The Maker Interview. MOOR MAKING...Feldspar Studio on fresh air, open space & tree houses

It's been quite a while since our last Maker Interview, but a few months ago we added Feldspar to the Simple Shape stable of Makers, their intriguing name alone warrented further investigation. We asked Feldspar's Cath and Jeremy Brown 10 questions...

The Out Takes
1 WON'T...compromise on any aspect of the design process
2 NEED...fresh air and moors for perspective (& coffee. Of course coffee)
3 DON'T...subscribe to any trends
4 MANAGED...with no phone signal, landline, internet and tv
5 INTEND...to dig clay from surrounding fields for new ceramics collection

Dartmoor National Park, built on a bed of granite of which 'feldspar' is a main constituent.

Dartmoor National Park, built on a bed of granite of which 'feldspar' is a main constituent.

Cath & Jeremy swapped a basement flat in London for a thatched cottage in Devon. 

Cath & Jeremy swapped a basement flat in London for a thatched cottage in Devon. 

"We started messing around, making the things we needed"

"We started messing around, making the things we needed"

"...when we decide an idea has 'got legs' we will start sketching, making paper models, prototyping in whatever materials we’re considering..."

"...when we decide an idea has 'got legs' we will start sketching, making paper models, prototyping in whatever materials we’re considering..."

Coffee break, critical ritual to working life "it's no coincidence that our first product was a coffee mug or that we were particular about it’s size!"

Coffee break, critical ritual to working life "it's no coincidence that our first product was a coffee mug or that we were particular about it’s size!"

Useful tools (not necessarily for new products though...perhaps handy for a larch-clad tree house...?!)

Useful tools (not necessarily for new products though...perhaps handy for a larch-clad tree house...?!)

Q1: Feldspar. This is an unusual name...what does it mean, where does it come from and why did you choose it?
We started Feldspar after moving to the middle of Dartmoor National Park - which sits on a bed of granite. Feldspar is one of the main minerals in granite, and is what give ceramics and glass their strength - as well as making up a huge percentage of the earth’s crust. We were intrigued as we’d never heard of it. We liked that it was so ubiquitous, yet so mysterious and it just felt right. The ‘F’ of our logo is also - coincidentally - very similar to the ancient rune for ‘Ash’ and ‘Oak’, which is what surrounds us and also what we’re looking to work with more in the future.

Q2: Feldspar Studio - you’re a husband and wife team. How did you begin working together? What are you professional backgrounds?
Our backgrounds are both in design. Jeremy worked for the UN building ethical and sustainable supply chains for fashion houses and so was constantly travelling, and I was working in central London as an architectural designer. We had both been frustrated at having to compromise in our previous fields of work. For example working with clients who want to say they’re supporting ethical manufacturing while grinding prices down to unfeasible lows. So, we decided to set up a design brand that doesn’t compromise - where we could be in control of every aspect of the process from the initial spark of an idea to the finished packaged product.  

We moved from a small basement flat to a farmhouse with no straight lines or floors, and had the luxury of having a lot of space in which to set up a pottery wheel and build our kitchen table, we started messing around with making things we needed and wanted. Working together was something we had talked about doing in the future, but then we figured there’s no time like the present...

Q3: You’re based in Devon. Tell me about that decision to leave London?
It was actually a pretty easy one! It came about when our son was born, we both took a step back and realised that we didn’t want to bring him up in London - we wanted fresh air and open spaces - so we moved when he was a couple of months old, to a house on Dartmoor with no phone signal, no landline, no internet, no tv… it was a great time, lots of walks on the moor and cooking and just hanging out with our son - albeit quite a shock initially!

Q4: What are the guiding principals of your studio and your work?
We want to make good things, properly. We are inspired by items from our grandparents have - be it a fine bone china coffee cup from the 1700s that's still in perfect condition, or an old kitchen aid machine from the 1950s that still works perfectly. We love the notion of something that is made properly, using the finest materials we can find locally, by highly skilled craftspeople. Our objects don’t subscribe to any trends or fads - they’re intended to be beautiful and functional objects, ones that last! Our tag line is ‘objects for life’ - they’re designed to be used everyday, but to last lifetimes… 

Q5: How do you divide your time? Do you both have different roles? Is there a ‘typical’ day for you?
There isn’t really a typical day - some days we’ll be in the workshop, some days just sitting around the kitchen table emailing - all the while our now 2 year old son and our new puppy are running around! Jeremy probably spends the most time in the workshops, and I spend more time sketching or doing graphics. It’s always changing though!

