Q&A: Female Design Council Grant Winner: Mia Wright-Ross

One of the two winners of the organization’s inaugural grant tells GRAY about her design background, the inspirations behind her work, and what’s next for 2021.

Edited for length and clarity by Rachel Gallaher

Images courtesy of Mia Wright-Ross

Sculptural art by designer Mia Wright-Ross "The double-Aimed struggle" black tangle shapes on white background

A piece from designer Mia Wright-Ross' grant-winning collection, "The double-Aimed struggle."

New York-based leather artisan, designer, and educator Mia Wright-Ross is one of the two winners of the Female Design Council’s inaugural juried grant, GRANT 01, which was designed to support the ideas of Black female designers in the United States and to further its commitment to champion equity and gender parity in design. The two $2,500 grants are meant to provide emerging designers with the financial resources needed to bring their ideas into prototyping and/or production.

Wright-Ross received a BFA in Fashion Design from Parsons the New School of Design and has trained at the Ecco Tannery Holland and Arsutoria Institute in Milan. Her luxury lifestyle brand, MWR Collection, offers handmade bespoke footwear, accessories, home goods, and furniture. Through her current practice, Wright-Ross explores expressionist iterations of leatherwork, including leather sculptures, tapestries, and installations. Wright-Ross is currently a faculty member at Parsons School of Design, and she previously worked as a footwear and accessories designer for brands including Tibi, 3.1 Phillip Lim, and Calvin Klein.

On the occasion of her grant award, GRAY reached out to learn more about Wright-Ross’ work.

How did you become interested design in the first place? Was there any particular person, event, or interest that opened those doors of creativity for you?

My introduction into the world of art and design came from my older cousin Jeffrey Hieskill. He took me under his wing and taught me how to draw. He would show me how to draw characters and cartoons and allowed me to color in all of his sketches. He passed away when I was eight years old. From that moment on, I found safety in my creative practice. It was a way of connecting with him, even through his passing. This is how I found my healing practice of art and design. I am proud to say that I am still connected to the creative practice that Jeff unearthed in me.

What is your design philosophy and why do think design is important (other than just creating objects)?

Any time I am asked this question, I ground myself in my artisan mantra. I created this mantra as a means to remind myself and other artisans that the reason for our making is to communicate with ourselves, our hands, and our community. My artisan mantra states “I commit to this practice. I commit to this practice as a commitment to myself. I commit to this practice for the benefit of myself. I commit to the skills and knowledge growing within myself. I commit myself to this practice.” My design philosophy is grounded in connectedness. The commitment is a driving force that centers humanity and community—not product. It filters into how I think about solving problems and improving the human experience with each object designed.