Settled on the stunning western shores of Ireland, Superfolk are taking their cues from the land. The environment is writ large, sympathetically translated and carefully executed in their work.
We asked this super pair 10 questions.
The Out Takes
1. SHARE: a curious, questioning temperament (& a dog & a baby)
2. NEED: the outside - it has a profound influence on their work
3. AIM: to make products that improve with age
4. FRIDAY: these sound really good (see below).
5. LOVE: vernacular making, folk objects, fly-fishing, hiking, camping (& coffee)
Q1: Who are ‘Superfolk’ - how did you begin working together?
Superfolk is Gearóid Muldowney and Jo Anne Butler. Superfolk is the brand name we work under to design and make furniture and homewares. We first began working together in 2008 when we designed seating for an art performance area. This stitched seating later evolved into a product which we launched at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in 2010.
Q2: Is 'design' in your DNA? What is your design history / background / experiences?
G: Design was not in our family backgrounds but it is a discipline, a way of working, that really suits both our temperaments. Curiosity, questioning, beauty in logic, and invention are our shared approach to work. I studied Craft Design at the National College of Art and Design and Jo Anne studied Fine Art Sculpture also at NCAD before going on to study Architecture for five years to Masters Level.
Q3: Is there such a thing as 'the typical day' at Superfolk HQ?
G: Not really, because our company is so small we are directly engaged in all jobs ourselves. From one day to the next that could be designing new products, making products, photographing products, web design, ordering supplies, or packing orders. But we are evolving a pattern of working across each week. For example we are focused on making from Monday to Wednesday, dispatching products on Thursdays. Fridays we try to dedicate to big picture thinking, future planning and dreaming.
Q4: How much does your location influence your work and practise?
G: I think it has a profound influence on how we work and what we focus on. We spend a lot of time outdoors. We have a big dog (Woody) who helps remind us to get outdoors. We live in a very beautiful area with lots of access to beaches, forests and mountains. Much of our design work is influenced by our interests in outdoor living, natural history or material science and environmentally responsible living. These are the things that matter to us and we want to share this passion through our products.
J: We live in a very old house with tiny rooms within a vast landscape - its a particular spatial conundrum that has its own poetry. On a practical level it also influences the scale of our work as most things we are producing are shipped so we keep an eye on dimension, weight, storage and packing.
Q5: What are the guiding principles of your design studio?
G: We try to make objects which will last the test of time and ideally improve with age, using natural materials which are sourced responsibly.
J: When you are a designer and a maker you are always deeply engaged in how a product will be made and how that process can be simplified. We always want this logic and beauty to come through in our products.
Q 6: What are your main influences? What gets you creatively excited?
G: I think both of us admire designers like Alvar Aalto who moved across materials and boundaries of disciplines. But our influences are wide and varied we take a lot from vernacular making and folk objects. We always love to visit folk museums whilst on holidays, especially if they're open air. The logic, invention and resourcefulness of vernacular makers always captures me.
Q7: What couldn't you do without?
G: Coffee. And my family. But also coffee.
J: I hope I could do without but I use my phone for everything - notes, sketches, camera, podcasts, to do lists, communication, staying in touch with friends and family. We have a gorgeous small baby and I love that I travel so light and can have access to so much, just through my phone.
Q8: What's the most exciting / valuable / unusual / irreplaceable thing you own?
G: My fathers fly-fishing rod. Fly fishing is a very peaceful, harmonious, restorative, activity. Fly fishing means all of this to me, plus it helps me feel closer to my father.
J: My great, great grandmothers wedding ring - it is soft but chunky and wide, more like a mans wedding band today. I can't wait to wear it. It will be my wedding band when we marry. I love that one single band of gold can remind me and connect me back so far in time.
Q9: What is at the end of the rainbow for Superfolk?
G: We want to build somewhere people can come visit us in the West of Ireland, to visit our studio and spend time with us in our environment.
Q10: What would you do with a golden ticket?
G: If it were an Air line ticket I think I'd like to go to Northern California, Japan, Argentina or the Faroe Islands, I'm fascinated by Japanese material culture also there happens to be very good fly fishing in all these places!
J: Some day soon we will spend a summer hiking and camping our way up the western coast of America along the coastline and national parks of California, Oregon and Washington. It will happen.