“I think to some extent we all have that in us, but we don’t necessarily have it in us to get to a high standard because I think you have to be be encouraged to do certain things or have access to certain things around you and then be allowed to enjoy that.”
Photography by Daniel Dytrych
Transcribed by Pippa Smith
How do you class yourself as a maker – you probably don’t think of yourself as a specific type of maker but do you have your eye on furniture specifically?
My background was or is in art and design, but I’ve always been more multidisciplinary in my approach to getting to my sort of final result. I did my HND in graphic design but a lot of the times I would make little models or prints or small clay sculptures of what I wanted to make. I think it stemmed from that, but i came to furniture before I had an accident and I couldn’t use my hands in certain ways. I thought about becoming a consultant around that kind of design process until my hand got better.
What was the accident?
I had a workplace accident. A door slammed into my right wrist and i’m right handed so that took about three and a half to four years to get fully back to normal because I had to go to physiotherapy, had an operation on it and ended up with chronic pain which went on for ages. It was also a period of other things going on in my life as well. I lost my job and I moved back to Derby because I was living in London at the time. I was sort of semi involved with art and created things but I wasn’t strictly getting into it. I think because of this accident happening to me it spurred me on to try and do things I actually wanted to really do. I think you almost get to a point where you feel like you’ve lost talent or lost a bit of yourself. You realise that you’ve come so close to not being you, taken for granted the sort of thing you were able to do before and liked doing and now you can’t do those things. Trying to get back to that was my way of healing myself really, reclaiming my potential if you like. That’s the journey that I’ve been on the last couple of years.
What I got from you was that it is transformative so what has that actually meant to you personally?
I think it’s been cathartic. It’s something that I’ve been able to control because there’s been so many other things going on in my life in terms of health. When you get into to doing some craft or something, you are in control of that. You can see the physical results of what you’ve put into it and is very rewarding.
Not all making is about creating physical objects but in a lot of ways it’s almost an antidote for some people who can actually touch and the end result of what they’ve been involved in
Yes or something you can actually see. I think to go through that process of having a beginning, a middle and end for me is very important. Work wise we don’t always get the chance to do that… that’s why you have things like art therapy, people using gardening or anything that is a bit more tangible… people are starting to get back into that again.
Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re actually making at the moment?
I’m still doing some pieces of furniture, developing some of the ideas but I’m actually working on some models for a urban renewal project just to get some of the research side of it done first before I start speaking to potential stakeholders.
So what, can you tell me a bit more about that – why you’re making models for it?
Because I don’t really do very much CAD and I think I prefer to sort of see and do the physical side of it first. If I work with something physically it’s easy for me to then work out the technical side of it. Then I’ve have a better idea about the proportions and how they all relate to each other
With the chair did you draw it first and then work backwards from that point?
When I first did the chair I saw the pieces and they were all just going to be thrown out. I thought they can’t be thrown out, they looked really good. I thought maybe I should try and do something with them, so I just started laying them on the floor in certain ways and I thought that looks quite cool maybe that could be a chair or something. They were limited by their size so I had to work within those constraints. I worked out what I thought looked pleasing and I drew it. I’d already drawn chairs or certain similar designs in the past before and for this project something clicked. Prior to that on the research and development of the re:make i’d been researching illusions in design. There was a lot of that going on and I think that influenced what I did with the chair because I was trying to give the illusion that the pieces were floating.
And you achieved that by using certain materials?
Yes, the acrylics segments are see-through and I bent them on a wire bender. You heat it and basically you put the acrylic under, its almost like a toaster – it heats both sides – then it’s malleable. I used acrylic sheets there were some poles but I didn’t bend those. I did think about bending the birch plywood. The acrylic was used for brackets, almost like joinery brackets to provide a sense of bits floating because you could see through it. So from a distance, from the front you wouldn’t see the acrylic because all the fixings were concealed.
How did it turn out? were you pleased with the result?