Q6: You prototype your work yourselves but use small British industry to produce your designs. Is it important to keep production in the UK ?
It’s important to us to support traditional industries - where there is that generational knowledge and highly skilled craftspeople - which is why we have our fine bone china made in Stoke-on-Trent - because that’s where all that expertise is, and to us it’s important that these artisan hubs keep on going! So it’s more important for us to have things produced where there is a history of that material being produced, rather than specifically keeping things within the UK. 

Q. 7 - Where does an idea for new work or designs come from? What’s your process?
It’s normally something we have been talking about for a while - an idea we’ve had that has just grown and then when we decide it’s got legs we will start sketching, making paper models, prototyping in whatever materials we’re considering. We prototype everything from our home and studio in Devon, and then visit our manufacturers to discuss production. 

8 - Are there tools or objects or rituals maybe, that are critical to your working life?
Coffee breaks, probably! We were sure we’d miss good coffee when we moved so we acquired a broken coffee machine and fixed it up to make delicious coffee (normally Monmouth) in the kitchen. It’s no coincidence that our first product was a coffee mug, or that we were particular about it’s size! Other than that we find it invaluable to be able to just walk out of the studio and into fields, forests, and moorland - to gain some perspective or hash out ideas.

9 - Do you have a dream project in mind?
We have hundreds! Right now, we are in the middle of building a tree house. Ostensibly for our son, but in real life it’s really spiralled out of control. The sides are being clad in charred larch, and we’re planning to build a sink from clay we dig up in the garden - both of which I think will be lost on a two year old.

We are looking forward, in the near future, to expanding our ceramics range using clay that is dug from the surrounding fields - it is , we think, a mix of terracotta and china clay, so is a beautiful deep orange red colour but is much stronger than traditional terracotta. Our local farmer is conveniently digging a lake for his cattle, so very soon we will have tonnes of it to process and turn into objects.

10 - What’s at the end of the rainbow for Feldspar?
Not sure! As long as we can keep on creating objects from our studio in the middle of nowhere, we’ll be very happy!

Picture credits: Matt Austin / Feldspar / Yeshen Venema

Simple Shape's 'What We Saw' Review: 4. Rachel Whiteread, Tate Britain, London

I was a student in Manchester in the late '90s. One weekend, we went to Liverpool for the day and visited the Tate, probably to get coffee, if I'm honest. It was here that I first came across Rachel Whiteread's work, by accident. I absolutely loved it. I was captivated by the idea of registering, claiming, the invisible space.
This is a show that is so very worth seeing.

Rachel Whiteread
Tate Britain, Westminster, London, SW1.
until 21 January 2018

Untitled (Book Corridors), 1997

Untitled (Book Corridors), 1997

Whiteread has used her casting technique to record the underneath, the in-between, the shadows, the gaps, the splinters, notches, scratches and folds of everyday life. Chairs, tables, book cases, floors, doors, stairwells and whole houses are recorded in plaster, resin and papier mache. Whiteread is able to work at huge scale (her controvertial House cast in 1993 won her the Turner Prize), but also to preserve the human detail and to somehow capture something just passing. 

Untitled (Hive), 2007-2008

Untitled (Hive), 2007-2008

Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) 1995

Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) 1995

Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) 1995

Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) 1995

I love the colours of the Untitled (One Hundred Spaces) casts. The jewel like tones and jelly like appearance make them seem playful even though they stand in lines that at the same time feel solemn, grave and serious.  

Untitled Floor (Thirty-six) 2002, Untitled (Stairs) 2001 (left) and Untitled (Room 101) 2003 (right). Looking across the room at these vast pieces it felt as thought the architecture of the gallery had been designed around the objects, the ceiling seemed to be totally sympathetic to the pieces resting underneath.

Untitled Floor (Thirty-six) 2002, Untitled (Stairs) 2001 (left) and Untitled (Room 101) 2003 (right). Looking across the room at these vast pieces it felt as thought the architecture of the gallery had been designed around the objects, the ceiling seemed to be totally sympathetic to the pieces resting underneath.

