Zoë Mowat; Montreal;
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I design furniture and objects. I dream up and then self-produce or license works—anything from credenzas and tables to mirrors and jewelry stands.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I studied industrial design and visual communication design at the University of Alberta.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
My first job was designing and installing window displays for a design boutique. It usually involved a lot of glitter or electrical tape or the task of attaching hundreds of one thing to another thing with fishing line. I had a lot of fun with it.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
The year I graduated, I was selected to exhibit a chair I designed in Prototype, a group exhibition of works by young designers at the Interior Design Show in Toronto. It was definitely an invaluable opportunity to present my work early on.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
It’s funny, but I don’t think I remember that moment. I’ve always just kept going and looking forward.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
Perhaps it’s less a shortcoming than it is a challenge I’ve faced throughout my career, but finding a balance between the commercial or business component with the creative output can be quite difficult—especially if all you feel like doing is sketching new ideas.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Trust your intuition instead of trends. And professionalism really counts.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
I’m stubborn. Whatever it was, I likely didn’t listen!
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
Not explicitly, although there have been challenges here and there. I often find myself outnumbered by my male peers in many contexts in the industry. I think it’s important, and necessary, to broaden visibility for women in design.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
It’s a challenging industry. There are high times and more fallow periods. Product licensing and royalties often take a long time to kick in so it’s good to find a balance with other projects. I do a lot of custom work and produce small editions in my workshop in Montreal to help with that balance. My studio is my only work now, although I used to moonlight at a bar early on in my career.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
I tend to avoid such topics, so I honestly couldn’t say. But I do remember reading that absurd statement by a millionaire who claimed that in order for millennials to afford to buy a house they need to stop buying so much avocado toast!