I was happy – I mean there were things, you’re never completely satisfied. I think there were lots of options for fixings that I could have used but they were a bit expensive so I just didn’t see the point of spending £50 on something when it was just a bit of an experiment, so I had a level of creativity in the sense that you’ve got to think around problem, like how I was going to make these fixings from some bolts and bits and bobs that we had here.
So have you had to kind of overcome many obstacles. Presumably you come in from a point where you knew something in terms of your art background, but then there’s a practical application in terms of construction, building materials?
I think yea it was just more about building my confidence back up, but I did do a lot of research, like looking things up on the internet and watching YouTube videos about it, just about the materials and explanations. I’m very much interested in that side of things.
So is there a next project in terms of that kind of furniture or that kind of construction?
Yes because I’ve still got a lot of things that I’ve not completely finished. I’m interested in playing around with contrasts and pushing the limits of material. I’m interested in making things that look heavy look fragile and delicate, for example i’d knitted with wire to make some lampshades for one project.
How do you go through that process presumably that’s quite different from knitting with wool?
Oh totally; not that I would know…no it is totally different, I’d actually learnt to knit for the project here. I wanted to know how to knit before but just found it very complicated. I was trying to learn from YouTube, then one of the volunteers called Mary who I was working with showed me how to knit, I called it extreme knitting – it’s basically non traditional materials and on a big scale.
Do you think you’ve picked up specific skills that you’re going to carry forward to your next project, whether it’s a way of processing things or using materials?
I think it’s more just about being open to new things and just not putting constraints on yourself. Just do it, just see how that goes, you might get experiences that can transfer into anything you do because it’s all about your approach. Obviously you’re not going to be the master of everything that you do, but at least allow yourself to fail at something and learn from that.
So do you think you’ve made some failures and you think ok that’s a good learning process?
I’m a bit of a geek anyway because I just like doing things for the sake of doing them, but I know that everything that I’m doing is feeding into something.
So your sense of satisfaction isn’t from the end result, it’s from the process?
Oh yes definitely. I’m happier when I finish stuff but I don’t look at what I’ve done and think wow you’re amazing, and I never go through that whole tortured soul thing. I used to be very bad at that and but not nowadays.
You’re able to separate yourself, for want of a better word, your ego from the products and move on?
I’m constantly wanting to try to move on. I think I’ve learnt now to appreciate what I have done, where I’ve been and how I have got to where I am.
Do you see yourself as a Maker ?
I don’t know. It’s become such a convoluted term. Haven’t people always made things but they weren’t called makers, they were called artists or designers or creatives. It’s just another word for what people have been doing before, its become like this umbrella term. I think there’s a need for something that reflects what’s more important to us now but I’m a bit sceptical about the terminology.
In the Maker Voices project we haven’t defined it, we’re not sure, you know,we’re just trying to ask that question
I’m making stuff more as much out of necessity. I don’t have the money to go to a manufacturer and say can you produce this for me because at the end of the day they’re going to do things in certain way to make it beneficial economically for them. They’re not going to work on something for a day or two on one tiny single item. They won’t churn out. You’ve just got to be very resourceful and part of me does want to know how these can be replicated. When I was doing the chair I was thinking that it could be made in a flat pack I think that’s the sensible way to look at it, from my own perspective.
Do you think to be a Maker there’s an essential requirement or prerequisite, do you have to be a certain type of person to be a Maker?
I suppose it comes back a little bit to how you define making but, possibly i think you have to be a little bit obsessive, very dedicated to what you’re doing and wanting to push yourself. To reach certain benchmarks or standards, to care about what you are doing.
I suppose this might be a bit of an odd question, because if you’re a maker you make, and you don’t necessarily think about what made you make?
Like i said, it’s almost like you’re just responding to necessity.
Do you think there’s a desire to create?
I think to some extent we all have that in us, but we don’t necessarily have it in us to get to a high standard because I think you have to be be encouraged to do certain things or have access to certain things around you and then be allowed to enjoy that. I think when you then want to do something more you will then obviously dedicate more of your time to do it. You know if you keep doing something you will eventually, most cases, get better at it, especially if you learn to enjoy or make it fun for somebody.