I had the pleasure of meeting new designer Christopher Berry during London Design Festival and chatted to him about his work, his inspirations and, of course, his favourite colour! Here’s what he had to say…
What is the most important thing to know about you?
I am a keen snowboarder. When I’m working, my head is full of loads of different things – it’s only when I go away snowboarding, when I’m in the mountains and on the lifts, that I can filter out everything else and think about most important things. I find the time when I’m away is when I can put things into perspective and plan things out.
You studied in Leicester and now work in the countryside in Sussex – how did the two environments inspire you differently, and has your work changed as a result?
I’ve changed a lot since I was at university. I was influenced a lot by my tutors, what was going on around me and by my fellow students. My ambitions were different then too – I wanted to move to London and get a job, but I think I got caught up in what everyone else wanted to do.
Since back moving home, I’ve been travelling a lot – I recently went to Canada – and I’ve found myself happy to stay in Eastbourne. My ideas have become simpler. I haven’t got the access to materials or resources I had when I was at university, so now I’m at home I have to think differently. My designs are much simpler and cleaner as a result.
I think I got quite caught up over-elaborating and making things too complicated when I was at university, without realising that the thing about design is to keep it simple – some of the best designs are the simplest ones. There were almost too many resources, too much stimulation, too much pressure, too many projects – it was actually quite relentless. Now I’m doing my own thing, I’ve got time to think and see things from a different perspective.
So do you think you’ve found your voice now?
Definitely. At university I was very confident in my work. Then I came home and I was working for my Dad, who’s a furniture maker. He has a specific way of doing things which I wasn’t necessarily getting right to start with, so that knocked my confidence a little bit. Then when I started doing my own thing again, and people started to like it so I got my confidence back. I’ve now reached a point where I know what I’m doing – and it’s been a huge learning curve!
What was the inspiration behind the pallet lights?
My parents got a water butt in their garden made from an old barrel. It’s held together in the traditional way the top and the bottom, and just sitting looking at that gave me the idea. A few weeks later, I was sanding something down for my dad and my mind started to wander and I came back to that idea. That day I finished work at 5pm and I put together an MDF mock-up within two hours of getting home. I had the idea to use pallet wood because its readily available and it was nice to think I could recycle something.
There seems to be a real trend at the moment for hacking, upcycling, reusing and recycling – why do you think that is?
I think it’s got a lot to do with the recession. Recent graduates and new designers are often working with small budgets and can’t invest too much in materials and machinery.
And I think people like something that’s made in the UK by a designer-maker. People don’t want “throw-away” furniture anymore. They want a story behind what they buy. My customers know when they buy something from me – it’s me that they deal with. I look after every stage of the process – it starts with me and it finishes with me.
How does your design and making process work?
It’s a bit haphazard. I think of the idea and then I go straight into it – I don’t spend time thinking about it too much or sketching. I want to see it, so I go straight into 3D. You can often draw something out and make it look perfect, but when you build it doesn’t work.
I make all my products myself with the help of a few local people. I’ve got a guy who’s actually disabled who does all the CNC-ing for me, and a local woman does my laser cutting for me. It’s nice to invest in local independent businesses.
Customers can choose the shade’s size and colour – the design process seems to be opening up to consumers more – why do you think that is?
More and more people want something that’s personal to them, something that not many other people have got – it gives them bragging rights! And as I make everything myself, it’s just as easy for me to do that.
What are you most proud of?
My university degree I think. The last year was really, really hard work! In my final major project I really gave myself a lot to do – I made it far too complicated. Then I was ill at the last minute, so got quite behind, but managed to pull it all together in the end. And it got into New Designers and into Tent, so that gave me quite a lot of confidence.
What advice would you give to a new designer?
Listen to what people have got to tell you, take it all on board, and be open minded, but don’t take things to heart. Put in the time – I’ve always been told that you get out of life what you put into it and I believe that, so keep going, stick with it and don’t give up!
And finally, what’s your favourite colour?
Red and white because I’m an Arsenal fan!
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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