An interest in objects and spaces and a desire to work with new materials and experiment with different scales is what drives designer Samuel to keep on creating
Designer Samuel, aged 39 and father of two-year-old daughter Maidie, graduated in furniture and related product design at Ravensbourne College of Art & Design in 2002. He won several design awards while studying there including the RSA award and D&AD New Blood. In 2008, he set up his industrial design studio and has since worked on a diverse range of projects.
Where were you raised and how has your childhood influenced your work?
I grew up in a small town in Devon. I wouldn’t say this has directly influenced my work, only potentially from a material perspective due to visiting local craft fairs.
How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always loved architecture and when I was 16 I managed to do two weeks of work experience for an architect. This really opened my eyes towards design. Then, after an art foundation, I went to study at Ravensbourne college on a Furniture and Product Design course when it was then based in Chislehurst in London. The draw was their setup with a fantastic campus surrounded by green space and amazing workshops to make furniture. After graduating, I worked for some large consultancies for five years before starting my own studio.
Can you describe your studio and its location to us?
It’s in the back streets of Bethnal Green and is set on the ground floor of an old Warehouse built in 1899. It’s a good sized creative space with white painted brick walls and big windows down one side. The hallway space contains a library and a kitchen at the one end with space for meetings and a great little yard at the back.
What is your design philosophy?
I don’t have a set philosophy, however I believe in something that is as good today as it is in 20 years time. Another important and key aspect of my design process is understanding the relationship between an item and its user. So, for me, the challenge is to set the right tone for an object.
Would you say that becoming a father and having a young family has changed the way you work or think about design?
I think having children does make you question the way you work and it definitely gives perspective towards the important things in life. I’d say that certainly makes you become more efficient as you have less time.
You’ve worked in a diverse range of projects. Do you prefer to work on larger or smaller scale design and why is this?
Working on different scales and types of objects is so inspiring to me. A technology, material or process is often intrinsic to certain scales of objects so when you can carry these through to a new project of a different scale that’s when it becomes exciting.
You recently launched the Brace chair. Can you tell us more about its design?
I’ve been interested in steam bending wood for years so the Design Undefined exhibition at Clerkenwell London during London Design Festival 2016 presented a great opportunity to produce my first steam bent piece. The idea for Brace was to design a contemporary chair that embraces and promotes British quality manufacturing. The chair is fully produced in a factory within 100 miles of my studio and all the materials have been locally sourced. The name Brace derives from the traditional arch bracing used for many classic steam bent designs. An ‘arch brace’ is a curved piece of wood that acts as a secondary fixing to strengthen the structure. The design of the contemporary chair takes this structural element and repeats it through all the joints making it lighter and leaner.
Are there any materials that you haven’t worked with yet that you’re interested in using?
There are a few combinations of materials and technological processes that I am researching while I’m waiting for the right project to apply them. This is often a place I like to start a project rather than the other way around. Also, I haven’t worked with ceramics yet but hopefully have projects in the pipeline.
Do you have any favourite artists or architects, and if so what is it that you like about their work?
Masters like Jacobsen, Castiglioni, Magistretti, and of course Charles and Ray Eames. The quality and balance of their designs were amazing for an age without any help from modern technology. I also get a lot of inspiration artists such as Brancusi and Boccioni. My contemporary design influences are Fukasawa and Japanese design in general.
How do you think function and aesthetics can work together rather than only one being able to exist without the other?
The challenge for me is to always to try to combine these elements. With the Plumen 001, the aesthetic is partly the function as the premise was to create a good-looking light bulb that presents low energy technology.
Are you working on any new designs at the moment that you can tell us about?
I am currently working on a range of projects from smaller objects that fit in your hand to large pieces of furniture but until they get released I’m sworn to secrecy.
You can visit Samuel's website here.
Article by: Emma Foale