When Jay Miron, the six-time world champ BMXer who invented over 30 moves and started MacNeil Bikes, made the career switch to woodworking and design, it caused some head-scratching. But the same gung-ho attitude and life ethos that had him slaying two-wheeled backflips now sees him executing smooth curves in his studio in East Van. He recently signed an exclusive deal with international design agency and showroom network, SwitzerCultCreative, and his latest collection was launched at their Kits showroom on January 25.
What is your neighbourhood and what makes it home? I live and work in Hastings-Sunrise. My studio is only a few minutes walk from my condo. It’s the friendliest neighbourhood in Vancouver because nearly everyone smiles and says hi as they walk past you.
Your neighbourhood haunt? Jackalope’s.
Where do you go when you need to escape? The Sunshine Coast.
Coffee or tea? I enjoy them both equally.
The number of bones you’ve broken? I’m not sure what the actual number is. It’s between ten and fifteen.
Your favourite curse word? “Fuck yeah!”, or “Fucking eh!”
Drink of choice? Molson Canadian.
Something that makes you sentimental? Hanging out with my old teammate Dave Osato. We always end up talking about all the stupid shit we did back in the day and laugh about it.
Your pet peeve? Self righteous cyclists with their 1000-megawatt lights flashing everyone’s eyes shut while riding down the middle of a busy street at rush hour even though there’s a bike route one street over.
The last purchase you invested in? A pair of boots from Love Jules Leather. They were handmade just around the corner from my studio. When I wear them, I feel like I’m walking on clouds.
The last book you read? A book called Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster. If you make beautiful things for a living, and you care about quality, you have to read this book. It calls out a lot of bullshit in the fashion world that also applies to the furniture world.
Three movies you’d gladly rewatch? Enter the Dragon. Almost Famous. Dazed and Confused.
The last album you purchased? I purchased the album For You, by a local folk duo named Twin Bandit after seeing them play at the St. James Hall.
The weirdest/grossest thing you’ve ever eaten? I used to travel to Asia a lot when I worked in the bicycle industry. I ate a lot of bugs and other random stuff. It was all pretty good tasting, but definitely weird.
The place in the world you’d most like to visit? The pyramids in Cairo. I’m not one of those crazies who thinks aliens built them, but I am fascinated by them.
A superstition you can’t help believing in? I knock on wood.
The person, living or dead, that you’d most like to share a meal with? Bruce Lee.
What inspired you to leave the BMX world for furniture design? As my riding career was winding down I partnered with a few friends and started a bike company for a way to earn money after it was over. The company was awesome at first, but I soon realized I wasn’t made to work at a desk. I felt like I was rotting away just sitting there typing emails and doing sales on the phone all day. Eventually, I sold the company to my partners and searched for a new career that I could pour my heart into the same way I did on my bicycle. I found that in furniture design. I’m on my feet most of the day, being creative. I absolutely love what I do again.
Your scariest moment on two wheels? A police chase through New York City back in the early 90’s when it was still dangerous there. It was nuts. If I went into details I’m pretty sure no one would believe me.
Proudest moment on two wheels? Becoming the first person to complete a double back flip on a bicycle. I did it on a CBS television special hosted by John Ritter. It was a pretty cool experience.
Your personal motto? When designing furniture my motto is, “If it’s in style, it’ll be out of style soon. If it has style, it’ll always have style.”
Another skill or career you’d like to try? Piano. I took piano lessons while I was in woodworking school but I haven’t had the time to really put effort into it. It’s a long-term goal of mine to learn to play proficiently.
Your hidden talent? I seem to be pretty good at understanding what a client wants, even when they have a hard time explaining it.
Describe your design aesthetic in 10 words or less. All killer, no filler.
The first piece of furniture you completed? I built a credenza with curved legs for my TV to sit on as a final project in woodworking school. It came together pretty well. It’s featured on my website.
The thing you haven’t made yet but want to? I’d love to build a huge chandelier for the lobby of a downtown building. Those opportunities don’t come up often, and when they do, they go to an established firm. I have to put my time in and prove myself before that happens. It’ll happen eventually.
Your favourite piece of furniture that you own? The original Kern Coffee Table that I built four years ago is sitting nicely in my living room. It goes very well with my vintage sofa.
