For this month’s workspace we spoke to the makers of our handmade copper spoons and bowls - the husband and wife team, Lori & Eric Wright of ME Speak Design.
Tell us about your work?
We build Japanese-inspired housewares with Southern American roots. When we first married we brought together our individual senses of style. Lori was drawn to traditional, ornamentation and antique. Eric’s interests were conversely modern, minimal and manufactured. Although on the surface these appeared to be on two different ends of the spectrum we found our shared interest in Japanese design reconciled the two. We are inspired by the unassuming aesthetic of rural farm life in Japan and the American South, where tradition and minimalism are expressed with a deep appreciation for nature.
How did you learn your craft?
Much of what we both have learned over the years was either self taught or passed down by other master craftsmen.
Lori grew up learning from her father, working alongside him in his workshop, absorbing his craft. Although Lori works primarily with metal, her father was a woodworker, building furniture to sell and for their family’s home. Much like herself and Eric, her mother and father would see a piece of furniture in a magazine or book and draw inspiration from it. Her father would then go into his workshop and create the piece.
Eric grew up surrounded by his mother’s art, and following an apprenticeship as a carpenter in Athens, he went to school in Oregon, where he built titanium bicycle frames and learned both TIG welding and machining. His travels took him from there to the Indian state of Maharashtra, outside of Mumbai, where he studied practical, sustainable architecture and the art of furniture-making. He continued these studies in Vermont and then in Costa Rica, where he developed an appreciation for indigenous building techniques and tropical hardwoods. Later, Eric taught a beginning blacksmithing course and further developed his own skills at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina.
Describe your workspace...
We bought a 1900's farmhouse a little over 3 years ago which included a couple of outbuildings. One of which was an old carriage house with a dirt floor. We spent 8 months completely renovating it, raising the roof for more head height, pouring a concrete floor, new siding and enclosing the interior walls with rough sawn pine. We added multiple windows for natural light and Lori's father gifted us an old pot belly stove to heat it in the winter which doubles as a perfect place to cook breakfast or lunch. Our workshop is a natural extension of our home, when we rise in the morning and the children are settled or off to school, we open the red barn carriage doors into the shop and our workday begins. We added some string lights and small drop lights for a soft morning light before the big lights and machines start running.
What do you wear to work?
Depending on the season our work attire is pretty simple; usually a good pair of work jeans, shirts that we don’t mind getting dirty and our work aprons. We also are big fans of our vivobarefoot boots.
What most inspires you, both in your work and life in general?
Our Japanese and Southern heritage greatly influence our products and life. Our Oleole Collection is named after Lori's maternal family who are of Japanese-Hawaiian descent. Inspired by our family and our love for the South we create our work and life on both of those influences. Like the South we grew up in and live in, Japanese design, heritage and countryside are persistent inspirations. We continually find ourselves drawn to both of their simplicity and natural efficient function. Rural farm life in Japan and rural farm life in the South both represent a design from need and a beauty from usefulness. We are specifically fascinated with the historic Japanese farm houses called Minka, which were built with large logs and natural materials, every aspect expertly crafted. A large, open, wood burning hearth functioned as a means of warmth and food preparation. The smoke from this hearth, over time, blackened the interior surfaces of the wood logs creating a patina suggesting time, life, and sustenance.
Another craftsman you would like to meet?
We would love to travel through Japan, seeking out unknown artists and craftsman and drawing inspiration from their work. That would be our ultimate experience.
Lori and Eric's copper bowls and spoons are now available onsite and in stores.