Matt Castilleja really, really wanted to learn furniture making. So much so, he volunteered for an unpaid internship with master woodworker David Polivka. Castilleja grew up on Kansas City’s Westside and attended UMKC, then MCC-BTC technical school for welding. Convinced his future was in woodworking, he approached Polivka. “The knowledge and experience was second to none,” Castilleja says. “They had a sterling relationship for building the highest quality casework and custom furniture available, and were unapologetic of the steep price tag that came along with it.” He spent his days in the shop absorbing everything he could learn and worked in bars at night. When Polivka decided to retire, he gifted Castilleja all the machinery and materials he’d collected over his career as compensation for four years of back pay. Now Castilleja is showing work in New York City at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, has clients in cities across the country, and is developing a signature line of furniture.
Spalted Maple Table: One of my favorite pieces in the shop is a table we’ve designed for local art collectors. The top is a pair of large book-matched spalted maple slabs with an ebonized brass inlay. The base is composed of a trio of sculptural pedestals, milled and precision-shaped by hand.
Most Admired KC Artist: Nick Cave is easily one of the leading artists to come out of KC whose work has received international acclaim. Seeing his work at the Nerman Museum and in private collections was even more profound after getting to tour his new studio in Chicago.
Dinner Out: We like to keep it low key and usually head down to Lucky Boys in the West Bottoms. Their spicy chicken sandwich is what we’ve both professed would easily be our last meal if we had to choose. It’s that good.
Favorite Coffee Spot: Quay Coffee. It could be argued that based on my dollars spent, this River Market coffeehouse is by far my favorite local spot during the day. I spend a significant amount of time sketching or working on ideas. It helps to get out of the shop every once in a while.
Fun Workout: Not enough people know about Kansas City’s amazing mountain-bike trails. In an otherwise very car-centric city, if you know where to look there are world-class trails to ride within minutes from downtown and surrounding areas. The guys down at OneStar Bicycles can get you geared up.