To shine a light on the stories of our products and the people behind them, Borsheims celebrates our makers and introduces customers new and old to their world. One such maker is David Reiss whose MATCH pewter brand has delighted consumers since 1955 with the versatility and beauty of Italian pewter. With practical and decorative designs for every room of the home, MATCH offers the broadest collection of Italian pewter available today.
“This unique combination of an exceedingly hands-on, artisanal approach to production, with a material as versatile as it is resilient, yields soulful pieces imbued with history and destined to be cherished for generations. Each piece of MATCH Italian pewter is an heirloom.”
We interviewed David to learn more about his design process, why pewter, what inspires him and more ahead of our Cin Cin! Cocktails and Conversation with David Reiss event September 21.
Tell us a little about the MATCH brand and how it came to be.
Essentially, I was working in retail for a store in New York, and one of the things we were buying at the time was pewter from Italy. We first encountered the workshop I still work with to this day at a gift show in Florence, Italy. The pewter pieces we were buying looked much different from the pewter I grew up with in New Jersey, and it did very well in the store. We never had enough of it. After some time, the retailer started experiencing some difficulties, and I decided to leave. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next and through a conversation with a friend who asked what I liked to do I determined that I loved “working with people who work with their hands” and that I loved Italy. She suggested I become a manufacturer and after explaining what that meant to me, I decided to put together a proposal to work with the pewter workshop I’d discovered in Italy.
Pewter is a unique material to work with. Did you consider working with anything else in the beginning?
No, I was completely focused on pewter from the beginning. I was terrified of starting a business, and pewter was the one familiar element out of all the parts I needed to figure out to be successful.
You attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Did you know you wanted to work in home goods while there?
I had no idea I’d be working in home goods. I was pretty evenly split between my love for letterforms and photography while at RISD. I wanted to either become a graphic designer or be a photographer. Home goods weren’t remotely on my radar.
Is this skill set an advantage now that you’ve founded MATCH?
Yes. The education I had at RISD was a solid visual education. A design process and a way of thinking were stressed that I continue to apply to my work today.
How often do you travel to the design factory in Italy?
My travel has changed a lot over the years in many ways. In the beginning, I went very frequently, sometimes as often as five times a year. I started MATCH in 1995, so two things hadn’t happened yet; first, computers weren’t yet a big part of communication, so the design process for us mostly occurred while sharing the same table in Italy. It was also very important at the start to be there with my counterparts early in the relationship. It was crucial to get to know them face to face. Second, traveling before 9/11 was much easier.
Now, taking into account those factors and the familiarity between my Italian counterparts and me, we can do a lot of our work remotely. Some people may wonder why I would want to travel there less, and while the country and its culture are beautiful, I don’t go there as a tourist. It is work, and while I enjoy it, there’s a lot to do here in the States, more so than there was before.
What is the MATCH design process?
One way I approach this is to think of things the line needs. “We could use a cocktail shaker” for example. That will then lead to a bar story; then there would be other components that one would design to be a part of a bar collection or story.
Other times, stand-alone objects are designed.
Sometimes it’s just an idea I have, and I’ll say ‘we should make this because I think there is a need and it will sell. No one else is doing it, and I think we can do a good job with it.”
We all love beauty, so it’s special when beauty exists in something that’s not only pleasing to look at, but is also a joy to use.
What’s your favorite piece from the most recent collection?
First, I have to say it’s impossible to choose a favorite overall, even from the most recent collection. There are a couple that I’m fond of.
One favorite that comes to mind is the MATCH matchbox. People often ask where the company name comes from and then throw out the idea of making matches. Well, it only took us 23 years to design a matchbox and boxes of matches to go with it. It’s also interesting, and I hadn’t thought of this before, but this product led me to draw on my graphic design education because in addition to designing the pewter box I thought we should sell matches to refill it. And, of course, those matches had to come in beautiful packaging.
The pewter matchbox itself is based on an existing box in the collection that I thought would be great for storing wooden matches. But it wasn’t enough just to store them, so we worked with our Italian workshop to incorporate a replaceable striker for added functionality. Then I started to design the boxes of match refills. There are five box designs, each based on old Roman mosaics that are found all around the world. And on the side of the box, it says where the mosaics are located.
The details are essential, and people notice them. Every time we start to design a product, it’s an opportunity to make something that’s functional and beautiful. Often, it’s the details that set you apart.
From one of our last collections, I’m very fond of the Convivio Wine Coaster because we combined wood in a very functional way to create a very handsome coaster. We have other coasters in the line, I wanted to combine the two materials. This was often done in England with silver, so I wanted to do it with pewter. I also wanted a wine coaster with a wide border to allow for engraving. I also love the salt cellar that again combines pewter and wood. The top swivels on a pivot so when someone is in the kitchen, they can just swing it open to take a pinch of salt. It’s classic and simple. It’s what we do.
If you didn’t found MATCH, what would you be doing right now?
The two things that come to mind would be non-commercial photography or archeology.
Photography because as I mentioned earlier, it was a love of mine before. And I love working with the photographer we collaborate with for our marketing photography. It’s a very rich and close collaboration, someone I’ve worked with for the past 24 years.
Over time I’ve become fascinated by the way humans have made things to live with, whether it’s functional or art. Archeologist deal with this all the time. Whether it’s the excavation of a 19th-century site or 9th-century site, many similar things come in to play, and I’m fascinated by that. And then, of course, I’d be exposed to art from different periods and places.
In different ways, both of these fantasy jobs allow me to enter different worlds.
Finally, what one word sums up MATCH, the brand, and the philosophy?
Timeless and classic. To me, they mean almost the same thing. It’s what we do and what our image is. We aren’t trendy in any way.
Borsheims is excited to welcome David Reiss—Founder and CEO of MATCH pewter to our store for an afternoon of elegance and entertaining on September 21, 2019, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Stop by and meet David and learn how MATCH collections become truly extraordinary while enjoying craft cocktails.
The first 30 RSVPs will receive a free MATCH Double Old Fashioned glass at the event.