Provide has been working with the legendary Martha Sturdy since we first opened (our late Robert first met Martha at Maison&Objet before we even had a store – and we convinced her to allow us to be one of her few retail partners). Her handmade, one-of-a-kind resin designs have continued to be one of our most-requested items. After a robust career as a designer, Martha has transitioned to focusing exclusively on art and sculpture, and her daughter Jessica now steers Studio Sturdy.
We caught up with Jessica about growing up Sturdy, the importance of legacy designs and a curated life.
Tell me more about your own background as a designer.
I really grew up working with my mom in my 20s. Back then we did a lot more tabletop pieces, so I did trade shows all over the world. I was traveling to New York and Paris, London and Japan in the ‘90s, and it was great fun. I ran two of our stores – there was a store in Vancouver and then another one in Toronto. It was an exciting time in design, because I think interior design was just coming to fruition. It seems so obvious now, but at the time it was different – people were really people were into antiques, not modern.
So I came from that kind of background, and then I had three kids and I ended up moving to Africa. That was pretty amazing, living abroad with my kids. It’s funny, when you grow up surrounded by art and design and fashion, you just kind of live it. That’s just how you think. So I started a furniture company, developing recycled plastic furniture for the outdoors, and working with different teams of people, and struggling with quality control and really having to start from the beginning – start all over again without the legacy of Martha, without the legacy of knowing the people who can retail and wholesale and all the rest of it. It was an interesting experience and really rewarding, and I really was able to design without having the influence of my mom around.
Then the kids got a little older, and you can’t say you’re from Vancouver if you’ve never spent a winter here. So I had to bring them back – that was 2019.
And so when I came back to help my mom, she’d really transitioned to sculpture and is still working in sculpture and art, and the design for her was not a focus anymore. So I picked up where she had left off. We separated the company, so she can focus primarily on her art and sculpture, and then I have the Studio Sturdy.
Some of these pieces, you know, I’ve been selling now for close to 30 years. Pieces that Martha created back in the early ‘90s. So really it’s a wonderful gift to come back and to revisit a lot of this again. Of course, there are pieces that we’ve developed along the way, that will always be part of the line because they’re timeless. Maybe the shape is the same, but the colours are different. I think that’s really pretty special to be able to have that legacy.
And so how do you find that balance – working with these legacy pieces that are synonymous with the name Martha Study, and developing new designs?
Even today, I had a few clients call me up about Floating Tables, and there are pieces that we will never remove from the line because they’re just such classics. We might alter them in the sense, we’d do new and different colours, and they evolve not only with trends, but with inspiration, sometimes based on our clients and what they need.
We really try and bend over backwards to think about what people want, and help them to find what they want. We’re always looking at new techniques, and how to change the resin – there’s marbling, and we place pieces in the resin, and look at shimmer. The base of the actual product is these very minimalist pieces, so it’s almost like building blocks. I don’t want to simplify it to say just building blocks, because it sounds too simple, but a lot of our pieces are very, very minimal. There are squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, cones, cubes.
We might take a table and make it out of those pieces. One of the tables that we built not that long ago was a column table. Because columns are really in right now, and people are demanding it, and so we have a three-legged column table, which is really made up of pieces that we already had – we can combine the different pieces to create new designs.
How do you stay inspired to keep evolving the line, and keeping it current?
There are so many new things happening in design right now, having worked in this business really quite a long time, and seeing what it has evolved from. I think, right now, people are really interested in curating their own look, whereas in previous years, you would purchase a look. People really want to buy things that represent who they are and what they represent to you. And so that’s been that’s an exciting place to be, because it means that we can challenge ourselves to do different pieces. It’s exciting to just to be working in this time, and be inspired by so many great interior designers these days. To be inspired by what’s happening in the rest of the world. The world is so connected now, whether through Instagram or through Pinterest or magazines.
Growing up in this world, there was a moment that I remember feeling like yeah, design is just in my DNA. I grew up around fashion and design and art. This way that you’ve grown up, I don’t think there’s any specific moment when you think, I’m a designer. It’s an evolution, and I think one of the things that my mom certainly has taught me, is to edit and to think about editing. You know when it’s right: you look at a vigntte or you look at a collection, and you know right away. Your eye falls to the one that works.
Do you recall how Martha Sturdy and Provide first connected?
Right now, we really don’t have a lot of retailers – we really hand pick who are retailers are. Because it’s not about making a lot of anything. We only make a few, and each one is made by hand and has incredible attention to detail, and it’s a collectible design piece.
I know that we’ve had a really long relationship, and I have inherited the relationship, and I am so pleased because I love working with them. They really spend a lot of time and effort with their clients. And that is wonderful to have in a retailer, someone who really understands the product and also understands the beauty of it.
I know at Provide, we always curate with David. We think about what kind of pieces would work for him. Black and white, that is definitely his signature look, and so we curate a collection for him. We really make it his own.
What I love is that, David, he is extremely brave about looking at bigger pieces and statement pieces, and he understands their beauty. He had a giant flower bowl there not that long ago, which was a gorgeous piece. He loves trying out new things, so we’re always trying new things with him, which is really fun and he’s open to it.
Contact Provide for more information on the furniture and accessories collection from Studio Sturdy.