Artists ~ Matt Johnson ~ Wakefield

Artist’s name: Matt Johnson
Shop name: Flat Earth

1. Tell us about your work
My work involves combining reclaimed wood and metal elements and parts from ubiquitous items found everywhere (like salt and pepper shakers, car parts, mixing bowls, plumbing parts) and presents them in a way that elevates them to something greater than they were, hopefully.

2. Is there a story behind the name of your business?
"Flat Earth" comes from the Flat Earth Society, a group who refused to acknowledge the reality that the Earth is a sphere and not flat. That myopic kind of mentality is evident today in products like gas-guzzling cars and the glut of other consumer products that are clearly a bad idea and bad for us/the environment. So I figured "hey, here's your car engine, disassembled and reconfigured as a lamp and some tables." I try to use items that I see as being no longer useful for their original purpose.

3. How did you come to be a professional artist/crafter/designer?
I started doing antique restoration and building furniture 23 years ago. I moved to Austin, Texas in 2000 and worked in a metal furniture and lighting studio for 5 years, then moved to Lafayette, Louisiana and got my Bachelor's degree in Industrial Design (Product Design). When I moved back home to RI, I started combining the skills and knowledge I had amassed over the years into my functional art pieces.

4. Where do you draw your inspiration?
A lot of my inspiration comes from growing up for the first 14 years of my life in an 1850's brick textile mill in Hope Valley, RI that my parents turned into our home. We lived "off the grid", for the most part and it colored my outlook a lot. I'm also very influenced by the Art Deco and Arts and Crafts periods. You can spot it pretty easily in my work.

5. What’s your favorite item to create?
My "Fire Extinguisher Bench". I just got a commission to make one for a client in Tampa, Florida and am pretty excited to get to it.

6. What’s your best seller?
Probably my "Carburetor Lamp". I've sold a number of them from Hollywood to Chicago to Toronto.

7. How long have you been in Rhode Island?
Besides living in Texas and Louisiana for 12 years, my whole life.

8. What do you {heart} about Rhode Island?
I love Rhode Island for its unusual character of the people within (myself included), the varied and beautiful coastline and the stuff we do here that makes no sense, but we do it anyway.

9. Any advice for new/wannabe makers?
Find an older craftsman/artist, and soak up everything you can from them. They (we) are a dying breed. I learned so much from older people when I was starting out. They are a wealth of knowledge and experience.


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