May 15, 2015
Q&A with Avenue Mosaic's Michael R. Golden
New York Spaces sits down with Michael R Golden, Owner and Creative Director of Avenue Mosaic, for a round of Q&A's!
by New York Spaces
New York Spaces sits down with Michael R Golden, Owner and Creative Director of Avenue Mosaic for an enlighting round of questions and answers!
NYS: How did you found your company, Avenue Mosaic?
MG: Avenue Mosaic was started a little more then five years ago. I was actively creating new tile and mosaic products for the US market. Two years prior, I was talking with an independent tile Sales Agent who was looking for new items to sell. As we had discussions over the course of 24 months, we decided to form a company with joint ownership. Our sales started off well and we were selling $225K with-in the first six weeks of introducing our first items.
After about three years, my partner wanted to get back to what he knew best, traveling and selling. I bought out his share in 2013; I am now the sole owner.
NYS: What is it like being in the role of both owner and creative director?
MG: There are definitely times where I wish I could draw all day and create; after all, my background is Industrial Design from RISD. However, I also love the numbers. I really like the entrepreneurial aspect of what we do. Almost 95%+ percent of what we are currently developing comes directly from our ideas. We create what we think is interesting, new and engaging. We take the risk in making new collections we feel are inline with US and global trends and then seek to sell the designs though our own brand, or others such as our current designs for Crossville Tile, and Dune, (based out of Spain), and New Ravenna.
NYS: You recently debuted some new tiles at the trade fair Coverings 2015. What what did attendees see
at your booth?
MG: Coverings, the prime tile and mosaic trade fair for the US was in the middle of April, in Orlando. We introduced 2 new collections named Pop Rocks and Montage. These will be distributed under our Avenue Mosaic brand, and be added to our tabletop display, website, and stocked by us, for July-1st availability. Also under our Avenue Mosaic brand we showed our 7 original collections, Bangles, Cross Stitch, Jazz Fusion, Lighthouse, Stream Line, Tea Box and Tea Kettle.
We hosted the US debut of Groove, which I designed and is distributed globally by Dune, based in Spain.
We got a great response to New Leaf, a beautiful new design of cast clear glass with an electroplated backing, which will be distributed nationally by New Ravenna. It comes in four shades, and two forms, a 2" x 6" tile and 1" x 6" trim.
The new sales and marketing company 'Metropolis North America' previewed our new concept of stone mosaics called Multizaics™. Multizaics™ is based upon the idea that "One Equals Ten", that a single sheet of stone mosaic can be arranged in multiple patterns (ten, or more, depending on the design) according to that users individual taste or vision. A distributor can maintain a minimal amount of SKU's yet offer a tremendous number of design layout options, optimizing their inventory dollars. It's an idea I have been developing since last summer, when I came up with 50+ sheet designs most of which can make 15+ layouts, some even 30+ layouts. It's a very exciting design.
NYS: How long have you been creating mosaics?
MG: I graduated from Art School in 1985, and expected to join my father's office furniture business, but that was not to be. I got a part time job at Hastings Tiles & Bath in 1986 and it has turned into a lifetime career of almost 30 years now. I majored in product design, and minored in glass blowing. I have been building and creating since I was a child starting with early art and clay classes to finish carpentry, cabinetry and boat building. I love to create, build and make things, both on paper and physically.
NYS: What enthralls you about the process?
MG: By process, I hope you mean the design process. EVERYTHING!!! Currently we are developing about 120+ designs, grouped into 40 categories and working with 18 to 22 sources, (depending on the next 3 months). Almost all sources are unique in what they make and their production methods. We have arrived at a wonderfully industrious stage where we need to block out time for future projects, and concurrently increase our development "metabolism".
NYS: You describe your production process as high-craft. Can you describe what that means to you?
MG: We have found a great set of production sources, which can think like artisans, yet they are reliable like classic "partner" manufacturers. We once tried to work the other way around with artisans, and although their samples were beautiful, they could not produce on time, within budget, and with consistent quality. Now we develop new ideas exploring new materials and process with our production partners and know that they can deliver production orders on time with great quality and their prices are stable.
For example, we are working with an artistic production source that is has expertise working with hand painted glazed lava. They are using all kinds of colors, metallic finishes and exploring electroplating. At Coverings we showed some prototypical samples including New Leaf, and we plan on developing multiple collections with them in the coming 15 months.
High Craft is the best phrase I can use to describe when creating new products via exploring a material and related production process. Most products get designed by someone who's likely insensitive with production, assigning a (revised) graphic / color to mosaics chips. The result is a boring fractional alteration. We take the opposite approach; we explore and develop new ways to make our tiles and mosaics, via deeply understanding the intricacies of each source partner's production processes. Once we get to a stage with a new process, (treatment), we then seek a market sensitive form, grooming / refining it's color, surface, scale, variation, high-lights, and so on. When all this is done, we then introduce it offering our development process, showing how we are the creators, (and not copiers).
