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Exploring the History of Materials and Manufacture in Jake Phipps Isis Folding Chair

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Exploring the history of materials and manufacture in Jake Phipps Isis Folding Chair

Figure 1: Jake Phipps. (2007). Isis Information. Isis Information. 1 (1), 1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0lF_iPLpcE Have you ever looked at a product and actually known what led to the materials and manufacture of what you are looking at? This essay will examine and look into the history and manufacture of the materials used in Jake Phipps ISIS folding chair. This essay will also look into how the industrial revolutions contributed to the development of these material’s.

The ISIS chair designed by Jake Phipps is a combination of plywood, softwood timber and finished in lacquer paint.

The chair folds completely flat to a depth of 3cm. The chair is made from a series of flat geometric panels that are linked together and contained within its own encasing frame. Each panel is constructed from several high-strength laminations designed to flex and support the user.
(Phipps, 2007)

Phipps originally manufactured the chair on a small scale but once the demand grew, he worked with Gebruder Thonet-Vienna to produce the chair for the consumer market. This chair gave Phipps his foot in the door (Phipps, 2011). It was not a huge financial success but the opportunity’s that arose with Newspaper articles and journals gave Phipps the recognition from his peers in the design industry.

During an interview with the author Phipps was asked to describe his design philosophy.

I try very hard to do or come up with something unique and that’s not been seen before, but something that people can interact with and design that’s very much apart of them, like the folding chair, the mechanics involved which were quite clever, something that’s engaging.
(Phipps, 2011)

Sociology-political factors are a subject that all modern designers face, weather it be trying to put a product into production to even trying to find work with companies. So now more than ever we must take great consideration in how we design, manufacture and package products. It is an essential part of the world we live in today and will continue into the future. During an interview with the author Phipps was asked, “what social political factors have you encountered or do you think will affect your market?”

Recently people not having the amount of money to spend on pieces because of the economical downturn. I mean going back to the Milan fair two years ago, it was really a depressing place; manufactures weren’t coming up with new pieces to produce because they didn’t know whether or not they were going to sell and they didn’t want to spend huge amounts on tooling. Everyone sort of tightening the purse strings and that ultimately leads to fewer designers getting work out there.
(Phipps, 2011)

Material choice is key to creating a successful product. If you know what you can do with certain plastic or particular wood you can shape you ideas around them. During the interview with the author Phipps was asked “do you ever make choices in regards to sustainability, For instance with the chair using plywood?”

The plywood its from FSC certified timbers but any wood I use I make sure that it is certified, with this light for example trying to make sure we are using recycled polymers. It’s funny how five years ago the recycle tagline was like are you recycling and how are you doing it but now days if a designer isn’t thinking environmentally then they are a bad designer. I mean it’s just the way you should design.
(Phipps, 2011)

The process to how you get your end result is always the more interesting, during the interview Phipps was asked how did you being the project or creating the Isis chair and what elements along the way helped you to get it to the manufacturing stage?

I prototyped and prototyped and umm, I actually, I didn’t really know how to get it produced. I'd seen lots of companies that I really liked, and I was a bit cheeky and at the Milan festival fair which is, I don’t know if you heard of it but it’s a massive, massive fair, it’s the big one every year and that’s in April and I took the prototype to the faire and I showed it.

I showed a company and they really liked it and they wanted to manufacture it. I chanced it and that it really, to be honest doesn’t usually work, but yeah umm I showed them images and they liked it, I arranged a meeting and brought the chair with me, it’s very difficult getting a foot in door with these manufactures because they got so many people trying to get things produced.
(Phipps, 2011)

Manufacturing techniques for plywood have kept to the same principles since the first plywood sheet was produced in the 1850s as a combination of three layers of wood. Plywood [online]. (2012). They have become a lot friendlier to the environment and manufactured with as little waste as possible.

Figure 2: Descriptions of manufacturing processes. 2012. 1. Descriptions of manufacturing processes. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/T0269E/t0269e03.htm. [Accessed 04 January 2012]

First major advance in plywood technology was during World War I, when its quality, flexibility and durability were improved by research for the aviation industry. When the Avant garde architects and designers of the 1920s searched for ways of making cheap mass-producible furniture, plywood looked like an attractive solution. The first breakthrough was the 1927 chair with a seat made from a single piece of plyboard by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld,
Plywood [online]. (2012)

Figure 3: Plywood / - Design/Designer Information. 2012. Plywood / - Design/Designer Information. [ONLINE] Available at: http://designmuseum.org/design/plywood. [Accessed 12 January 2012].

