The Dwell 24: Brave Matter

With Bauhaus-inspired sensibilities, Oakland-based designers Christina Zamora and Cathy Lo create ceramic lamps and objects.
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Christina Zamora and Cathy Lo, the married founders of Oakland-based Brave Matter, have plenty in common but sometimes struggled to blend their creative ideas. "Learning how to work together to formulate a cohesive voice hasn’t always been easy," says Lo.

Christina Zamora and Cathy Lo in their Oakland, California–based studio

Zamora grew up in New Mexico and got her start at Heath Ceramics; Lo was born in Taiwan and built a career in digital experience design. After founding Brave Matter in 2016, they finally found their niche.

Their work ranges from ceramic tabletop objects to lamps with striking forms and glazes, such as the Archaic Modern pendants, which pair a ridged shade with a massive pink salt crystal. "Being able to express an emotional narrative in more than one medium adds dimension to the work," says Zamora.

The Sender One Lamp by Brave Matter

The Twilight Carafe Set by Brave Matter

Learn why both Zamora and Lo despise the design of scissors, plus read more of their responses to our Q&A, below. 


Taipei, Taiwan —Lo

Albuquerque, New Mexico —Zamora

Describe what you make in 140 characters. 

As co-founder of Brave Matter I create the visual identity for our brand, including our website, printed materials, and graphic prints. —Lo 

Brave Matter is an Oakland-based design studio that creates lighting and objects for the interior with a focus on utility and desire. —Zamora 

What's the last thing you designed? 

New prints for our upcoming collection, Troupe. —Lo 

A collection of lighting and objects called Troupe, inspired by Nietzschean ideas of the strict, controlled, and reserved versus the emotional and dramatic. The new work evokes movement, counterpoise, performance. Originally set to debut at Wanted Design NYDesign Week 2020. —Zamora 

Do you have a daily creative ritual? 

Yes, I put on my favorite music and have coffee and breakfast with my wife every morning to kick off the day. Before I start working, I spend a few minutes on instagram, then write down a short list of things I should focus on for the day to stay focused on what’s most important. —Lo 

Exercise. Movement gets all the right things flowing. —Zamora

A pendant by Brave Matter

How do you procrastinate? 

I clean the house. It helps take my mind off things and get organized. I can’t stand clutter. —Lo

I listen to a podcast called Tiger Belly. Guilty pleasure + procrastination all in one. —Zamora 

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? 

A good pair of left handed scissors. Christina and I are both left handed and most objects in this world are designed for right handed people. —Lo 

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? 

Yoyoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Ru Paul, and my grandma. —Lo 

Walter Mercado (see Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado), and my grandmother. —Zamora 

What skill would you most like to learn? 

Walking on stilts. It’s magical to do the impossible and see the world from a completely different perspective. —Lo 

I would like to learn all the survivalist skills. —Zamora

Vessels by Brave Matter

What is your most treasured possession? 

My screen printing squeegee. —Lo 

All mixed tapes or special playlists made for me by loved ones. —Zamora

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? 

Making Chinese paper shadow puppets when I was a kid. I had to consider how light plays into the performance and create simple graphic shapes that work in one color. —Lo 

Scissors. In kindergarten, I wasn't allowed left-handed scissors because the ends were pointed. Right handed-scissors were blunt, and "safer".  As a left-handed person, I had to learn how to cut with my right hand. —Zamora 

What contemporary design trend do you despise? 

Chubby. —Lo 

Anything Memphis inspired. —Zamora 

Finish this statement: All design should... unique, beautiful, and useful. —Lo 

...speak to someone. —Zamora 

What’s in your dream house? 

Everything I want is already in my dream house. My wife and my two cats are the most important things I can’t live without. —Lo 

High ceilings. Natural lighting. Open space. —Zamora 

Another pendant design from Brave Matter

Did you pick up any new hobbies or learn a new skill while in quarantine? What was it? 

I learned to slow down and take time to appreciate life. —Lo 

Every '10 minute at home workout' on YouTube. —Zamora 

How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? 

I am really concerned about the downturned economy and the negative impact on spending. People are going to be more cautious in general due to all the uncertainties. A lot of workplaces are encouraging employees to go remote so that means less spending on office expansion. —Lo 

How can the design world be more inclusive? 

We need more women, LGBTQ+, people of color in leadership positions. As Shaunah Zimmerman, co-founder of Women Who Create says: "If you can’t see other successful women who look like you, it’s harder to relate and design a path of your own." Institutional changes need to happen starting with education. Tastemakers and showroom owners should be intentional about highlighting more black, hispanic, and LGBTQ+ designers/artists. —Lo 

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? 

Good design is hard work. An idea is only 1% of the journey and 99% of it is persistence. Every little detail takes time to figure out, and things often don’t go as planned during the development process. —Lo       

You can learn more about Lo and Zamora by visiting the Brave Matter website or checking them out on Instagram.

The Dwell 24 2020

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