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Matt Kelly - Plaey

I am Matt Kelly, I make Simple, Playful and Modular furniture, under the name Plaey. I design and make modern, affordable modular furniture that combines form, function and a sense of fun.

How did you get started?

My background was in the arts, after studying Fine Art in Sheffield I went onto work at various galleries and museums installing exhibitions, most recently at the Hepworth Wakefield. I was lucky enough to get the Gallery Manager job 9 months before the building opened to the public. I got to work closely with the David Chipperfield architects on the final fit out stage of the project - a once in the lifetime moment. Looking back I learnt a lot about confident, simple design. And also how working in a building like this can effect you - how great architecture can effect your well being. I was lucky to of spent so much time in those beautiful gallery spaces working with lots of amazing artists.

I started making furniture for friends as a bit of a side project alongside my day job, which in hindsight was a really good thing. It gave me time to develop a style and a portfolio without too much pressure.

Can you describe your creative practice and processes?

I make simple, playful, modular furniture. This was a framework that came out of the Plaey branding by Studio.Build. I try and hold every project or product up to these three words. This gives me a lot of confidence and acts as a brief within the brief, that ultimately means my output has some consistence.

The creative process often starts with a conversation or an idea and then there is a period of trying to solve a problem or find a solution. I initially draw with a muji pen on dot-grid paper, then I work up designs in a 3D modelling programme called SketchUp. However I find designs get refined at the making stage. Proportions and materials sometimes can’t be judged on a computer screen and need to be built and held in the hand to get a true sense of the object.

What have been your most exciting projects to work on?

I find all project exciting for different reasons. Working with COS was super exciting as it was one of my first commissions after setting up Plaey. Working with Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip was also a dream project.

Where do you find inspiration?

Collaborations. I find working collaboratively really inspiring. Working together makes you think slightly differently. Its super satisfying to meet like minded people and work together to make good work.

What do your materials mean to you?

Materials are super important to me. I love working with a restricted palette of birch plywood and valchromat. Plywood is such a timeless and humble material it is both beautiful and everyday. In combination with the valchromat I have found my aesthetic. Valchromat is a beautiful material that I learnt about on the fit out of the Hepworth. David Chipperfield architects used it to line the walls in the lower floor of the gallery. Its made in Portugal and is a 100% recycled material, engineered from wood pulp and coloured with natural plant extracts. These are my core materials, but if a project requires it I’m open to working with additional materials such as jesomnite, melamine, or metal - but there always needs to be an element of plywood and valchromat in there.

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