If not for these developments during World War 1, the way we use and see plywood would not be how they are today. These initial experiments have led to plywood becoming a key material in furniture design today. The material properties of plywood make it ideal for furniture, as it is incredibly strong, able to flex, bend and be cut then be formed into interesting shapes.

Figure 4 Figure 5 Figure 6

Tracing back chair designs to 1859 (Figure 4), Michael Thonet’s the Model 14 bentwood chair was considered revolutionary with its bent pieces of wood. This chair is still manufactured today and still one of the world’s most commercially successful products. Figures 5 (1930) and 6 (1950) are a selection on furniture dated after the bentwood chair. Looking at these three figures you are able to see the relationship between them, as time progressed fabrics were added to chair design, more for comfort that aesthetics.

Figure 7 Figure 8 Figure 9

The Red Blue Chair (Figure 7) by Gerrit Rietveld in 1917 has a very similar shape to Phipps Isis chair, the flat geometric panels shows a direct relationship between these two pieces of seating. The Red Blue chair dates back to very early in chair manufacture and also expression in furniture. By 1968 there was hundreds of different styles of seating but one of the most iconic of its time was The Garden Egg chair, which was designed by Peter Ghyczy (figure 8). The folding mechanism is what gave this chair its wide scale appeal. This became an iconic product and the folding meconium can be linked to the Isis chair as the egg chair completely folded down. Figure 9 is called the s-chair and was designed by Tom Dixon in 1986, you can see how the designer has taken ergonomic consideration into this product as in the other two it wasn’t really apparent. These images show the progression and development the seating/furniture industry has had over the last 70-90 years.

Due to the high-energy consumption of the manufacture of sawn timbers, many saw mills have adapted their process to becoming more eco friendly and reducing the amount of waste created.
After the trees have been cut from the forest they begin transport to a sawmill were the manufacture begins. Once the timber has been selected and organized into species, diameter, length and end-use. The Timber will undertake a debarking process to remove all bark from the trees this process is called log sorting and barking.
The now debarked timber will be swan into strips using the longest possible diameter, band saws and circular saws will cut the timber down into standardized thickness, a process called breakdown.
The sawn and trimmed timber will be sorted according to width, thickness, length, quality, grade and species. Grading is carried out to check overall quality, direction of grain, knots and defects, as well as general appearance. They will then be stacked to insure all timber dries in uniform; this process is called sorting and grading.
The timber will then be left for the drying process were they will be stacked above the ground to give good circulation and ideal circumstances for the timber to dry evenly. Before the timber will be ready to be distributed, the final stage is Re-grading and surfacing were the timbers will go under further inspection to identify any defects that may have occurred during the drying period such as split ends and knots.

Figure 10: Descriptions of manufacturing processes. 2012. 1. Descriptions of manufacturing processes. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/T0269E/t0269e03.htm. [Accessed 04 January 2012]

Based on this essay and interview with Phipps, the author’s opinion is that the Isis chair was very well thought out and considered. Phipps approach to the design and manufacture was interesting, combine that with the style of the chair, it makes it a product of real value and substance. Looking at Phipps Isis chair you can see direct inspiration and techniques dating back to the earlier worked looked at during the essay. Seeing the development of seating and what different styles have been tried shows just how wide furniture is for designers. In conclusion, it is the opinion of the author that it is easy to see how the development of plywood has contributed to the production of furniture. If there would have been no World War 1 the money that was spent in testing plywood would never of happened and we wouldn’t have these pieces of furniture today. The fact that past furniture designers and makers have experimented so much with materials should spark the question in your head what will be the next big advancement in, how we use materials or even what materials will be developed in the near future.

Figure 1: Jake Phipps. (2007). Isis Information. Isis Information. 1 (1), 1. [Accessed 02 January 2012]

Figure 2: Descriptions of manufacturing processes. 2012. 1. Descriptions of manufacturing processes. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/T0269E/t0269e03.htm. [Accessed 04 January 2012]

Figure 3: Plywood / - Design/Designer Information. 2012. Plywood / - Design/Designer Information. [ONLINE] Available at: http://designmuseum.org/design/plywood. [Accessed 12 January 2012].

Figure 4: The Thonet Bentwood Chair. 2012. The Thonet Bentwood Chair. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.patricktaylor.com/thonet-bentwood-chair. [Accessed 13 January 2012].

Figure 5: Klint - danish-furniture.com. 2012. Kaare Klint - danish-furniture.com. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.danish-furniture.com/designers/kaare-klint/#kaare-klint-easy-chair. [Accessed 16 January 2012].

