became solid wood.
And then at some point we just transitioned into furniture. But if we're going to start a furniture company, what's the story? The world doesn't need another furniture company. Wishbone Industries, the company that Ryan and I grew up in and created products for, it was all about sustainability. All the material for the benches is made from post-consumer waste plastic, and working there for decades ingrained in us a focus towards sustainability. And when we got into business, it was just obvious. We don't want to have waste. We don't want to hurt the environment with the finishes that we're using. We have to be focused about our community – what if we didn't invest our energy in developing products that then shipped out from Vancouver, but focused on this market and selling into this market? What if we really put an effort into forming relationships with the interior designers that we work with, and learn about what's new in the market and how we can take a more relational approach to our process?
So what brought you to working on a furniture line with Provide?
In the first couple of years, we were just making like these one-off pieces, like beautiful cutting boards. [Designer] Gail Guevara was connected to Provide and she introduced us to Robert and David and, anybody who met Robert is immediately his kindred spirit, and he and I just immediately clicked, and were such good friends. And so he started supporting us and buying up cutting boards; he did that with a lot of people in the Lower Mainland. For quite a few years we had a good relationship with them, and then Robert and David had always dreamt of having their own furniture line.
And so we just opened up the conversation. When we started the process, Robert was just first diagnosed and I mean, we couldn’t have anticipated it would have happened so fast. So around the time that Robert passed away was around the time that we had come up with multiple different design iterations for the new line.
What is about this line that makes it unique to Provide?
We talked a lot about it being more artful, and it had to be true to what Lock & Mortice is, surrounding simplicity and modernism and of our whole ethos when it comes to design. I'm the purist in our group, so I'm always like remove, remove, remove. But David had input too – what if we tweak this a little bit or this?
Interiors by Project 22 Design. Photos by Janis Nicolay.
It's an unusual design, particularly the way that the legs are set up, with their asymmetry. It's not what you would classically expect from a dining table.
We wanted it to be a surprise, yes, as you walk around the table because there's it’s asymmetric and interesting. That was David's biggest contribution to the table. We had actually originally designed it with the gables horizontal. He suggested tilting one in, and it was the cherry on top.
And sustainability is a big component in the line, too.
Yes. As a company, if you look at what we do, it's, it's primarily solid wood. As I started to research good forestry practice and to understand wood as this beautiful, renewable resource, I got really excited about it and being the material that we landed on. I think as humans, we are just deeply connected to wood, it's living, it's breathing, it feels good. But growing up, I, I can't say that I was surrounded by a lot of natural, beautiful wood, white oak or ash, all that. It was very pedestrian woods and it was never something that was extremely celebrated. But I got the bug for it and I needed to understand it better. And through that, taking time to understand it, I realized that if there isn't good forestry practice or the mill doesn't carry the similar values to you, it can be detrimental to forests and ecosystems.
So I started to get connected with mills that carry our same values. We're now in a place where pretty much exclusively buying white oak from one mill in the U.S. They're family-run and wholistic, which means that they all own the land. They plant the trees, they process them, they dry them and they ship them all within their operation. They have more white oak trees today than they did a hundred years ago, which is pretty crazy when you think about how much they use.
And over the years, we've been working with trying to find the perfect finishes. And now finally, we’re the distributor of this product for Vancouver called Odie’s Oil. And it's all-natural, food grade, but it actually performs at a commercial level in terms of stain resistance. And one of my favorite things about it is it comes in glass jars. So pretty much all of our manufacturing waste as a company is blocks of wood, and we give those to about four different pizza ovens because they love white oak. And any of our bigger blocks, we give to a couple of different high schools for woodshop class, and then some of it, we just take home and use for campfires and camping trips and what not. And the glass jars from the finish can just be recycled.
What else do you have coming up this year?
We plan to expand on the material side of things beyond just wood. We're working with a local blacksmith named Timothy Dyck, and launching a line with him: bowls and a table and different types of coat hooks. Up to this date, we haven't really been in the accessory realm. We're branching out and doing some smaller goods and smaller pieces and expanding on our line.
How do you view your partnership with Provide?
We really, really strongly care about community, and we see the whole Lower Mainland as our community – I would say 95 percent of our work goes into the city. And we really connected with the vision and the story of Provide from very early on. They were a company that clearly practiced what they preached. They really cared about people and supported the community, the design community. And I appreciated that about them from when we were tiny to, you know, now – where we're still small.
I think that globalization has had a massive impact on our planet, and I think people, especially in this time of COVID are starting to realize the importance of community and the people around you. I just like to think of the city as a big ecosystem, if you're supporting a local business and you're supporting a business that believes in that philosophy, they're going to also support other local businesses. And as a community, if we all start to support each other, we're going to build. I think we've just really become quite disconnected from the products that we buy and who we're supporting by buying those products. And where did it come from? What is this company about? Because those little stickers in the window that say shop local, that's just not enough. You need to understand on a level like how everything impacts everything, you know?
Rachel, Joey, David & Ryan.
Console in Black Oak
Coffee table in Black Oak.
Dinning Table in White Oak.