The breathtaking central hall of Tate Britian.  I'm a little bit ashamed to admit that I haven't been to Tate Britian for so many years but, my god, it is such a wonderful building. Even if art isn't really your thing, go for the building. The sheer scale and space is wonderful. 

The breathtaking central hall of Tate Britian. 
I'm a little bit ashamed to admit that I haven't been to Tate Britian for so many years but, my god, it is such a wonderful building. Even if art isn't really your thing, go for the building. The sheer scale and space is wonderful. 

Imprints of imprints. Close up of Untitled (Book Corridors), 1997

Imprints of imprints.
Close up of Untitled (Book Corridors), 1997

And then...as I walked back towards Westminster I passed the Houses of Parliament just as the sun touched the roof lighting the gilded tops of the turrets. I had never noticed them before. It's good to be a tourist in your own city sometimes.

Houses of Parliament, Westminster

Houses of Parliament, Westminster

Meander: an exhibition in pictures

Last month, for London Design Festival, we installed Meander; an exhibition by Superfolk in the Simple Shape Studio. There was something lovely about the pace, the conversation, the sunshine (thankfully) and, of course, the work.  
Here is a small look, in pictures:

The Start Line; a section of the Chinese ink brushstroke drawing on rice-paper drying on the rail in the studio. This large scale free drawing approach is an illustration of Superfolk's process.

The Start Line; a section of the Chinese ink brushstroke drawing on rice-paper drying on the rail in the studio. This large scale free drawing approach is an illustration of Superfolk's process.

Hanging detail; Beech Leaf screen print, Flotsum Cotton Tea Towel and Folding Leather Stool

Hanging detail; Beech Leaf screen print, Flotsum Cotton Tea Towel and Folding Leather Stool

Through View; looking through the delicate Rowan block print to the garden. The raw edge of the paper is clearly visible. Each print is unique and different.

Through View; looking through the delicate Rowan block print to the garden. The raw edge of the paper is clearly visible. Each print is unique and different.

Prototype; Oiled Black Steel Candlestick Holder (hanging). Each curve is perfectly formed to hold a standard candle.

Prototype; Oiled Black Steel Candlestick Holder (hanging). Each curve is perfectly formed to hold a standard candle.

Meander; in copper and cotton. Copper candlestick holder sitting on the Meander cotton tea towel.

Meander; in copper and cotton. Copper candlestick holder sitting on the Meander cotton tea towel.

The Long Bench; handdipped beeswax candles, copper, brass and oiled black steel candlestick holders and Superfolk's iconic oak and ash trivets resting in the shaft of sunlight that broke in through the hanging prints. 

The Long Bench; handdipped beeswax candles, copper, brass and oiled black steel candlestick holders and Superfolk's iconic oak and ash trivets resting in the shaft of sunlight that broke in through the hanging prints. 

MEANDER // Superfolk solo exhibition 22 - 24 September

It is September and in the world of design that means one thing. The London Design Festival.
So, for this LDF and as part of the brilliant South East Makers Club* we are totally proud to welcome the superb Irish design studio Superfolk to the Simple Shape Studio and present:
MEANDER; a solo exhibition by SUPERFOLK.

Meander- Superfolk x Simple Shape (1 of 1).jpg

Occasionally an email arrives and really improves your day doesn't it...? When Gearoid & Jo-Anne suggested we did something together for London Design Festival, it was a glorious moment! I have loved Superfolk's work and their approach for a long time. These guys are calm designers; thoughtful, skilled and careful. The best kind. Inviting them to wend their way to South East London for LDF was a chance too good to miss.

They are are based on the West Coast of Ireland with the stunning County Mayo landscape forming the bedrock and the backdrop to their life and their work. Playing to their strengths and taking their cues from their environment they have developed a series of new pieces allowing the bends and curves of the river to dictate the form.

The Meander Collection includes polished brass and oiled black steel candlestick holders in sinuous curves as well as new printed textiles and block printed washi-paper wall hangings. These will sit alongside Superfolk's iconic trivets and leather stool.

AND, Superfolk’s designers will be giving FREE demonstrations of ink line drawings over the weekend!