The piece of furniture you’d love to own? A Contour Rocking Chair by Vladimir Kagan. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a perfectly designed chair.
“If it’s in style, it’ll be out of style soon. If it has style, it’ll always have style.”
Your preferred choice of transportation? Bicycle with a basket.
Your first memory? Playing with toys in this little apartment I lived in until I was five.
3 things you hope to accomplish in 2018? Launch my new collection. (Done!) Get my motorcycle license. Do the full splits.
A tool that you can’t live/work without? A bandsaw. It’s hard to do curved work without one, and most of my work has curves.
Your last unexpected/unusual source of inspiration? A large metal gate near my studio was the inspiration for the first spindled bed I built.
Describe your ideal interior space. If we’re talking a living room, it would have a heated concrete floor, high ceilings, big windows, bright colours on the walls with badass paintings hanging; lots of plants, a chandelier, a beautiful and well stocked liquor cabinet, a well stocked book shelf, a quality sound system capable of playing CDs and records, super comfy sofa and lounge chairs, coasters on the tables.
Your favourite Vancouver building?There’s a super cool little house in East Van located on the corner of Turner and Lakewood that I really like. It’s not like any other house in the area.
How did your relationship with Robert VanNorman come about? When I decided to become a furniture designer I assumed I’d have to go to Europe to learn proper woodworking, but I Googled “cabinet making schools Vancouver” just to see what would come up. The first link that came up was for the Inside Passage School of Fine Cabinetmaking. It turned out that one of the world’s best woodworking schools is located just outside Vancouver on the Sunshine Coast. People come from all over the world to attend that school. I couldn’t believe the level of work the students were producing. I called and set up a time that I could check out the school and meet the owner and teacher, Robert Van Norman. Robert is a woodworking ninja. He seriously knows everything you could possibly know about building wooden furniture. I spent two years learning from him and still make a few trips a year out to the Coast to get advice when I need to use a technique I’ve never used before.
The most valuable lesson you have learned about your trade? Momentum is bad. A steady pace is good.
Your steepest learning curve? Learning to maintain and tune my machines.
Your dream collaboration? I really want to work with Kelly Wearstler. I believe she’s the best interior designer in the world without a close second. The wild rooms she puts together are amazing and fun and beautiful. I’d love to see how she would use some of my more interesting designs.
Where do you get your design ideas? I’m constantly scanning the world around me for ideas that I can incorporate into my furniture. Ideas tend to come from the strangest places.
Why Interior Design? Most of the great mid-century furniture designers who came up through the Royal Danish Academy were not only architects and designers, but also very well-trained woodworkers. This is why furniture from that period is so beautiful and timeless. They really knew their stuff. These days there’s often a massive disconnect between people who design, and people who make. I decided to follow the mid-century Danish model becoming accomplished at both sides of the craft. I believe this extra effort shows in the furniture I produce.
Where are you studying ID? Vancouver Community College.
The meal you cook for yourself when you’re eating alone? Burritos. I love Mexican food and I make it pretty well.
The thing that you won’t hesitate to splurge on? Shoes and tools.
What keeps you up at night? Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, (CTE) for short. It’s terrible.
What do you do when you can’t sleep? Relax and try to calm my mind. That’s not easy to do when you have CTE, but I’ve learned to live with it. I sleep pretty well most nights.
Your favourite place in BC? Desolation Sound.
Which comes first: the design or the material? 90% of the time it’s design, but occasionally I find a piece of wood with interesting grain that sparks an idea.
The last thing that made you laugh out loud? Playing with my dog Norman. He’s the best.
A bad habit or guilty pleasure? I spend way too much on cappuccinos.
Your favourite era? 50’s for furniture. 60’s for human rights. 70’s for clothes. 80’s for music. 90’s for causing hell.
Your favourite BMX venue/park? Hastings Skatepark. It wasn’t built until after my best years were behind me or I probably would have died in that bowl with a huge smile on my face.
How would you like to be remembered? As a fair and honest person.
The famous person whose space you’d like to design/create? Brad Pitt. While searching through design sites I came across some photos of a house he had in Malibu with a living room full of Vladimir Kagan and George Nakashima furniture. If you’ve got their work in your house, you really know your stuff.
Your tombstone inscription? Fuck Yeah!