Behind the Scenes / 10 Questions with Brave Matter

Despite being based in Oakland, it was in Manhattan at WantedDesign where we first crossed paths with design atelier Brave Matter.

We were immediately intrigued by each design's exquisite craftsmanship and composition.

The couple behind the designs is equally impressive: master ceramicist Christina Zamora and visual artist Cathy Lo.

Christina Zamora (left) and Cathy Lo (right)

Christina Zamora (left) and Cathy Lo (right)

Sender One   , floor and table lamp

Sender One, floor and table lamp

Together, the duo designs with intention and pushes boundaries — not just in an object’s visual appeal but also in materiality.

In two of their lighting designs, they use pink Himalayan salt and brass to diffuse light. It took several iterations to find the right treatment to counter the salt’s absorbency.

In their ceramics designs, Christina forgoes commercial glazes and mixes each and every one of her own by hand. If a glaze isn’t holding up to its task or visual expectations, she experiments until she finds one that does.

Vessel O   , N/O Vessels

Vessel O, N/O Vessels

Vessel O   , N/O Vessels

Vessel O, N/O Vessels

Nearly every stage of their design process, from prototyping to production to assembly, is done in-house, and you can see that intimacy in the craftsmanship. To go inside the minds behind the design, we asked Christina some of our favorite questions.

10 Questions with Christina Zamora


Q: What is the common thread, if any, that can be seen throughout your designs?
A: I’m looking for a balance between utility and desire; qualities that make an object both enduring and ephemeral, resolute and reflective, grounded yet ethereal. I use material properties and juxtaposition, for example ceramic and salt, to communicate these qualities.

Q: What is the effect you hope your designs will have on people?
A: I’m hoping to create objects that make you feel something. If it communicates your intention, the right audience will resonate with it.

Q: We know you love to push boundaries when creating and designing objects. How do you recognize the moment to stop — the moment when your design is just right?
A: I tend to keep resolving a design until the feeling in my gut that tells me something’s not quite right, goes away. At some point you have to trust your instinct.

Q: Which book or film has changed your way of thinking and how?
A: Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge, by Edward O. Wilson - He makes the argument for a unified theory of knowledge across disciplines – that they cannot exist independent of one another. You cannot reconcile science without art, art without culture.…

Geek Love, a novel by Katherine Dunn - About a carny family whose parents set out to breed their own exhibit of human oddities with the help of arsenic and radioisotopes, challenging our notions of the freakish and the normal, the beautiful and the ugly.

They both challenged my own sense of self and my relationship to everything else.

Q: What is the most treasured object in your own home?
A: A painting made by my wife, Cathy Lo, titled Mysteriously Ambiguous. It’s inspired by one of my favorite novels, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. I have a signed copy that reads “for christina, best feathers.” The portrait depicts myself as a whimsical creature with a giant plume of feathers. A reminder to be my best self.

Q: Which living person do you most admire and why?
A: E. O. Wilson. Most of his work revolves around his study of ants and his discoveries involving ant communication and the the social organization of ant communities. His work inspired the field of sociobiology and the importance of biodiversity research. His work is so fascinating and so inspiring to me. I want a t-shirt that reads, “E. O. Wilson is god.”

Q: If you were a piece of art what would you be?
A: A red polka dot in Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors installation.

Q: If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
A: A myrmecologist, studying ants. Growing up in New Mexico, my backyard was literally the desert. A mega colony of carpenter ants lived in my grandmother’s yard. Every summer they would swarm and march on some imaginary pathway through our living room and out the back door. We would watch them for hours. Within a few days they would suddenly be gone. I’ve been fascinated with ants ever since.

Q: What are your aspirations for the next 3-5 years?
A: Keep creating. Be brave.

Q: What motto do you try to live by?
A: Knowledge is power. Imagination is more important than knowledge.

See more from Brave Matter.