Name: Mats Christéen (34)
Profession: Founder of Foundrywood LLC
Country: Sweden, currently living in New York (USA)
You know those kind of movies about NY, with a handsome, tall artist (usually a painter), who is so absorbed by his work that he barely has time to meet up with friends? Well, turn the painter into a furniture designer and you get Mats Christéen, not a movie character, but a real life former model and professional hockey player who decided to leave Sweden for Brooklyn and pursue his lifelong dreams. This is where Foundrywood came into being, born from the passion of producing artisanal furniture collections made of organic and often reclaimed materials, all sustainably sourced.
TheShortcutsBubble: From professional hockey player and model to furniture designer/artist… not the usual story I would say… was it an old hobby or something you discovered later in life?
Mats: It’s always been a hobby of mine. Even when I was playing hockey for a living I was shopping for vintage furniture in my spare time. I would then bring it to my parents’ house and use my dads tools to re furnish it.
TheShortcutsBubble: When and why did you decide to give up on hockey? Was it a difficult decision to make?
Mats: Of course, giving up on hockey was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made… but I had to, as I had 9 knee surgeries at the age of 26 and the doctors already suggested I looked for a different career after 5 of them. So I’m content with my decision, I gave it all I had and it was time for new challenges.
TheShortcutsBubble: One could easily guess the Scandinavian origin in your name, which means that being now in New York must have something to do with your being a former model/hockey player. What’s the story?
Mats: I came to this fantastic city for modeling in 2002. After playing some more hockey in Sweden, between 2004-2006, I was itching to come back and I did. Modeling has given me so much, including the opportunity to live here and follow life long dreams.
TheShortcutsBubble: What makes you resonate to New York so much that you decided to choose it over Sweden and what’s that you miss about home?
Mats: I miss my family in Sweden and I wish I could go home more often but… there’s no other place like New York, it’s the world’s melting pot. It can definitely wear you down at times but no place will push me more. When you think you’re working hard, there’s always someone working harder. It’s hard to find comfort here. A city where dreams come true but also a city that never stops.
TheShortcutsBubble: Has NY changed you in any way, personality wise?
Mats: This city has taught me more respect. Respect for people, their values and different efforts and struggles. There’s not really a “normal” here, everyone walks their own path and everything comes together in a unique way. This city inspires me everyday, and that’s all I can ask for.
TheShortcutsBubble: Talking about your work now… how would you describe your designs? Do they have that Scandinavian minimalistic and functional feature that Sweden is so renowned for?
Mats: I would describe my designs as rustic with a modern, artistic touch. I love random patterns. I love to make something that if someone asked for the same piece again, it would be next to impossible to make it the exact same. But from the start it’s been about blending the industrial feel of NY with the clean, minimalistic lines of Scandinavian designs of the 50’s and 60’s.
TheShortcutsBubble: What makes you different & unique from other furniture makers?
Mats: What makes me different and unique… I think we all are. It’s like Art, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
TheShortcutsBubble: Do you work in a sustainable way? How do you choose your materials?
Mats: I started off using only reclaimed materials, steel and wood, I still do a great deal of my work from that but since I do custom work it’s what the client needs. About 90% of my own designs are built from recycled lumber. There’s something very intriguing about it to me. It used to have a different life and purpose and now I’ve made it into a modern piece of furniture that someone will use for a long time and you see the character in the piece.
TheShortcutsBubble: What do you like the most about working in wood? Can you explain a little about the process? What does a typical working day look like?
Mats: I would say I do almost as much steel work & welding as wood work. The wood is the life in the piece and the steel stands for the stability and structure in a way. I love the combination of wood and steel. As for the typical working day.. that would change every 30 minutes, from meetings with clients to getting materials. It’s pretty unpredictable I would say… but once I get going, I zone out and you might get a response to the email or text 18-20 hours later, when I look at my phone again.
TheShortcutsBubble: What is your main inspiration when conceiving a new piece?
Mats: Inspiration is different every time but like I said, this city is usually a big part.
TheShortcutsBubble: From all your pieces, which is your favourite and why?
Mats: My favorite piece is a steel and glass table that I made when I wanted to take something cold and lifeless, like steel and make it look like it came alive and started growing. That’s how that piece came about.
TheShortcutsBubble: The achievement you’re the most proud of in your career so far?
Mats: I guess I would say being where I am today is my proudest achievement. I have turned down lots of good opportunities to work long long hours and barely paying rent. There were times along the way I’d go buy sandpaper for the last quarters I had to finish a job. But I’m also super grateful for all the people around who have helped me get here. I wouldn’t be anywhere close without them – my family and my parents being the biggest part of that.
TheShortcutsBubble: Where can one purchase your designs?
TheShortcutsBubble: What else do you enjoy doing apart from designing and making furniture?
Mats: What do I enjoy besides this… there’s a rare occasional dinner or drinks with my dear friends but that’s the other side of starting your own company here. It becomes your life. It doesn’t stop. But I love what I do so…:)
Thank you, Mats.. you just pointed out that committed work, focus and moving forward no matter the obstacles can eventually lead one to living the dream 🙂
Article by: Andreea R.