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The Clever Design Store

Mat Macmillan and the journey to iO

13/06/17 12:22 PM

When Mat Macmillan married his wife, he said he would go to the ends of the earth for her and she took him at his word.


Together, they flew half way across the world to New Zealand. This wasn't just a fresh start for Macmillan, but also his chance to break into a young and flourishing design world, an aspiration that had been residing in the back of his mind. 

Mat Macmillan had grown up with an artistic background, combining this with family dynamics influenced him profoundly. 

“My father was a designer, my stepfather a carpenter. They were both powerful thinkers who arrives at diametrically opposite conclusions about almost everything in life. My works still largely driven by an effort to reconcile this.”

Mat left school and wound up as a carpenter. He was never passionate about this, and found himself frustrated at the absence of creative input.


“At that crucial time in life when people are choosing study paths and careers my domestic life was a bit of a mess, so I kind of missed the boat and hitched a ride instead,” said Mat.

That ride was not down an empty path. It taught him the old school craftsmanship which is seen in his work today.



After spending his life in England it was time for a change, so he and his wife made the trip to New Zealand, where he gained insight into the financial side of business.

He moved to a rural block in in 2012, after spending time in an office job and had the opportunity to make his ideas into something.

“I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It felt like a now or never moment, so I leapt.”

He attributes his Scandinavian roots, his life in London and his time in New Zealand as things that have influenced him massively, and taught him creative diversity.



“The most valuable thing I learnt is that diversity and attrition drive creativity in a way that comfort and security never can.”

Mat had no idea how successful his lights would be, his first clue was his acceptance by TheClever;

“The fact that someone in the industry had taken my idea seriously was gold, even if I never sold a light.”

And many lights were sold, they are now one of TheClever's most successful products.



He then went on to win Bronze at the Best Awards, which let him know he was now fully immersed in the New Zealand design industry.

The name of his lights iO, is not only a name of the Greek Goddess, but is also the name of one of Jupiters moons and the name for the Supreme Being in Maori mythology.

“It was perfect for representing my lighting design; being simple and encompassing both design elements - the vertical line and the circle.”



Mat’s unique and beautiful design expertise won’t be limited to lights either, as he hopes to start playing with new ideas at some point in the future.

“I know that I do want to incorporate other materials into my future projects - metals, stones, concrete as well as man-made acrylics and resins.”

His move to New Zealand has shaped his work profusely. It allowed him to break into a industry that is still in it’s infancy, and has potential to be a great force.

“Design in New Zealand is still really defining itself and there is plenty of room for new contributions to help evolve the ethic.”

Sustainablity is the use of quality materials that will look beautiful in years to come. Solid wood, stone, and leather may be seen as materials for the more elite in society, but to Mat it means a quality product that can be restored and will maintain its value for generations.



“In the past even less well off people owned a few items of good quality that they would keep and pass down… It’s hard to see that happening with, say, an Ikea coffee coffee table despite their undeniably good sense of aesthetic. In the end, it’s made of tat.”

Unconventional and international, Mat Macmillan’s path to creating the iO lights has intertwined old school carpentry with a modern aesthetic to create something of diversity and meticulous quality that is quite simply just beautiful.

“If the journey ends well then everything within it was worthwhile.” - Mat Macmillan.



Post written by Bridget Kelly 

Photos by George Novak of Image Hub


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