We are so excited to share our Q&A with 555 Designs, a design company consisting of 2 guys + two adorable pups. Their design technique, industrial/modern vibes and attention to detail literally leaves us speechless! Read on for more information from Jason "Twiggy", co-owner of 555 Designs + some INCREDIBLY designed dog beds!
What exactly is 555 Custom Designs?
555 Custom Designs is Jason Lott and Josh Bishop; two native Jacksonians who hand make furniture and home accessories. Everything we make pretty much falls into one of three categories:
• Custom Furniture: We work with clients to conceptualize, design, and build specific pieces for their home or office. This is a fun collaborative effort with our clients in which we bring our ideas to the table based on their initial needs and work with them to arrive at a design we're all happy with. Then we build it! This could be anything from a home office setup including a desk/work surface and custom cabinetry to a dining table or buffet.
• Ready-Made: We often design and build furniture and accessories just for our own gratification. Maybe it's something for one of our own homes or just creating for the sheer fun of it. These pieces are usually built to be reproduced in case a client sees a piece and would like one of their own or in case a retail establishment wants to order multiples to sell in their store.
• Limited Edition: We're both fans of collecting salvaged materials and will often build pieces such as lamps or furniture with those materials. These pieces could be anything from repurposing antique hand tools into a table lamps or a table built from salvaged lumber we come across in our travels. Because of the nature of salvaged materials, all of these pieces are one-of-a-kind and carry their own sense of history and whimsy.
How did you all get started and what was the inspiration to take the small business leap? We got started just by talking about our mutual interest in woodworking and design. Josh has a pretty extensive background in trim carpentry and commercial construction. I (Jason) have far less woodworking experience than Josh, but my dad always taught me as much as he could as I was growing up about basic woodworking, home maintenance, and construction. I used a lot of that knowledge to start making assemblage art with wood and found objects a few years before Josh and I met. After we met and became friends it was natural for us to talk about things like our mutual interests in woodworking, interior design, and furniture design. Eventually we got together after hours in Josh's garage and tried making a few pieces of furniture for our own amusement and 555 Custom Designs was born. We made a few pieces for people we knew and after that we just always seem to have an order or two to fill.
It made sense to just set the whole thing up as a small business since it was something we wanted to continue tinkering with even if just after hours. That way the business could be self-sustaining as far as purchasing any tools and materials we need to build. If the profits from sales went strictly to the business and not into our own pockets, it could be its own entity and we wouldn't have to personally contribute any funds to keep it going. It's been a few years since we started doing this and its still just a moonlighting gig and we still don't pay ourselves! We both have day jobs and pay our bills that way, but its a great way to flex our creative muscles and both literally and figuratively build something from the ground up. We're constantly trying to grow the business and learn new things. The more we build, the more we learn and the more refined and elegant our work gets.
How does Mississippi play a role in your business?
Any business is really just the people behind it. The identity of the business winds up being a sort of amalgamation of the identities of whoever is involved. We're both native Mississippians and we both have Mississippi and the South in our blood. Does everything we do scream "Mississippi"? No. But it's there. Sometimes you can really see it in the history of the materials we build with and sometimes its just there in spirit. Anything you build with your hands sort of gets infused with the spirit of the people building and the place its built in. Our work may not always look Southern, but it has a Southern soul.
What are your goals for your brand?
The goal is grow. Yes, grow the business. Grow our clientele. We want to get our name and our brand out there, but on a more personal level for us, it's grow our abilities as craftsmen and grow what inspires us. Every piece is a learning experience. We're often building something we've never built before. In fact, we usually are. Problems arise in every build and you have to just figure it out. You make it work. You do the very best you can with each piece and inevitably learn what to do or what not to do the next go-round.
What is your background?
We both come from varied backgrounds and that often informs both our aesthetic and as well as our skill set as a team. Josh has done everything from floristry to commercial construction and Jason is a graphic designer and fine artist.
Where do you all find inspiration?
The internet, of course, is perhaps the ultimate source for design inspiration. There are so many people out there doing so much inspiring work. You see what others are doing and it motivates you to push yourself. However, inspiration often springs from necessity. When working with a customer, you have to work within the bounds of what it is they need, what kind of space a piece needs to fit into, and what their individual style is. It's not about designing just for ourselves. Designing for someone else forces inspiration within boundaries and that's where things get challenging on a creative level. The inspiration often comes in the design and building process. You just get to work and solve problems as you encounter them. The famous painter Chuck Close said, "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work." Though we don't necessarily see ourselves as consummate professionals, we're not sitting around waiting on something to inspire us. We get to work and let the process inspire and challenge us.
What do you all like to do when you aren't creating?
For us, building furniture IS a lot of our down time when not at our individual day jobs. Our little furniture business is as much recreation for us as it is work. We both get a lot out of it creatively. Though I (Jason) have a creative day job and also create art, furniture building is just one more creative outlet for me. When not building or creating otherwise, we both enjoy finding new projects around the house and new ways to improve our living spaces. Sort of amateur interior design. Otherwise, it's time spent with friends and family. What else are you going to do in this tiny town? That's a joke. There's a lot happening in Mississippi and especially in Jackson. It's great to see the creative community here in action and be a part of it as much as possible.
What are your favorite local places to shop and dine? Honestly, Cups is probably our favorite and most frequented local establishment. Cups coffee and muffins are pretty the driving force behind our business. When Josh says, "I need to get a REAL cup of coffee," he means he's going to Cups. The coffee he made at home is only a sad precursor. Our shop is constantly littered with Cups'... cups.
What are some of the reasons you call Mississippi home? We call Mississippi home because it IS home. We're both from here and have managed to never live anywhere else. It's easy these days to conduct out-of-state business when necessary given the ubiquity of the internet. We can put our work out there for anyone in the world to see and anyone can contact us. The creative community throughout the state though is quite inspiring and exciting. There's such a huge creative movement here. It's a blessing to be friends and neighbors with so many actively creative people.
How do you think what you are doing is helping to shape your local community as well as the image of Mississippi?
We really hope that the work we do just goes to reinforce the image of the absolutely overflowing creative and progressive community that is Mississippi. Our state often has such a negative reputation for looking backward and not ahead and unfortunately, that's often true on a lot of levels. But we definitely know that there is as much progressiveness here as there is narrow-mindedness. The negativity just takes the spotlight far more than the immense positivity. We hope that what we do and the love with which we do it can be a small contribution to our home state's positive progress.
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Our Thimble Studio needs at least 5 of those AMAZING pet beds, please! How cool AND talented are these guys? Want to see more updates or photos of custom work? Check them out HERE: