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Oct 24, 2013

Industrial design major finds his path

Matthew Lockley (’11) turns Study Abroad experience into a career
By Gabrielle Piccininni (’11)

Originally published in Fall 2012 Madison magazine.

Matthew Lockley hand crafting shoes
Matthew Lockley (’01) finalizes a mold for a hand-crafted stiletto boot.

After college, many graduates hear advice about following your dreams, but Matthew Lockley (’11) thinks that’s not enough. Instead, Lockley has an unwavering determination to turn his every aspiration directly into reality. The endeavor to “find oneself” is an insufficient ambition for Lockley, who says it lacks intent and strict direction. “I believe it is important to create the person you want to be,” he says.

“I have a vision that is greater than myself,” Lockley adds. His vision came into focus during a JMU Study Abroad trip following his May 2011 graduation. The culturally and creatively saturated experience was the capstone to Lockley’s Madison Experience. Returning home with a waterfall of inspiration, Lockley began the process of turning the ideas in his sketchbook into a plan for his future as a shoe designer.

A mere 17 days after receiving his diploma, Lockley boarded a plane with design and studio art students from JMU and the University of Pennsylvania, and traveled to Vienna, Austria.

The Study Abroad program is directed by William Tate — JMU professor of interior and industrial design and founder of the Umbau School of Architecture in Staunton, Va. His students travel to Vienna every summer to not only experience Viennese culture and design, but to regain an appreciation for the beauty of human creativity and the artistry found in every detail of life.

The students spent five weeks exploring the city’s architectural beauty, touring museums, visiting design firms and studios, and experiencing outdoor concerts and festivals. “Life is about perspective,” says Lockley. “Traveling makes you consider what is actually important to you.” After a 60-mile bike ride from Horn, Austria, to the Czech border, Lockley realized what is most important to him is family and faith. “This is the credo I live by: ‘Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands ... so that your daily life may win the respect of others and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.’” [1 Thessalonians 4:11-12].

A creative spirit and entrepreneurial resolve are what drove Lockley to JMU and the School of Visual and Performing Arts, he says. He found his niche within industrial design, which he says is a beautiful mix of disciplines including art, technology, history, psychology, communication and business.

Industrial design is a concentration within the studio art major. It is a cross-disciplinary course of study in which students focus on creating and developing design concepts and systems while maintaining a firm focus on aesthetic potential. Set in a studio environment, industrial design students are encouraged to invent and experiment. In addition to design and art history requirements, all industrial design students must take five integrated science and technology courses and one business course.

As a major that crosses disciplines and physical locations on both sides of the JMU campus, industrial design students interact with professors from a variety of departments with vastly different professional backgrounds. Lockley says ISAT professor Eric Pappas made a particular influence on his Madison Experience. “He taught me to know when to be quiet, to have the patience to change and the strength to stand alone.”

Pappas remembers Lockley as “well-prepared for the challenges of class, highly engaged in the work, and active in his own professional and personal growth. More importantly, Matthew was intentional about how he was constructing his life.”

With guidance from professors like Tate and Pappas, Lockley says JMU taught him the lesson of “hard work.” He uses his industrial design skills to propel his creativity, develop his skills as a shoemaker, and fine tune his first business plan – one that solidified on his last day in Vienna.

At the end of the Study Abroad experience, Professor Tate took students to one final studio: Sheer Schuhe, established in 1816. Markus Scheer led a tour of the studio, passing through the oak-paneled foyer flanked with old glass cabinets displaying wooden shoe molds (called “lasts”), and up a creaky wooden staircase to the workshop. Filled by the clatter of sewing machines and the smell of damp leather, Lockley listened to the seventh-generation shoemaker, learning that every pair of Sheer shoes is completely handcrafted and represents “the unity of the greatest aesthetical and anatomical standards.”

This notion of marrying function with aesthetics resonated with Lockley and perfectly aligns with his JMU industrial design major. Self-described as a person who finds fulfillment in the smallest things in life, Lockley was eager to return attention to the value of hand-made products and artisanship once he was home. He wasted no time solidifying plans for his first business endeavor — his own shoe company — and has been working as a shoemaker’s apprentice in Washington, D.C.

✱ Learn more about JMU Study Abroad.