Metalworker and designer, Meyghan Hill, tells us how she opted to send herself to military boarding school and then stumbled into a modeling career before empowering herself after a bad break-up by learning to weld. She operates under the provocative and polarizing name of (wh)ORE HAüS Studios, and while it is a play on words, it is also a very powerful conversation-starter, which she then parlays into meaningful dialogue. This episode contains modeling and metal, yes, but no “blue steel” jokes, we promise. Listen:
What is your earliest memory?
Oh God, I can barely remember this morning. I have the worst memory. I’m gonna move on to the next one.
How do you feel about democratic design?
In many ways it is the direct opposite of what I do but I certainly appreciate it when I need it. Because I rarely have the time or money to own my own work, I do have plenty of Ikea to get the job done at home. But, I still build my pieces by hand and, therefore, am limited to my own bandwidth. That means I really need to appeal to a clientele who has the luxury of the craftsmanship, personalization and story behind a piece as the driving and deciding factor of purchase rather than affordability. That being said, I do not have patience for beautiful yet impractical objects. It just seems like a pretty girl that doesn’t have to try too hard and will realize how unsustainable that is with some wear and tear.
What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?
Ugh oh- floodgates are about to open. I am an avid reader and most of the advice I have held consistently dear are from pages.
The first is from author Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird. The title comes from a childhood memory of Lamott’s 10 year old brother sitting at the family table trying to begin a book report on birds due the next day that he had been assigned three months previous. In tears and overwhelmed by the enormity of his workload, Lamott’s father sits down next to her brother and says, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Approaching staggering situations this way can put a dent in their enormity (which sometimes in not nearly as big as it seems in our heads.) And that idea resonated with me so strongly because as both a business owner and fabricator- I will never have a time when all my to-do boxes are checked or my days long enough to get it all done. But a little bit at a time is so much more efficient than being paralyzed by the idea or bigger picture of something.
From the essay “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed during her anonymous time as “Dear Sugar” when asked what advice, now in her forties, she would give to her 20 year old self (and I literally keep copies of the book whose namesake comes from this essay to give to people like a pushy Jehovah’s Witness):
“Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There is nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach is round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea.”
“Be brave enough to break your own heart.”
“There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve chlldhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.”
“Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.”
“When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn’t ‘mean anything’ because, much as he likes you, he is in not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes.”
“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”
“Say thank you."
How do you record your ideas?
On my hands with a sharpie, usually.
What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?
My angle grinder is a natural extension of my right arm and my favorite material is metal. Steel in particular. I love how it handles, how it smells, when it chooses to melt and its strength. Runners-up are marble, brass and leather.
What book is on your nightstand?
The question is book(s), plural. So many that my nightstand is actually a pile of books. Which is ironic considering I make tables for a living. Any friends of mine reading this are probably groaning at the question because they know, in regards to talking about books, I am like a wind up toy whose run consistently lasts a little too long. Currently on the top of the pile is Upstream by Mary Oliver. About 6 deep is Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. Not as far down as they should be are some Clancy novels. My all time favorite which I have read countless times is in the middle of the stack, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. A recent book that I immediately gave away to my best friend as it was probably my favorite new read in 2017 is The Fact of A Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. And one that will always remain close to where I sleep is a book I read with my Ladies (I run a book club in a women’s jail,) Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle.
Why is authenticity in design important?
Yes, why bother otherwise?
Favorite restaurant in your city?
I live and work in Downtown Los Angeles and there are so many wonderful restaurants in the neighborhood. Anything from Pizza at Pizzanista to Redbird and Bestia. Now, if someone made a high brow restaurant that catered to my white-trash-adjacent-hometown-in-Indiana tendencies and served my favorite foods of pickles, sour candy and cheap olives within a mile radius of my studio, I would be in love.
What might we find on your desk right now?
Gin. And probably paperclips.
Who do you look up to and why?
I look up to anyone who is fearless, yet not reckless, while remaining kind. And people who laugh a lot and particularly at themselves.
What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?
Well my favorite project to tell the story of resembles a math equation on the SATs. On my first studio wall there was a quote by Robert Frost, “Crave the flaws of human handiwork” and I love this story because it reflects the humor and pitfalls of hand built objects.
I had 14 console tables with a steel base and removable marble top installed in a new boutique hotel in West Hollywood. Two towers, 7 floors each with a table on every floor when the elevator opened to it. The tables had either black or white marble which alternated on every other floor (odd floors had white marble, evens had black). I got a distress call from my client shortly after delivery saying the marble tops were not fitting the bases. I had assembled the tables in my studio prior to them leaving with no problem so I knew every top had a base that fit it and the problem must lie in a combination I had not tried in my shop. When arriving at the job site I found that the clients had already placed a piece of stone next to a table base on every floor. I immediately called my dear friend, and former studio-mate who is also my personal Rainman math tutor and asked, “I know with the correct pairings, all these tables will work. So, how many options do I have if I begin to move the marble not just from floor to floor but from tower to tower while maintaining the alternating color pattern of white, black, white, black?” His answer was almost immediate and revealed over 1500 different variations. I came back the next day with an angle grinder and fixed the problem that way.
What are the last five songs you listened to?
Ha, lately I am pretty unoriginal with music and seem to listen to whatever the radio tells me to. For the most part though I listen to books and podcasts while I’m building (and I am allllwwaaayyys working). I’ve developed a fairly codependent relationship with Audible. I just discovered a sleep timer on the app so for the most part I even fall asleep with someone reading to me now. My subconscious must be absorbing so many procedural details from bad mysteries.