Inspired by food culture, the Brooklyn-based couple behind AHeirloom creates sustainable wooden cutting boards and other tableware using cutting-edge techniques. Offered in celebration of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s extensive collection of American art, their unique creations add elegance to any gathering. Here, we speak with Amy Stringer-Mowat on her and her husband Bill’s evolution and practice as designers. You can find their United States Bamboo Cutting Board online here.
Can you tell me about your creative process? What inspires or informs your work?
Our home life is very much an inspiration for our collections. We are the type of people who tend to make things for ourselves around the house, rather than buy them. I think my strength lies in looking at too many food blogs. In the beginning, cheese was my main focus and served as inspiration for our first set of state-shaped cutting boards, and remains a focal point as we grow. Creating a really stunning charcuterie board is something that I like to do at home and it has helped us to come up with designs that we are currently offer. We want to help people find the easy ways to display food so they can concentrate on having a good time.
Can you tell me about your techniques?
For our process, the work is in the concept and design of the pieces. We are digital designers, so we make most of our work on the computer. We are constantly working on prototypes and refining the scale, shape, and details of most of our work. I think a major trick for us these days is our laser cutter, which helps us come to design conclusions much quicker. We can prototype a piece in cardboard and continue to tweak the designs as we go. I generally take about four to five months to decide if a new product is ready to be sent out into the world.
We have been fortunate with the state-shaped cutting boards, as we haven’t had a day without enough sales to keep us busy. We have only started to make new work a reality in our shop now that we have reached our third year of business. It feels great to expand the brand, but it does take time to continue to be consistent with our vision and manage to stay up to date on digital processes. Both Bill and I have been trained in very specific fabrication techniques that are rooted in designing three-dimensional work on the computer. Once we feel comfortable with a design, we refine the form and develop a strategy for making it a reality in the outside world. While we work digitally, there is certainly a timeless quality to the forms we make. The quality comes from the design, the materials, and our belief in new manufacturing techniques.
Where did you study or learn to work with wood?
Bill and I met at Columbia University School of Architecture while studying for our master’s degrees, which has really shaped the way our work is created. Our wedding in 2010 was the true beginning for AHeirloom. Out of necessity, we needed to make a great deal of the personal elements for our celebration, and wood was on hand! Bill runs a fabrication company in Williamsburg and had leftover sheet material that became the medium for our work. As our practice has evolved, working with wood has grounded our designs in the realm of the home. Each species of wood is different; the grain and the tone make each board or cake stand unique.
Can you walk me through the process of making the USA map cutting board?
Our individual state-shaped series have always been custom made to order via our website. We offer them to our retail customers with a heart, house, or star marking a town of their choice and make each piece as they are ordered and each piece is sanded and finished by hand. Our business model is highly sustainable as we can scale up and scale down production as necessary. We have a design studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and have a small team of three that helps us get through all the weekly orders.
Our USA map cutting board is a reflection of the popularity of the individual states. We wanted to create something that would speak to a wider audience, and that we could keep in stock without asking our customers to wait for special orders.
How does it feel to have your designs for sale at The Met Store? Given that you live and work in Brooklyn, do you visit the Museum often? If so, can you tell me about a special visit or favorite gallery, exhibition, or object?
We have always traveled to The Met Fifth Avenue location for inspiration, and having lived on the Upper West Side for years, studying the architecture of the Museum was always a welcome diversion from final reviews. Now that we have a son, we make sure to visit as a family in the winter. The Great Hall leading into the tour of Ancient Egypt is always warm and the scale of the space truly makes a snowy day more inviting. We are always inspired by the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts section. The period rooms and architectural settings are by far the most transformative and to see the craft and skill on display is almost unreal. We are thrilled and honored to be considered for The Met Store; it is the high point of our journey as designers, entrepreneurs, and makers.