IN MY WOODSHOP
Mat Driscoll • Art Director • Brooklyn, NY
Three years ago, WNW Member #25 Mat Driscoll left the security of full time and headed off into the woods of Maine to follow his passion. He emerged a bearded and skilled woodworker, spending his days making impeccably crafted furniture out of his studio, Bellboy.
What is Bellboy?
Bellboy is a collaborative woodshop based in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
We make handcrafted furniture and random objects.
What defines a Bellboy piece?
If I were to describe the style of our furniture in as few words as possible, it would be simple and timeless. Similar to graphic design and art direction, a very clean and refined aesthetic is hard to accomplish. It's easy to fall into the boat others currently are riding in. It takes an incredible amount of time and consideration to remove all that is unnecessary.
How did Bellboy get it's start?
I decided to leave full-time to restore life outside of work. The problem was just as much my personality as it was the demands of the industry. But things had gotten too far out of control. My dad actually told me he wouldn't come visit because he knew I would spend half the weekend at the office. Ironically, my work ethic comes from his side of the family, and was the reason I would never think about leaving the office until 7 or 8 o'clock. But of course nobody would choose going into work over spending a weekend with family and/or friends.
I had always seen myself having a workshop – to create real, 3-dimensional, physical objects. Whether that would happen upon buying a home, or retirement was undetermined. In am attempt to gain some footing in the work-life battle, I started to do a small bit of woodworking on the weekends. It soon became all I wanted to do. I was workin' for the weekend. In January of 2010, I sat down with Paul Malmstrom and Linus Karlsson (Mother NY ECDs at the time), the two most creative and kind people I've ever met, and laid out my plan. It was met with huge smiles and not a single discouraging word.
A few weeks later I packed up and moved to a small town on the coast of Maine. There I studied traditional woodworking techniques under the guidance of some of the most renown makers in the world. In June of 2011, I returned to Brooklyn, rented a small space and opened Bellboy.
Where did the name Bellboy come from?
Bellboy is the name of the huge fiberglass fishing boat my grandfather bought when my dad was a kid. The same one my brother, sister and 18 cousins learned to ski behind.
How does your previous experience in the ad world affect your furniture making?
After spending many years behind the beast, I understand how a brand can be built, how it can grow and how it can fail. I'm a horrible business man, as my friends in the industry will attest, but I understand the importance of how people interact with and perceive a brand. Bellboy has fallen backwards into much of its success, but positioning ourselves to be in the right place and being willing and able to adapt has proven invaluable.
In what ways does the freelance lifestyle support your business?
Freelance allows me to dip in and out of two very different worlds. It satisfies my need to obsess over corner-rounding and typography. It also provides an audience for my highly intelligent jokes. Most importantly, freelancing affords me the time to live as a different type of artist. To be able to develop and second guess an idea for months, without having the lights turned off.
Product photos by WNW Member #1975 Josh Dalsimer
Josh, the former Mighty Mighty Bosstones drummer & one of the nicest photographers in the business, became good friends with Mat while working on various projects for Mother NY. Ranked one of Archive's 200 Best Photographers, Josh has shot for New Balance, Mastercard, Diet Coke, Stella Artois, DELL, Red Bull, Volkswagon & ESPN. He's now the photographer of record for Bellboy, which equates to free candlestick holders for life.