- The emerging furniture designer talks to Alex Jackson about the influence of element and environment on his work.“In general, I’ve always strived just to do things as simply as possible,” explains Dean Edmonds, with a light push on the bridge of his round, horn-rim specs. “I’d like to think that by keeping the look and feel of my pieces clean and simple they can fit into and work in any environment.”
Yet for someone who strives to uphold the old design mantra keeping it simple, Edmonds seems intent on making life hard for himself. Though resident in Hackney, East London, Edmonds commutes to a workshop-studio back home in Herefordshire, “in the middle of nowhere,” as he puts it. Why?
“Basically, my dad is a steel fabricator and has his own workshop there,” he says. “There’s a woodwork shop right next door and even an oak mill down the road so I have everything I need – it makes sense.”
So if his designs are envisioned to work “in any environment” does it follow suit that their designer should too?
”I suppose! I’m influenced by these European designers who moved out to California in the 1950s and 1960s; Guys like Luther Conover who were attempting to marry their schooling with new environments and influences – out in America. But at the same time Dad has always been pretty hands-on: building cars, motorbikes too. So I’d grown up hanging around in workshops.
“But now I split my week between the studio and London. The drive down is always a bit weird. As the countryside makes way for the city there’s this sense of my mindset changing, from being in the place where I create to the place where I need to be to make things work. Again it’s all about marrying the different environments together, really.”Whether by virtue or necessity, Edmonds demonstrates that being receptive to one’s surrounds can help the creative process, illuminating new directions. “Somehow I’d overlooked the oak mill that I mentioned until quite recently but that’s the kind of new discovery that has informed the feel of my work.”
Certainly, Edmonds’ signature look of his work to date has been a bold combination of oak and steel. Edmonds prefers working with huge slices of Waney oak with its rough bark edges and of sap. A truly raw material.
- “I don’t want to buy a plank that’s all dry and has square-cut edges,” he states, “the whole process of preparing the wood is the best part. That rawness and natural feel is something I like alongside the cold, harsh, straight lines of the steel and it’s about marrying that together. I’ll ask myself: ‘How simple can I make this piece?’ And that thought process goes for the materials I use.”
Equally though, Edmonds has been savvy enough to be receptive to the people (as well as the environment) around him and has already a number of private commissions under his belt. “People seem to like it and they keep asking for it – which is great because these relationships are vital to foster, to allow yourself to make stuff and to afford to keep doing so.”
Importantly, Edmonds manages to remember himself in all of this; himself as Designer and Creative, eager to explore beyond the comforts of what has simply worked thus far.
“Steel and oak has sort of become my thing, for the moment,” admits Edmonds. “But yes, it’s something that I want to move on from. I suppose that as I change, my style changes and as I learn more it changes how and why I make something,” he says.
Spun-steel is the next immediate avenue. Having found a supplier Edmonds is eager to return to the lighting designs he started out doing, “but this time working the spun-steel into it.”
But Edmonds also ponders a move into more industrial design, to further test his utilitarian ethic. “Just because of how harshly it gets treated by the weather and other people it’d be interesting to do some public seating, something really tough,” he says.More than anything, though, it’s objects that inspire him: “Chairs are a favourite.” Indeed, he clearly relishes the challenges posed by life’s simple essentials. “There’s no hiding place with seating,” states Edmonds. “It has to work. If it’s not comfortable then people won’t use it.”
And with that Edmonds reinstates the simple tenet to which his work is wed: usability.
“It sounds bigheaded in a way, but I’d like to think my designs could become classics, timeless,” says Edmonds. “Everyone loves Alvar Aalto and Eames and, though I’m not saying I’ll be up there with them, I’d like to think that just like their work, mine is not a fad and people will still want to be using it in years to come.”Words Alex Jackson
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