Article By: Darren Miller
Published: Sep 29, 2011
Locating a secure place to park bicycles is often an exasperating effort. For Matt Gray, a M.F.A. furniture design
student at SCAD, that frustrating experience morphed into an inspired course of action - and the path to Gray's bicycle parking solution began with a SCAD assignment.
During a sponsored collaborative class, Gray and fellow furniture design students - in collaboration with C.H. Briggs
, one of the largest independently owned distributors of specialty building materials on the East Coast - were tasked with creating product designs that explore the unique material qualities of DuPont™ Corian®.
For the project the students visited the DuPont™ Corian® Design Studio in Philadelphia to learn about the properties and capabilities of the material. With thermoformable and renewable qualities, the material can be shaped, bent and formed (unlike polyester-based solid surfaces), and it can be brought back to its original beauty if scratches or marks occur. Students worked over the course of the class to create a range of products that would be enhanced by the use of this innovative material. A jury then selected a few of the top designs for fabrication.
Gray conceived an ideal, unconventional, and meaningful use for the advanced material: Bench Rack, a bicycle storage and seating hybrid that offers convenience, comfort and safety. Using his education and skills as a furniture designer, Gray found a solution to a real-world problem, creating a clever multi-use product that addresses the public transportation need to accommodate the growing trend of bicycle commuters while providing patrons with an ergonomic place to rest.
Gray's Bench Rack, fabricated by Surface Solutions in Garden City, Georgia, debuted to great fanfare in June as part of SCAD's award-winning booth at NeoCon 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Inhabitat.com
named the product one of 10 "Best Green Designs from NeoCon 2011," and designboom.com
also featured Gray's work.
"It has been a big confidence boost," Gray said. "It's always nice to see strangers blogging and tweeting about you in other languages. It's a great motivator to dial in on my thesis and give them more to talk about."
After an internship at Cerno
, a specialized industrial design and manufacturing company that focuses on efficient and resourceful LED lighting fixtures and furniture, Gray is newly energized about his thesis progress. (Check out
Gray and Wenz at work on a Cerno lamp.)
Gray's thesis project is "a redefinition of American luxury in the early 21st century," and he hopes to open his thesis show the weekend of the SCAD Fashion Show.
"I see my thesis work as sitting in the space between fashion accessory and furniture," Gray said.
The Dallas, Texas, native, who received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, decided he wanted to enter the field of furniture design and chose to pursue a graduate degree at SCAD.
"I wanted to be able to make a significant impact as soon as possible," Gray said. "For me that meant continuing my education."
One of the most enriching aspects of his time as a SCAD graduate student, he said, has been collaborating with students from diverse programs.
"Definitely the most rewarding thing has been learning from my friends within the department and across other departments, including fashion, accessory design, fibers, industrial design, architecture, photography, and film, to name a few," Gray said.
He added that the professional exposure he gained while pursing his M.F.A. in furniture design at SCAD has been invaluable.
"SCAD has done a really great job at getting my work seen."