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‘The Designers Mind’ by Rachael Leedham for Homes&Gardens magazine, March 2016
To what extent does the past play a role in your work?
Much of my understanding of furniture comes from studying designs that came before. As part of my working process, I’ll actually stick an image of my piece on a page of iconic designs to see how it holds.
What part do you believe craft plays in the modern world?
I consider all types of manufacture to be a craft. While my designs are made in factories, a lot of the processes are done by hand. On the flip side, nowadays hand-crafted characteristics can be factory made more affordably, which is a positive move towards inclusive design. I do find endless inspiration in traditional craft techniques.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing designers in 2016?
As always, it is probably making a living. It’s hard for designers to rely on the traditional model of licensing their designs to manufacturers and retailers. Many are now making, marketing and selling their own products themselves, resulting in lots more interesting work on the market.
Are there any aspects of the current technological revolution that concern you?
Digital modelling and rendering software makes the design process much more economical and efficient, and i’d be lost without it. However, I learnt my skills in the workshop and digital rendering used to be a late stage. The danger now is that it’s often the main part of the design process, which can lead to poor-quality design proposals.
How can we reduce the impact of manufacture on the environment?
I always design for longevity; however I am also starting to adopt the idea of simply using less material. A lot of furniture is built to withstand an unnecessarily high level of abuse, yet I think many of us would prefer to live with more lightweight pieces. I’ve tried to communicate this with my Panel chair and Tepee sofa.
Which innovative materials or techniques excite you?
I’m always on the lookout for an MDF alternative; it is shocking how widely used it is still. Recently I discovered a new, more environmentally friendly board material, which I have used on my Perch dressing table. It has a really beautiful finish and is far more durable than MDF.
If money were no object, which work by a contemporary designer would you buy?
I’d love a bench by Matthias Pliessnig, a Brooklyn-based designer-maker who creates rippling shapes from multiple strips of steam-bent wood. The effect is very bold. It’s somewhere between art and design, with a price to match, no doubt.