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Jon Gray

Published on 12 Jan 2022

Jon Gray - Co-founder of culinary collective Ghetto Gastro, and self- proclaimed "underwater ceramic technician".

Orior

What city or cities has influenced and/or inspired you the most?

Jon Gray

I feel like Tokyo and Kyoto in terms of thinking about urban environments. I appreciate the order in the chaos. There is a lot going on but everything seems like it is in its place. The attention to detail. Being able to utilize doing a lot in small spaces, I can really appreciate that.

I was super inspired when I went to Dakar, Senegal. Me and my business partner went out to the opening of Kehinde Wiley’s artist residency, Black Rock. It was a beautiful city, so kind, beautiful people. It was just dope. Mexico City is another super inspiring spot in terms of the urban vibe. What I loved about Mexico City is how nature is incorporated in the city and the architecture, the food, all of the vibes. It’s a very textured place. I was super inspired visiting Casa Wabi in Oaxaca state, a little north of Puerto Escondido. The Tadao Ando architecture.

Palm Heights Grand Cayman. I get a lot of my interior inspiration and design inspiration from what they do there. March 2020-June 2020 I was there. During the lockdown I was there and I was there over New Year’s.

"I think making things by hand is like writing things by hand. You can really put the spirit and the intention in it. I think when you use your hands you enter the universe differently."

Jon Gray

Orior

What architects, interior or product designers do you admire, and why?

Jon Gray

I’m secretly really deep into my interests in art and design. A lot of times people don’t know these things about me. I was a judge for this year’s Wallpaper design awards. It’s like with art.

In terms of object design, I’m all about my buddy Ini Archibong, Nigerian descent from Pasadena, living in Switzerland.

In my space making I frequently collaborate with Snohetta. We did a space together in Tokyo that I haven’t been able to visit yet. We did it in collab with M1 and my buddy Masa. We were discussing possibilities with Ghetto Gastro out there. They built furniture for a lab and test kitchen but we wanted to do something more significant.

Orior

Do you live with any family heirlooms?

Jon Gray

I have a trophy from my great grandfather, J. Arthur Jones. He was a bishop and a community organizer, there’s a block named after him in the Bronx, which is a better heirloom. I have some encyclopedias of his too. Big shoes to fill, keeps me inspired.

Orior

Why did you chose the Canyon sofa? What about it appealed?

Jon Gray

I think for me, being a big dude, I just wanted to be cozy and have room for others to be cozy with me. Cozy Cottage, that’s the energy.

Orior

Was there a runner-up?

Jon Gray

I really liked the Marmar table, with the green Irish marble.

Orior

It took 55 hours from start to finish to make Canyon sofa, often by someone who has been with the company since its early days. What things/activities and people in your life do you dedicate this type of time to?

Jon Gray

I started a new practice, meditation, 30 minutes of movement and listening to a chapter of a book every day. I’ve been getting into reading and slowing down and taking the time to get through a book and to build up my knowledge base. I just read Think And Grow Rich: A Black Choice. My aunt, who passed away in 2006, gave me that book when I was a teenager and I picked it up after she passed. I think it is something I reread every other year or so.

Orior

What, to you, is the importance of making things by hand?

Jon Gray

I think making things by hand is like writing things by hand. You can really put the spirit and the intention in it. I think when you use your hand you enter the universe differently. If I’m manifesting or writing affirmations I’ll physically write them in my journal versus thinking them. There’s definitely a rhythm when doing things by hand that attach it to the creator, the maker.

Orior

Do you make anything by hand?

Jon Gray

I make waffles. We recently launched a waffle mix through Ghetto Gastro called Wavy Waffles. So I spend a lot of time making waffles. Maybe matcha. The ritual of sifting through this set up through my boy Rocky who inspires me there.

Orior

Our creative director (and son of founders Brian and Rosie) Ciaran McGuigan believes that good things take time.

Complete the sentence in your way: “Good things take time, like _______”

Jon Gray

Growing something, getting your hands in the dirt. It’s not just the time, the time doesn’t do the work. You have to do the work and take the time to reap the reward.

Putting a seed in the ground, tending to the seed, and reaping the fruits or the veggies that come from that seed.

Text by Rima Suqi
Photography by Myesha Evon Gardner