A Woodstock factory will have an unusual visitor this August: an artist-in-residence.
Matrix 4, an injection molder, cranks out plastic components for customers like L’Oreal and Harley-Davidson. All that plastic and high production left CEO Patricia Miller thinking a lot about sustainability and creativity. When she met Los Angeles artist Eric Huebsch—she bought her home from his parents—she saw a chance to collaborate.
Faucet-maker Kohler started a factory residency program for artists in 1974, but Miller doesn’t know of any run by plastics manufacturers. Huebsch will create two finished pieces, as well as experiment to discover new possibilities for Matrix 4’s materials and machines.
Why have an artist in residence at a factory?
Through the Industrial Revolution and mass production, we are so focused on making the most that we can for the cheapest we can. Along the way, we lost the creativity of the making process and the material that we use in the making process. Philippe Starck had a quote once, "Plastic is the result of human creativity because it's manmade." I really latch on to that.
As an ethos of our business, because we have the design side of the house and the manufacturing side, I think it's really important that we continue to pull out the creativity in our team, and in our medium, and in our process. I thought that this may be a way to elevate that. Then secondly, we really try to be a zero-waste factory, but unfortunately, the process in general has some waste in it. I thought, "Instead of us having to waste the waste, can we repurpose it and make it into meaningful objects of art?"
Does the residency change how your employees think about their work?
Ever since I got into the business, the purging, (a compound to clean molding machines) which is considered waste, I've always thought was artwork. It was like sculpture. I have them in our front offices. My team has actually really bought into this philosophy of not wasting that scrap. They'll often bring different sculptures and purgings to me, or they'll make an M4 logo out of it, or they'll make a snake out of it, or they'll make something. We've really created a culture around caring about what we make, and realizing it's important, and it is creative. I think (Huebsch) being there just reinforces that. They're all really interested to see what's possible as well.