One of the absolute highlights of the May Design Series was the stand presented by The Cass, which is where I met the very lovely Jude Dennis and encountered her fascinating work with Robin Day polyprop chairs. I was keen to find out more…
￼What’s the most important thing to know about you?
I take my tea with milk no sugar, nice and strong.
What inspires your designs?
As a maker I love learning new skills and at the moment I am particularly fascinated by the techniques, materials and tradition of upholstery… I think I’m simultaneously amused and bemused! I get bored easily so I like to stretch myself with new challenges and seemingly impossible tasks.
Why Robin Day polyprop chairs?
There is something quite comforting in the familiarity of the polyprop chair, I think people connect with them on a subconscious level, although more often than not they go unnoticed, forgotten or discarded.
What is interesting for me is taking something mass produced and uniform, and making each one unique using traditional upholstery techniques in order to alter perceptions of both the chair and the craft.
How do you get from initial inspiration to final product? What’s the process?
Once I have the initial concept I break it down to a basic idea. In the case of the Stackers series it was how do I upholster plastic chairs totally traditionally? To start with it is more of a problem solving exercise. How am I going to attach that? How am I going to stitch this? I work through the construction on the chair itself. All the stitches and processes I apply have a function and are rooted in the upholstery tradition.
Each chair fuels the ideas that I have for the next, and then the next and so on. I’ll often get to a point where I will leave one alone for a while and work on another whilst I decide where to go. It really is an organic never ending process… the fun for me is not knowing quite what will happen.
Who is your design hero?
There is no one person in particular but I have a lot of respect for James Plumb, their work is so beautifully and subtly executed, timeless. I also recently discovered the work of silversmith David Clarke which is just inspired…. and I guess whoever invented the bicycle should definitely get a mention!
What do you love most about what you do?
Job satisfaction is pretty high at the moment.
Tell me about a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Jude Dennis.
A really good day is when you start the day with an idea, work with it and by the end of the day something unexpected and exciting has come out of it.
A really bad day, or more like a really frustrating day, is having to spend more than an hour on the big computer.
What single piece of advise would you give to an aspiring designer?
If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly.
What are you most proud of?
That after over 15 years I’m still working, still learning and enjoying it more and more every day.
And finally, what’s your favourite colour?!
I like a colour combo – at the moment I am in my kitchen looking at pink, mustard and grey.
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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