Pendant no 1 in ash

Pendant no 1 in ash

I love Tom Raffield’s beautiful steam-bent wooden creations – they are so clearly inspired by my favourite corner of England; the wild West(country). He very sweetly agreed to an interview, which is as inspirational as his creations…
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What is it about Exmoor that inspires you? What is it about the Westcountry that drives so much creativity?
sasasa
I grew up here and have always loved the natural surroundings. The contrast between the baron open moorland and then the moss-covered, wooded valleys teaming with life is stunning and the way this suddenly comes to an end with a dramatic coastline. I love walking within this countryside and am forever seeing new shapes and lines within nature which feed into my work.  It has a different feel to the rest of the UK. You get a real feeling you are in the far corner of the country; the landscape and people are different and in my opinion more interesting; this attracts creative people wanting to live a more unusual, bohemian lives.
sasasa
What was it that attracted you to Falmouth College of Arts? What do you think they offer that other colleges don’t?
sasasa
It was the feeling of being able to study in a small artistic sea-side fishing town. The classes were small and it had a personal feel to it. I wanted to feel comfortable and enjoy living where ever I studied and Falmouth was perfect. The light and seascape in and around Falmouth is so inspiring and has really helped shape the work I create.
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Coat loop

Coat loop

Why wood and why steam bending?
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Because I love it! I had never worked with wood or steam bending until my second year of my degree but as soon as I did I was amazed by the possibilities and never looked back.
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What’s your favourite piece that you’ve created so far? Tell me how it came about.
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The Chaise Longue No.4. I designed the Chaise Longue No.1 whilst in my third year of university. I wanted to create a beautiful complex 3D form using the new methods of steam bending i had developed a demonstration piece. I think the reason I love it so much is because it is such an asymmetric, organic form, no matter which angle you look at it from it looks completely different, it is a marriage between a functional chair and a sculpture.
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Chaise longue no 4

Chaise longue no 4

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Tell me about your design process from the initial spark of an idea to the final piece.
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I take my note pad with me everywhere and sketch an idea or something I see, whenever I feel the need. As soon as a model is formed I know whether it is worth pursuing or not. If it is a good idea, I get so excited and cannot wait to develop it, unfortunately it takes a long time to get to the finished piece with lots of prototyping and tool making.
fdsfs
Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Tom Raffield?
fdsdfs
Simple, a brilliant day is when I bend lots of wood and none of it breaks. A bad day is snapping some of my best Oak and it having to put it into my workshop wood burner!
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Tom Raffield

Tom Raffield

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What’s the most important thing to know about you?
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It’s all about enjoying what I do; passion drives me.
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What’s next?
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At the moment I am incredibly busy with my current lighting collection, which has really taken off. I am also in the process of steam bending a giant six metre kingfisher nest / public art installation for children in Taunton town centre and we’re doing the interiors show at the NEC in Birmingham in January.
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Rocking chair

Rocking chair

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Tell me a bit about the story of Sixixis.
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Sixixis was a collaboration between myself and two college friends. Looking back now it was the best thing I could have ever done as we created some great work and I learnt so much in terms of running (or how not to run) a business. At the same time I am so glad it is over and I am doing my own stuff now. It is really difficult running a business with three creative people in charge. We used to work ridiculous hours and I think in the end it took its toll.
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How did it feel setting up on your own? What are the best and worst things about running your own show?
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It felt amazingly liberating. I could do whatever I wanted and making decisions was so much easier as there was no need for a heated debate before doing something. On the downside you can’t share the responsibility if something goes wrong. Ultimately though, I get to see my business develop and grow, which fills me with an immense amount of pride, especially when I know it has all come from a bit of wood some steam and a bit of imagination.
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Ribbon light in ash (designed exclusively for MARK product)

Ribbon light in ash (designed exclusively for MARK product)

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What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
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Find something you really love, making a success in business means a lot of hard work and determination, so you have to feel confident and happy with your designs and products.
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What’s your favourite colour?
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Always blue!
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Sycamore pendant 'taste'

Sycamore pendant 'taste'

Tell me a secret.

I hate selling work, but I love making it.

Further reading for the especially geeky: