What are the contemporary challenges faced by your approach to design and the ways in which you develop the creative process? What stimulates you and what bores you?
I get bored very easily, but luckily I’ve built an infrastructure around me that allows at least a degree of self-determination. So it’s almost like the company has been set up so that I can produce stuff at the rate of a fashion company. I don’t think the objects should be fashionable, they need to have longevity to them, but we do things on an almost seasonal basis, by producing newness all the time. So if I get bored or repeat myself, it’s really my own fault.
This is the advantage of having your own label. It’s a significantly different model to most of the other product designers that I know because most of them are working in studios as a service industry for production companies or production brands. We’re distinct in that we do our own product development, our own design, our own distribution, our own marketing. That’s what makes it really quite exciting, but it comes with its own challenges and nightmares as well. A lot of designers will say to me “Oh it’s so nice to be able to do what you do, and have your own products all together, and be able to show them as your own body of work.” Most designers will have one lamp with one company, a chair with another, an accessory with a third one, but it also becomes a bull in chain. We have warehouses full of stuff that we have to sell. So, I don’t think anything is perfect, but I’m interested in seeing whether designers can act in a slightly different way and take ownership of their own identity and their own point of view. Very often designers are used more for communication than they are for shape-making or maybe they are used to make extraordinary things for marketing, rather than something they can sell in bigger quantities.
In a brief video you describe the welding process. You almost sound like an alchemist. The know-how of a welder must depend a great deal on sensorial experiences. With this sort of background, do you ever draw a line between the ‘design process’ and the ‘hands-on making process’?
I’m largely pre-computer. The designing process has changed a lot, but I still see a real distinction between people that started designing in a virtual world and those that effectively had to sculpt things out of models and the rest of it. There is something about making physical objects where you need to make a full-scale mock-up or prototype. So the process for us is still, I think, very tactile. I don’t think that virtual reality will really substitute that knowledge. When you design on the computer, in terms of materials, you click on a button and suddenly something becomes transparent or something will be cement or steel or plastic. More and more sophisticated programs will tell you whether it will work in physical form. But I’ve always sort of had to know how I’m going to produce something rather than make a skin and then find a way of making it. You see that a lot with architecture, where people are able to make these extraordinary buildings, and they can make them, but underneath you’ve still got these straight bits of steel and these flat panes of glass, and then architects are just sort of curving little bits of it and adding them on as a fake skin over the structure of the building. But all of that is going to change very quickly as more sophisticated and affordable manufacturing methods come through in more interesting materials. That’s going to transform so much of the made world in a way that we’re only starting to see now. We’re at the border of a really unbelievable time which may well make a lot of us redundant, just like in the music business.