If you’ve been guiltily watching the BBC’s Money for Nothing on sick days and rainy weekends, you’ll already be very familiar with Forest + Found. For anyone else, the sustainable craft and design partnership was set up by fine art graduates Max Bainbridge and Abigail Booth in late 2014. Max focuses on hand-carved wood and Abigail on textiles, which are naturally dyed and stitched by hand. Editor Katie Treggiden caught up with Abigail ahead of a busy autumn which will see the pair exhibit at the London Design Fair‘s British Craft Pavilion in September and as part of Objects of Utility at In-Ku during the Frieze Art Fair in October.
Forest + Found came about from our shared love of making and a wish to build a future that would allow us to sustain a craft practice long term. We live and breathe what we do and the ongoing dialogue between us is the driving force behind the work we make.
We both come from a background in fine art where I predominantly used to paint, make sculpture and build installations from found objects. Colour, composition and form have always been integral to my work and working with textiles was a natural progression in my fascination for experimenting with new materials. My love for working with textiles began with the most basic of cloth, raw cotton calico, and the ability to transform it through the use of natural dyes and hand stitch. The ability to really manipulate fabric through application of colour and construction makes working on a quilt still feel like painting; there is a freedom to play and experiment.
The hardest thing is having confidence in your own work. When there are two of you it helps – we challenge each other to be the best we can be and also take time out to critique our work. It is so easy to get consumed in the making process that it helps to be able to step back and see the work with a fresh pair of eyes.
Our textiles begin with an observation, be it in a found object, a colour or an overlooked architectural detail. These then become abstracted into an idea through a series of drawings, dye experiments and sewn swatches. Eventually a quilt will begin to take shape and will continue to evolve during the making process, whether through an unexpected dye result or the way the fabric reacts to being pieced together.
Our work is entirely process driven, it starts with a piece of wood or a vat of dye and we then begin to play and investigate the nature of the material at hand. We are interested in how, by using traditional methods of craft, you can push and think about materials in a different way. We are always questioning what has come before and what is still yet to be discovered. In that way we don’t conform to a traditional design process – in our minds we are still making sculpture and reacting to the environment around us. The only difference from making a work of art is that we envision the objects we make being lived with.
Our favourite part of the process is the moments of the unexpected or the unforeseen. Often accidents or mistakes can be refreshing and can spark the beginning of a new line of enquiry. We are working with materials that are to all intents and purposes still alive. Wood warps and cracks as it dries and vats of dye change and evolve as they age. It’s completely unpredictable.
Good design means we set out to make an object the best it can be. It is about quality and craftsmanship being a maker’s priority, not how fast can we make it, or how much profit there is at the end of the day for us. We make things to last and to exist beyond us. Good design is timeless.
Our best advice is to believe in your convictions and never undersell yourself. If you undersell yourself, you undersell everyone who is coming up behind you.
Colour is something we discover every day, we will never stop unearthing beautiful browns and greys. No two are ever alike or reproducible. A colour represents a moment in the time of making.
Forest + Found will be exhibiting at the London Design Fair 22 – 25 September 2016. Register for your tickets here.
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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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