When a Customer Trusts the Artist


Today we’d like to tell you about a recent project where the client trusted us to produce a table that ended up being one of the best things we’ve worked on. This happened for two reasons: first, the client gave us the general idea of what was needed and then let us take the reins; second, the table itself is something we worked extremely hard on and are very proud of.

The clients are a local (in downtown Asheville) interior design company. They wanted a conference table that would ultimately be used for their client meetings. We understood this to be a challenge, knowing their customers would be seeing our work, and possibly requesting similar work for their own homes. This means we really needed to produce something amazing. Not that we wouldn’t for any project that comes our way, but the added pressure of being an example of a local artist’s work was something we took seriously.

This table had certain size requirements, was understood to be a wood and metal product, and we were given the added request to bring warmth to the room it would be placed in. Beyond that, after an initial meeting to brainstorm, the clients allowed us to take liberties in the design and finish. While you may have heard the old adage that doctors make the worst patients, in this case that did not apply. These interior designers were the best clients we could ask for. Perhaps their experience working with customers allowed them to be this way, but whatever the reasoning, we were left to create something beautiful. We believe we both agree that the outcome is not only a piece of art, but also truly functional and will stand the test of time.

The table itself wound up being created from a sustainably harvested dark South American hardwood with an architectural metal base. Once the rectangular top was created we sanded it to a smooth finish. This was the most difficult – and time consuming – part of the project. A more common wood would’ve been easier to put through this process. But because of its splintering nature, extra care had to be taken to create the shape and feel that we desired. After the hours of the handwork of grinding, sanding, and shaping, we finally had the top of the table in the condition we wanted.

The shape was inspired by Wharton Esherick’s desk (Esherick is a wood-worker we mentioned in our previous blog post.) The smoothness and rounded edges of the table top are a direct reference to the type of work he created. Before adding any finishing oils or waxes the wood was remarkably touchable and the edges were evenly rounded off to add to the warmth the clients requested. Once we added layers of our own mixture of finishes, the beauty of the wood was truly stunning. The combination of the soft edges and smooth yet durable finish created something that would be warm, inviting to the touch, and last for lifetimes.

We knew that the base of the table would have to be pretty amazing to match the quality and look of the wood top that was finished. When we first discussed the base with the clients, we agreed on a flat metal that would be bent to a rectangular shape on either end. Now we didn’t feel that look really fit the top. So we designed and suggested a more sturdy-looking squared metal base that would be doubled on each end. (This is rather difficult to describe so we hope the photos included help with the imagery.) This created a more architectural look and a balanced feeling. The table appears to have more weight, but it’s a sense of weight than actual pounds being added. Here is a good example of where the clients allowed us to change the plan slightly, but this slight change increased the quality of design of the entire piece.


Once the two main parts were ready, we delivered the table, put it together in their office, and left them with instructions and a small amount of our wax to keep the top looking and performing its best. We consider ourselves a full service design group and this is evidence of our dedication to this idea. We want the table to last as long as possible – and be beautiful the whole time. We would be happy to return to their office and help them keep this piece looking and feeling the way it should. But we also hope that our instructions and our wax product will substitute for our presence over the next six weeks, six months, and in the years to come.

Again, we ultimately walked away from this experience with the utmost gratitude for our clients’ flexibility. We also feel we created something that represents us and other local artists’ capabilities. We, along with our (interior designer) clients, both hope that this will lead to their customers choosing more local work whenever possible. As they hold meetings on this beautiful table, maybe the next home owners will be inspired to choose us, or other Asheville-based artists, for objects to fill their houses.

Thank you for taking your time to read about this project and see the kinds of things that we’re passionate about. We hope to update this blog at least once a month with similar posts, both including the clients, the work, and the people who make up Matrix Design Group. We are so grateful to be designing and creating work in Asheville and hope that you enjoy our stories related to these processes.

In addition to this blog and our website (www.matrixdesign-group.com), we are also on Instagram (@matrixDesignGroup) and Facebook (matrix design) — please follow us there if you are so inclined.

Finally, if there is anything you’d like to know more about, don’t hesitate to comment, contact us via social media, or through our website.

What We Do and Why We Do It

Welcome to the Matrix Design Group blog! This is the first entry into what we hope will become a regular addition to our website. Our main goal is to provide some insight into our processes and the people who make up our team. Most customers only see the initial sketches and then the final results, which is interesting in and of itself, of course. Here we would like to expose more about what goes on in between, our general ideology, and, on occasion, stories about specific projects.

What Kelly Does and Why He Does It

Kelly is the lead artist, designer, and fabricator behind Matrix Design Group. Traditionally he would be considered a metal worker, however his skills – and interests – far exceed this title. While he began in welding, he enjoys carving and other wood working, creating tools and sculpture, and tackling the unique issues that often arise when commissioned for custom projects.

A perfect example of what I describe above is a recent chandelier that, in addition to the expected precision metal craftsmanship, required the use of raw silk and the addition of the necessary electrical components. Each of these things require a different set of skills – and Kelly created the entire piece within his own studio.

Although all these talents and skills are pretty impressive, he would ultimately prefer to call himself a folk artist. This term embodies the wide range of skills he has while calling attention to the specific design ideals he strives to achieve.

Kelly’s interest in these arts came at an early age. He credits his grandfather, a college educated butcher, farmer, and craftsman who forged his own tools. Kelly still has some of the tools that his grandfather gave him and cherishes those items dearly. So after high school, he attended AB Tech for welding and has now been a working artist for over 18 years.

Many would say that any decent artist evolves over time. Kelly has been able to do so, though a recent trip to Philadelphia served as a catalyst to bring his work to another level. During his visit, he toured sculptor Wharton Esherick’s home. The type and quality of wood-working Esherick created helped Kelly see what was possible in his own pieces. This experience proved both inspirational, and, when discussing new work with new clients, as a story that anyone can appreciate and build on.

While there are several people, experiences, and events that have inspired Kelly’s artistic journey they are ultimately bound by a similar theme: any piece that Matrix Design Group produces is hand-made with heart and soul. This further supports Kelly’s own favored title of folk artist, and his desire to create pieces of the utmost integrity and quality. Luckily, he has put together a team that not only agrees with this vision, but also is able to make products that adhere to these standards.

We’ll further introduce team members Tony Mazza and Cameron Wethern (pictured, with Kelly, in our header photo) over our next few posts. Together with Kelly and myself, Hillary Kruger, we are Matrix Design Group. We hope you will enjoy the blog and follow along with us as we embark on new projects and explore the personal side of what we do.