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Matt Castilleja

Justin Watkins

October 2014

Matt is an architecture student turned woodworker/furniture designer for Polivka Studio. The studio’s commitment to traditional craftsmanship is evidenced in each piece it produces for their astute clientele.

Matt Castilleja

The studio is expanding beyond commissioned interior work to signature furniture offerings. What was the motive behind that move?

Having total authorship of small pieces ranging from mirror frames, lamps, side tables, coffee tables, to larger pieces like dining tables and credenzas. Taking them from conceptual phase through fabrication, all in-house, makes the whole process more streamlined and enjoyable. Here, a client can meet the designer/maker and see the shop where their piece is being made and it gives a sense of origin to the work. The pieces we make are not anonymous, off-the-shelf goods. We do what we love, which is make the highest quality furniture.

How has your own craftsmanship been accelerated by working with David Polivka?

After architecture school, I worked for a high end metal fabricator and soon formed my own business out of my grandmother’s two car garage. I reached a point where slapping barn wood onto a metal frame and calling it furniture just wasn’t cutting the mustard. I knew that in order to create the high-end work I was after, I had to learn from a true professional, not magazines or YouTube. After ‘unlearning’ what I thought I had learned out on my own, I was able to learn from Dave’s 40 years of experience in professional production woodworking.

Dave’s mentors were trained in Italy and Mexico, so there is a long lineage and history of knowledge behind how the Polivka’s run their shop. I’m just incredibly lucky, at 27 years old, to be able to glean from their experience. As for my own craftsmanship, I still have a long way to go, even after a few years here at the shop. It’ll be a lifetime endeavor, honing my skills, but I am honored to know that with the full support of both David and Michele Polivka, in the coming years, I will take over the business and continue to grow with it while maintaining the high standards and philosophies I’ve learned from them.


How often are you able to collaborate with others on projects?

A while back, my good friend Dominic Scalise of KC CO collaborated with us on a cabinet. He made some really clean leather pulls for us. We’ve since done other pieces and are currently experimenting with some new home accessories that seem to have been forgotten about in contemporary society. There are a few other local artists, makers and designers who we’re looking forward to collaborating with as well in the coming months.


You’re becoming more accessible to the public with a storefront and even hosting guest speakers. Any dates we should have on our radar?

Yes, we are gearing up for retail access that will be open to the public by appointment. The showroom is already full of prototypes and finished pieces that range from a middle price point to higher end. We are working on some ideas with local fashion and branding designer Sarah Nelsen of Interwoven Creative on avenues to bring the rich history of the shop and product into focus and making the product more accessible to the up-and-coming generation.

We also host an event called Continuum here where past speakers include: John McDonald, Brady Vest, Dave Polivka, and Patrick Ryan. All of which are well known business owners and creatives who have found success through struggle. The point of the event is to learn something from a professional while having a great time with some cool people. Then check out the latest work by local artists while enjoying a brewski or two. The next event will be held later this fall. Look for the date on our social channels to RSVP.

What is your latest epiphany?

The Egyptians and Chinese were the first to use veneers and import woods from far off lands. Thousands of years ago, they were able to execute beautifully precise works all by hand. Sometimes they took generations to complete a single bedframe. Quality that is enduring is an investment and takes time. If you’re in a rush, go visit our friends at the big blue box store down the road. If you want a beautiful piece that your grandchildren will fight over, come visit us in the River Market at 3rd and Broadway.

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