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Q+A With Matthew Hilton

Matthew Hilton has been inspiring us with his furniture designs for some time now. He has his own collection of furniture as well as some collaboration pieces with some of our top brands on YLiving and he agreed to share with us what inspires him. Here is our Q+A with Matthew Hilton:

Ercol Treviso Desk by Matthew Hilton | YLiving
Treviso Desk by Matthew Hilton, from Ercol

Yvette C. (Y.C.): Growing up, what was it about art that drew your interests?

Matthew Hilton (M.H.): Making things, painting, drawing, imagining how my bedroom might be if I installed a raised platform, that world, was my own world, I was the ‘arty’ one in a family of medical people, this my own thing, it came to identify me.

Y.C.: As we’ve found, it was to the credit of a tutor who turned you on to becoming a “designer”. Could you describe what your reaction was? Was it a profound experience that triggered a turning point in your life? An “aha” moment, so to speak. Or was it a suggestion you “chewed on” for a bit before diving in? If it was the latter, what ultimately helped you decide to give the industry a try?

M.H.: I had not thought of this avenue before, the world was not design aware, or the UK certainly wasn’t, design is a huge influence in our lives now and it is everywhere, people are aware of it. I was not at all sure what being a designer entailed and my first real taste was a visit to Kingston Uni, my eventual university.

De La Espada 360 Burnham Windsor Chair by Matthew Hilton | YLiving
360 Burnham Windsor Chair by Matthew Hilton, from De La Espada

Y.C.: As you were getting started in the industry, where did you envision you’d end up? Was there an introduction to a major brand or an iconic product that made you want to shoot for anywhere specific?

M.H.: I had no idea where I would end up, does anyone really see that when they starting out? I had no exposure to major brands, in fact they didn’t really exist in the way they do now. There was truly so little awareness in general, and zero money.

Y.C.: What triggered the stylistic change between the Balzac Armchair and now? Why?

M.H.: It has been a long time! 25 years or more since starting and the Balzac chair, there has not been a triggered change in style, there has been a long slow gathering of knowledge and experience and life.

Ercol Pero Collection by Matthew Hilton | YLiving
Pero Collection by Matthew Hilton, from Ercol

Y.C.: How do you get inspired to design new things? Or does it come to you at random? What tends to be your muse as you’re coming up with new designs?

M.H.: I sketch all the time, I estimate 3 hours a day is sketching, coming up with ideas, developing things,thinking through the pencil, exploring.  I photograph everything I see, exhibitions, films, books, etc. There is no inspiration, it is just a question of feeding oneself, exploring stuff, being curious, wanting to make things. experimenting. No flashes of inspiration.

Y.C.: What are the biggest roadblocks you tend to face when coming up with designs? What do you do to overcome them?

M.H.: Biggest roadblocks are attitudes, I don’t think we need to break new ground with every design but we need to push or we all get bored, it is natural human desire to want to change, grow, improve, and we must follow that, but there are conventions and ways of doing things, these need to be questioned, in myself, ourselves often more than in others. The toughest challenge is in pushing yourself, to not repeat the same thing, to make good work but to make it fresh. There is a continual frustration tho, I want things to move faster, i want the world to slow down but i want to make faster, it isn’t possible.

De La Espada 359 Kimble Windsor Chair | YLiving
359 Kimble Windsor Chair by Matthew Hilton, from De La Espada

Y.C.: What do you think it is about your design that keeps you on the cutting edge of “modern design”?

M.H.: I hope that is true. I am a bit obsessed, it is not work for me, it is just the thing that keeps me sane, stops me wondering what is the point. I want to make things, I don’t know why. I want to be in the process of making lovely things. I love finding beautiful things.

Y.C.: What would you say your vision is on how you would want to leave a lasting impact on the design world?

M.H.: I am not doing this for that, I would like my son and family to be proud of me, I would like to leave something for them.

Ercol Rho Collection by Matthew Hilton | YLiving
Rho Collection and Pero Shelving Unit by Matthew Hilton, from Ercol

Y.C.: What’s your design philosophy? How would you say your experiences contributed to molding your personal philosophy?

M.H.: I don’t have a design philosophy, I just want to make the best work I can in the particular situation I find myself, I want to push myself to be as real as I can and make beautiful things.

Y.C.: What’s your favorite medium to work with and why?

M.H.: A pencil. That is where it all starts. But then wood, because it is so suitable for furniture, but I love textiles and ceramics and stone and metals.

De La Espada 362 Hastoe Windsor Chair | YLiving
362 Hastoe Windsor Chair by Matthew Hilton, from De La Espada

Y.C.: What’s your favorite piece at home and why?

M.H.: A small cast bronze sculpture, 7 interlocking pieces forming a rectangular block, 6cm X 4cm X 1.5cm. given to me by someone very special to me. A french sculptor, a beautiful object.

Y.C.: If you could go back and talk to the younger version of yourself, what advice would you give yourself?

M.H.: Work harder, get on with it. Find out more, do more networking and get connected.  Be more upfront and promote myself stronger. Unfortunately it is not natural to me to promote myself and this has a big effect on a career. I would do this, what I do, if I was a success or not, or something like this. I need to make things. I absolutely could not do without making something. So I will do this whatever, but if I knew at the start how important connections were then my business would be stronger and larger. I am happy how it is though!

For More Modern Inspiration:

Yvette C.

Yvette C.

Yvette is a Site Merchandiser for YLiving. Her deep appreciation for design stems from a background in art history and interior design. During her off hours, she enjoys ogling cute animals, reading, catching up on TV series, following blogs, and enjoying the quirks of California's Bay Area.

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