Matthew McCormick pictured with his "Dawn" light fixture.
Matthew McCormick’s lighting designs are coveted around the globe (he’s shown his work in Milan, Dutch Design Week, the London Design Festival and more), but he calls Vancouver home—and at Provide, we’re proud to have been one of his first retailers. You may have noticed we’ve recently updated one of his pieces in our Armoury District showroom, from his modern chandelier line, “Dawn.” We recently sat down to chat with McCormick from his Gastown studio space.
Left image: "Halo", Right image: "Cascadia"
Let’s go way back for people who aren’t familiar with your background. You didn’t start out as a lighting designer…
I definitely didn’t. It’s funny what I went to school for, it was more the business end of design. I went to school at Ryerson in Toronto, and it’s a bit of a mouthful: it’s called Graphic Communication Management, but it really relied heavily on print. So, working with any publishers, billboards, all that sort of stuff, but it was really the business end of it. And I think, even before I went to school, I always had a bit of a knack for entrepreneurship as well as design. Not that I’m overly dating myself, but you know, it was the early days of the internet and the craft design that we see today.
I took a year off of school before I went to the university and, you know, I came out west in ’98 and I just fell in love with Whistler. I always dreamed about coming and snowboarding here. So I always knew I was going to end up here.
I moved out here after school and I worked in Whistler—there was a couple of marketing agencies, and I worked for a couple of big house developers up there until I moved down to the city. And I did a stint at Best Buy Canada as an art director. And, you know, it’s funny, but there’s a lot of similarities to what I did then to what I do now.
It wasn’t until I bought my first place and I got the pricing to renovate it—and realized how much it was going to cost to get it renovated—that I was able to take a lot of my know-how from construction and do all my own renos, and I ended up doing my own lighting. There was a random dinner guest that came over and was like, ‘Oh, I love your lighting. Where’d you get it from?’ And I’m said, ‘well, I made it.’ And he said, ‘Look, I’m working on a restaurant right now. Would you be willing to do the lighting?’
It’s nowhere near what we’re doing now, but it was actually Fable, in Kits. It’s a farm to table restaurant, and so the lights are created to have pitchforks and Mason jars and stuff, a far cry from our work now. But, it started me along that path. And I had a mentor at the time who said, this is so obvious what you need to be doing. How many lights are you going to have to sell before you’re making more money than what you’re making here?
And so I made the leap.
The "Line Light" made in collaboration with Lock & Mortice.
So what does the design process look like for you and your team?
When it comes to our own product, you know, I think what it is, you have to have an eye. And so oftentimes when we sit down for our design briefs, which we do weekly, I'm pulling different inspirations that I have been collecting throughout the week. We’re constantly pulling mood boards and pulling reference images, things we’d like, or sometimes even leveraging the way we worked when we did custom. So, what would a Matthew McCormick studio space look like? Then what would the light look like in there? And so there’s many different approaches we can take—we’ve got this interesting detail or this certain mechanism that we want to exploit, a certain process of glass that when you put a light in it through, in a certain way, it does a certain thing. You’re trying to find these magic moments—it’s not just a light for the sake of being a light.
Halo was your first light, and there are so many in the line now—what’s your most recent?
The most recent is Cascadia: it’s a pill-shaped, cylindrical light. It’s an awesome opportunity for a modular pendant system, because they’re very slender. People have large staircases, but for some people, the envelope is quite narrow, but they still want to have something in there. So they really do work.
Left image: "Dodeca", Right image: "Mila"
And what’s coming next?
There’ll be some iterations of some of our current products. And I know that one of our most popular ones that we came up with a couple of years ago, our Mila pendants, the namesake comes from my daughter. When I first designed it in 2015 for a commercial project, I knew it was going to be a product as well, and as we were refining it and we were just about to launch it, my wife was pregnant and it always reminded me how she held her belly, with this globe sort of nestled up in the loop. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t call it Mila. Now that I have a son, I need to figure it out a Ben light, or he’ll be upset forever.
Tell me more about how you started working with Provide.
David and Robert were supportive literally since day one, the very first product I ever had. So I’ve got a lot of love and respect for them. It may have been around 2014, when they had their old showroom in Gastown, it was always a place, I’d walked by all the time. And early on I was working together with Gaile Guevara, and she was always a big proponent of them. Originally I was dealing with a lot with Robert, and he was such a champion of local design. We got to talking and I was showing him some of the product. I think it was our Halo product—he was the first one to say, let’s just hang it in our showroom.
And then it wasn’t too long after that, I started working together with Lock and Mortice, which is obviously another brand that they carry. And we’d become very close—not only just working together, but Joey is one of my best friends now. We actually had an evening at Provide, it was called like One Hot Night—I was able to showcase my stuff and Joey was able to showcase his. We’ve travelled everywhere together—Joey’s come with me to Italy, doing Milan.
We’ve watched each other’s companies grow quite substantially over the past couple of years, but it all started off because of Provide.
Provide is very pleased to represent the lighting collection by Matthew McCormick Studio. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org