NYS: How did your love affair with mosaics begin?
MG: This is a great question. In 1986 Hastings Tile & Bath hired me as a designer. Within two months of my start date we received a huge project from interior designer Lynn M Prager Interiors for a 30,000 SF addition to a home with an indoor pool. Hand cut stone mosaics were specified and the budget was over $100K. We sent the order to our Italian production source Sicis, it was their first large-scale project in the US. This was many years before Sicis became so well known and today are regarded as the Mercedes of mosaic tile. While at Hastings, I was fortunate to work for a terrific boss named Mario Paone. He was wonderfully encouraging and under his guidance I designed the whole project, defining every chip row, all colorations, "live corners", installation plans and all details.
When I was working on this project the mosaic signage of the NYC subways really helped my by illustrating how hand cut mosaics should be created. While I was waiting on the platform and everyone was looking down the tracks for oncoming trains; I was looking at the walls, studying the stations old mosaic signage. By looking very carefully I could to see how the "master" Mosaicist, would place the key chip rows while their apprentice would do the background "halo-ing". When I visit the Metropolitan Museum and look at the mosaic floor from Pompeii, I can imagine seeing how this two-person technique has been used.
I absolutely fell in love with mosaics on this first big project because they are a fantastic blend of hand skills and a semi-production process. The designs create a complex geometric relationship and in my opinion what could be better? With (the exception of movie special effects), this had it all for me!!!
NYS: What travel experiences have influenced your designs? How so?
MG: I've been fortunate to travel frequently but my design ideas do not come from my travels. I subscribe to about 20+ magazines, ranging from fashion to ceramics. I look over about 10,000+ images a month, and pull about 100 pictures a week. From there I scan them and categorize them into a visual database. I design from this 5000 image "tool".
Designing a new item and then marketing it can take up to two years, so I need to look twelve to twenty four or more months ahead for coming trends. I seek to align these coming trends with unique and new production process, creating original products. To do this, I'm always looking for patterns of patterns.
NYS: How many collections do you produce and market at the moment?
MG: We have a few active distribution channels, most of which we produce.
(Listed in price, from low to high)
With Lowes Home Centers, we have a royalty deal agreement (but not name recognition) with a key supplier of theirs, selling 6+ SKU's.
We sell two of our collections to the swimming pool distributor IWT, based in Florida. In the near future they are very likely buying one to two more collections.
With our Avenue Mosaic brand, we are actively selling nine collections; each with about four SKU's each. We also have six legacy (original) collections.
Metropolis North America is selling five stone mosaic designs based on the Multizaic™ concept and are likely to have six stone colors per design.
Dune is selling the Groove collection, consisting of three colorations. This is marketed globally and stocked on five continents.
New Ravenna will sell New Leaf into North America.
Crossville Tile sells Sideview into the US and Canada.
For both New Leaf and Sideview we are working to expand our markets to territories such as South America, Australia, Canada and the EU.
NYS: Is there one design of your own in particular that you would outfit your own home in?
MG: It's hard to pick one because I only bring to market the designs I love. My favorite three collections of my own design are Sideview designed for Crossville Tile, Groove designed for Dune, and New Leaf designed for New Ravenna. Our new collection Pop Rocks for our Avenue Mosaic brand is also becoming a favorite.
That said, we have 20+ ideas that we plan to come out in with-in the year and maybe some of them will also become my favorites.
Everything that is created needs to pass the two tests I call "Can I live with this in my home", or "Would I be happy to be in a hotel room with this?" Either way, I would need to enjoy it. My family and I live in a pre-war build with an interior that is considerate of the period. That said I wish I owned a hotel with 200 bathrooms and I could have each one decorated with a collection's unique coloration.
NYS: Where and in what way do you hope to see Avenue Mosaic expanding in the future?
MG: I'm happy to say that we have many upcoming projects and we plan to expand the brand and our designs.
- All Avenue Mosaic brand mosaics will be stocked domestically this summer by July 1st.
- Our website is currently being redesigned to reflect all our collections.
- I designed a collection of laminated stone tiles exclusively for Marmocer USA which will be available by mid-summer in the USA.
- We have plans to introduce 3 to 5 new pool mosaic collections before the year is over.
- In the late summer we are introducing at least 1 new collection with Dune at the 100% Design show in London, then at CERSAIE, (the major Italian tile and mosaic trade fair) a week later.
- Also in the late summer, we are planning on introducing a new collection for our Avenue Mosaic brand. It's our take on a hexagon.
- In the fall we have plans to introduce a totally new product group with over 100 items.
- We are talking with multiple distributors about developing mosaic and tile collections to compliment their existing offerings.
Our future goals are to continue partnering with sources and distribution partners to bring new tiles and mosaics to the US and global markets.
NYS: Where can we purchase Avenue Mosaic?
MG: New customers and any one interested can contact us at email@example.com and we would be happy to guide them to the closest point of sales in their area.