Interview & Photography by Justin Chung

Jason Gregory, Makr

Winter Park, FL

Jason Gregory is the owner and founder of Makr, a design studio and product manufacturer based in Winter Park, Florida. While on a different assignment that brought me to Florida, I was excited to carve out some time with Jason and visit Makr.

I've been following his work for quite some time, back to when I lived in New York; I was photographing a fashion brand, Unis, and first came across Makr as he built out the retail space. I was drawn to the attention to detail and subtle elegance in the overall craftsmanship.

Thank you Jason for taking time in showing me around in Florida, and for showing me the process of your craft.

Here's the photographs from my studio visit with Jason:

MAKR is a design studio and product manufacturer founded by Jason Gregory in 2007.

How did MAKR come to be? How long have you been designing and making these types of products?

I’ve made things my entire life and have always wanted what I make to fulfill me creatively and sustain me financially. MAKR is a catch-all for the projects and ideas that I’m working on. The initial sparks of MAKR as a title started in 2004 with some small artworks utilizing CNC machines and lasers. I was just out of college and working at an architectural firm that was generous with it’s studio and tools. After a full day I would then stay late into the evening learning new processes and experimenting. The idea to make these projects a “business” happened in 2007 when I raised a small bit of capital and started searching for manufacturers and suppliers. Not coming from an accessories or fashion background meant I was learning everything by myself and making a ton of mistakes, discoveries, and eventually successes.
What type of influence has living and working in St. Augustine, FL had on your craft?

I split my time between Winter Park and St. Augustine, FL, neither of which have much effect on my work, aesthetically. My overall wellbeing has benefited from spending time in St. Augustine because of my partner, great friends and a coastal lifestyle. Swimming in the ocean, riding bikes, making food with friends all have a huge impact on me as a person which in turn creates a better mental environment to be creative. Having room to spread out and not living in a place that’s incredibly competitive and expensive probably lends a lot to my work. There is enough time to work things out.
Can you tell us a bit about the creative scene in your area right now? What is the community like? What is happening that excites you?

I’m sure there might be one but I’m not aware of it or a part of it. MAKR is a very personal project and I tend to just focus and do the work. I connect more with projects in other places and travel to experience them.

Close-up look at Makr's bottle key opener

Leather eyewear cases in progress

What have been your biggest sources of inspiration lately?

I’m always inspired by intensely personal projects - whether it’s a cafe, restaurant, store or brand. When someone focuses and makes something unique because they almost HAVE to, that’s what does it for me. I said in another interview - “(The basis of my) Aesthetic and Conceptual inspiration leans more heavily towards wanting to create things that can exist in a certain idealistic realm; an abstract muse-space that things get added to when I see or experience something great. It never pushes me to do something similar, it just fuels me to make and learn more” - still feels like a good answer.

Construction processes are also a great source of inspiration, the way something goes together, the sequence and pattern of an object are what push my designs. Details and little discoveries, intent that turns into reality. Confidence in patterning has really pushed me lately, any form is possible with the right process and shape.
Tell us about your studio space. What sort of environment do you thrive in when you are practicing your craft?

Our studio is a nondescript concrete block building on the edge of a neighborhood, no sign other than the address. It has tons of natural light, high ceilings and all of the tools needed to make things. I do many different parts of the business so each task has it’s ideal setting, whether that’s within the studio or at home. Light, quiet and tools are what’s needed for me.
The MAKR aesthetic is very clean and elegant while maintaining a sense of utility. What has guided your aesthetic sensibility over the years?

To make the most sincere products I can requires me to draw upon what I know best, me. As stated in the previous answer, I try to design for my ideal, this abstract frequency that I test ideas against and if they feel right then I know I'm on the right path. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m necessarily doing the work, I’ve heard people talk about this “conduit” idea, where you are a medium for the ideas themselves. I partially believe that, but also think it might just be a flow state thing similar to not remembering a drive to a place you typically travel. I’m drawn to order and intent and MAKR’s aesthetic has that at its core.
What designers or schools of thought have been especially impactful on your design decisions?

There are so many designers/chefs/friends that I appreciate that have an impact on my aesthetic. I think that just like so many things in life, your interpretation of what others are doing isn’t necessarily the actual truth and the lens in which you are viewing creates a new thing entirely. I grew up skateboarding and once heard an idea that early skate videos had a huge impact on consistency (frequency of tricks landed) because kids growing up away from the main skate “scenes” just assumed that the pros landed every trick. These outsiders would practice so much and get so consistent to try to match the perceived ability of the video pros that when they visited said scenes they would push what was possible at spots. I really like this idea of outsider work, not knowing how the industry does it and just doing what you think is best.

To name a few people making things that always land at the top of my inspiration list–

Margaret Howell, Daiki and Takuji Suzuki, Lacaton Vassal, John Pawson, FALA, Santa and Cole, Ignacio Mattos, James Lowe, Rafram Chaddad, Geoff Mcfetridge… so many more.

As for “schools of thought”–

I absolutely love DESIGN at it’s base level, not what’s on trend, not what’s shiny and new - problem solving, materials, manufacturing, the labor of it. Rigor gets thrown around a lot in design writing but I think it’s so important, you can tell when someone stops short or didn’t have enough time to complete the thought. I always want to give enough time and thought to my work.

Respect and appreciation for the people that manufacture/manage/ship/sell your designs, understanding that solutions can come from anyone or anything, kindness and diligence are all schools of thought that I subscribe to. ●