I am delighted to announce that confessions of a design geek is the Official Blog Partner for Clerkenwell Design Week. I have always loved the three-day design festival in May – previous years have not only delivered bucket-loads of fabulous design, but also guaranteed sunshine… fingers crossed for this year! This is the first in a series of interviews with some of the new designers exhibiting in the House of Detention; first up Barnby & Day aka Robert Barnby and Lewis Day.
What’s the most important thing to know about you?
We don’t work weekends! We are either in the hills on our bikes, or in a river in our canoes – it’s a good way to clear out the sawdust!
What inspires your designs?
Scandinavian design and things that are simple but beautiful.
Talk me through your design process from initial idea to final product?
For a commissioned project, the customer often has a good idea of how they want the final product to look. So we’ll try and understand what they’re thinking as best we can. We then have a few days where we bounce ideas between the two of us. A few sketches quite quickly lead to modelling the product up on the computer. The software’s fantastic at giving you an almost picture perfect image of what you’re designing. You can then fiddle around with proportions and the finer details until you’re happy. That image is then sent over to the client for approval. They often ask for little alternations to be made, but if we’ve done our job well there’s not normally too much to change. Then it’s just a case of finalising dimensions and getting down to the workshop.
When we’re designing for our own product range we take a fairly relaxed approach and almost wait for the designs to materialise in our head, before starting the same design process. We don’t sit down and say: “Today we’re going to design a dinning table”!
How do you overcome creative block?
We don’t really try, we find if you really have to force yourself to come up with something, it’s often we’re not completely happy with. Obviously when we’re working on commissioned projects, there are deadlines that create a bit of pressure, but we still find it best not to sit in front of our desks forcing ideas out. We prefer to bounce ideas around our heads for a few days before putting anything down on paper.
Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the lives of Barnby & Day?
A bad day in the workshop creeps up pretty quickly, in fact often just as you’re thinking what a good day you’re having! Anyone who’s ever tried to make anything knows how demoralisingly abysmal a bad day in the workshop can get! There are so many different processes involved in making a piece of furniture, and some of those processes carry quite a high risk of error. If you make a mistake in the early stages, it’s easy to put a brave face on. But if you make an irreversible mistake when you’re putting the finishing touches on a piece of furniture you’ve spent a week making, you realise you’ve just single handedly created a really, really bad day!
A good day on the other hand, (thankfully those are far more common!), often involves completing a new prototype successfully. Often when you finish a prototype you stand back and think one or two things need changing. When you can stand back and decide nothing needs changing, you know its been a really good day.
What are you most looking forward to about Clerkenwell Design Week?
It’s always great to get out of the workshop and get some feedback on our work. The majority of the year we’re hidden away in the workshop in a fairly self absorbed sort of state… too much of that is just healthy so we get a real buzz from talking to other exhibitors in the same position. The general public are also unbelievably adept at giving you a real confidence boost. They look at things from a different perspective, often giving you fantastic little ideas to go away and play with.
What are you most proud of?
The fact that we’ve bitten the bullet and set up our own company. There have been many disconcerting moments where we’ve sat back and thought: “Why are we putting ourselves through all this?!” But things are starting to get going now and there’s nothing more satisfying than giving a piece of furniture to a happy customer that we’ve designed and made ourselves.
How do your products make people’s lives better?
That’s a tricky question! They really do they just make people’s homes look better! I think our style is clean and simple, which produces an uncluttered feel. I’m sure that’s meant to help clear the mind and increase productivity!
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to do what you do now?
Go for it! If it doesn’t work out you can always go back to doing what you were doing before, and you’ll feel so much better for having tried.
And finally, what’s your favourite colour?!
Lime green – we love it so much we even used it in our logo!
Further reading for the especially geeky:
Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.
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