Meander: a solo exhibition by Superfolk
Friday 22nd, Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th September 2017. 10am - 6pm [demos 12 noon to 3pm]
Simple Shape Studio, Ashby Mews, London, SE4 1TE
[all work will be for sale]

151027 superfolk maker profile image.jpg
Meander (2 of 2).jpg

*South East Makers Club - well, I am totally biased! I’ve worked with a tiny group of passionate volunteers to make sure that the second South East Makers Club builds on the success of the first. The programme of events, exhibitions, talks, shows and workshops running throughout the last weekend of the festival is just brilliant! Check out the website and plan your weekend! Biased, yes. I don't care! southeastmakersclub.co.uk

Simple Shape's 'What We Saw' Review: 3. The Japanese House, Barbican Centre, London

Well...there has been a bit of a gap since our last 'What We Saw' journal review (can I claim our own exhibition for Craft Week as part of the reason?!) So, for our belated third review I visited the Japanese House exhibition. I have long been interested in Japanese cultural life (my Dad used to travel to Japan regularly and I loved listening to the stories of his visits) so this has been firmly on my 'must-do' list. Now I just need to get to Japan in real life (that's on a slightly more ambitious 'must-do' list!)

The Japanese House, Architecture and Life after 1945
Barbican Centre, London, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS
until 25th June 2017

A view across the black atrium to the vivid yellow, brilliantly lit, opposite gallery.

A view across the black atrium to the vivid yellow, brilliantly lit, opposite gallery.

Making the absolute most of the Barbican Centre's iconic space this exhibition is designed to lure, challenge and surprise you. Rooms within rooms, vivid colour, near darkness and explorations of 'lightness' all play their part in enticing and tempting you through the show.

A truly terrible photo (I didn't have my tripod) of Takefumi Aida's playful Toy Block House (1978) pin-point lit in the 'Inhabiting the Experimental' gallery, a boundary-pushing reinterpretation of tradition.

A truly terrible photo (I didn't have my tripod) of Takefumi Aida's playful Toy Block House (1978) pin-point lit in the 'Inhabiting the Experimental' gallery, a boundary-pushing reinterpretation of tradition.

With its starting point rooted in post-atomic 1945 the exhibition seeks to explore how the house became almost a symbol of experimentation during this unique period of history, how "...the post-war condition in Japan created a window for the languages of tradition and modernity to fuse". Japanese craft, European architecture, an interesting playfulness, a rejection of the old, acceptance of the new, and an exploration of 'lightness', arguably "Japan's greatest contribution to the global history of architecture" are mapped out across the two floors of the show.

Sou Fujimoto's House NA is the response to the marked return by young people to urban living. The spatial challenge is interpreted here by allowing the user, rather than the architect, to determine the function of the space. Stacked irregular rooms, floors, layers and platforms leave the user free to choose how to use them.

Sou Fujimoto's House NA is the response to the marked return by young people to urban living. The spatial challenge is interpreted here by allowing the user, rather than the architect, to determine the function of the space. Stacked irregular rooms, floors, layers and platforms leave the user free to choose how to use them.

House in Kyodo by Go Hasegawa, an example of 'Lightness' arguably "Japan's greatest contribution to the global history of architecture" and the result of the Japanese environment, "(the)...warm, humid climate and frequent earthquakes...have resulted in lightweight, open and airy structures."

House in Kyodo by Go Hasegawa, an example of 'Lightness' arguably "Japan's greatest contribution to the global history of architecture" and the result of the Japanese environment, "(the)...warm, humid climate and frequent earthquakes...have resulted in lightweight, open and airy structures."

Looking down and through on rooms-within-rooms-within-rooms. Views through the Moriyama House by Ryue Nishizawa which is constructed accurately at 1:1 scale, "where the gallery obstructs the architecture of the house, the structure is sliced open, exposing the domestic interior in section."

Looking down and through on rooms-within-rooms-within-rooms. Views through the Moriyama House by Ryue Nishizawa which is constructed accurately at 1:1 scale, "where the gallery obstructs the architecture of the house, the structure is sliced open, exposing the domestic interior in section."

Set dressing details are carefully considered and chosen by Yasuo Moriyama the client for Nishazawa's architecture.

Set dressing details are carefully considered and chosen by Yasuo Moriyama the client for Nishazawa's architecture.

Set dressing details are carefully considered and chosen by Yasuo Moriyama the client for Nishazawa's architecture.

Set dressing details are carefully considered and chosen by Yasuo Moriyama the client for Nishazawa's architecture.