Figure 6: Brooklyn Vintage. 2012. Brooklyn Vintage. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.brooklynvintage.com/items/63/. [Accessed 16 January 2012].

Figure 7: Red and Blue Chair - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2012. Red and Blue Chair - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_and_Blue_Chair. [Accessed 17 January 2012].

Figure 8: Peter Ghyczy Style Garden Egg Chair | Dennis & McGregor | Design-Led Products for Living. 2012. Peter Ghyczy Style Garden Egg Chair | Dennis & McGregor | Design-Led Products for Living. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.dennisandmcgregor.co.uk/blog/shop/contemporary_products/2010/09/28/peter-ghyczy-style-garden-egg-chair/. [Accessed 17 January 2012].

Figure 9: Tom Dixon - Past Auction Results . 2012. Tom Dixon - Past Auction Results . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/lotdetailpage.aspx?lot_id=38871EEFA264779EBB90A8EE641E0AAD. [Accessed 17 January 2012].

Figure 10: Descriptions of manufacturing processes. 2012. 1. Descriptions of manufacturing processes. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/T0269E/t0269e03.htm. [Accessed 04 January 2012]

Plywood / - Design/Designer Information. 2012. Plywood / - Design/Designer Information. [ONLINE] Available at: http://designmuseum.org/design/plywood. [Accessed 03 January 2012].

[ONLINE] Available at: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-4/Plywood.html#b. [Accessed 07 January 2012].

[ONLINE] Available at: http://jakephipps.com/pdf/ISIS%20information.pdf. [Accessed 12 January 2012].

Jake Phipps 2011. Interview with the author on Monday 28th November 2011 (transcript in possession of author)

Jake Phipps. (2007). Isis Information. Isis Information. 1 (1), 1. [Accessed 02 January 2012]

Chris B: What inspired you to become a designer, what was it that made you decide to do this?

Jake P: Umm, I really like it at school. I did thing, well it’s probably different now but it was designing technology, and I just like making. I come from quite an artistic background, my mother is an artist and I just liked making things. That lead to me to become a cabinet maker at first so I was making things out of wood, and I realise I wasn’t practically quick or good at making stuff. I could make things and they were perfectly good, but there were better people out there and I was better at the designing side of things and getting the clients on the business stuff. I did a commission work for about 10 years, and I got more and more frustrated designing pieces for people. Their only one-offs and they tend to really expensive stuff and I was just getting really frustrated and wanted to design my own things. So the chair was really my first project that I generally approached design, where I got something that annoyed me and where I was trying to resolve the problem and I came up with a solution, that’s a classic example. I still do the odd commission now but yeah its very much my designs and getting in production and I’m still doing across between manufacturing my own pieces and getting other companies to manufacture and getting royalties, but that is becoming increasingly hard the royalty it really difficult to get a company to produce thing and get really royalty.

Chris B: Royalty is not enough money isn’t it?

Jake P: It varies on companies; it can be as little as 3%, if you’re lucky you can get 5, 6%. It’s really tough and the majority of the money I make is from selling my own products but the problem with that is you got the whole logistical night mare of setting up manufacturing, doing the distributing, so a lot of time goes into it but you got to balance it out. With a royalty cheque its great just sit back get every so often and if it’s a really successful product and there are really successful royalties to be had with a company that has world-wide distribution and really unique product that just sells and sells and sells.

Chris B: We talk about philosophy in University a lot, what would you say is your design philosophy?

Jake P: Well I try very hard to do or come up with something unique and that’s not been seen before, but something that people can interact with and design that’s very much part of them, like the folding chair, the mechanics involved which quite clever, something that’s engaging. Whereas something likes the loveseat there’s a sentimentality theme running through it. With some of the mirrors I design there is glamour. There’s always an underline theme that’s engaging to whoever is buying, so that helps to sell them. If a product has a story then that really helps to sell.

Chris B: What inspired the love seat?

Jake P: Well that was a commission originally for some friends of mine who were getting married, and the husbands wanted to create a bench for his wife and I was going through love of chainsaw (laughs) and I had an old block of oak that I just hacked to pieces and made this shape, so it very sculptural but it’s not hugely practical because you’re facing the other way but leave seat aren’t practically practical and its more of a sculptural piece for the garden and they sell really well, I mean that was a piece that was born out of commission and we put it into production it sold far more than I thought and got really impress. I think we sold about 60 for a hunk of oak, that’s me personally the manufacture themselves I’m not sure but the only been producing it for a year now and not sure if the sold that many, but it’s one those objects it’s not like mass produce piece, whereas the light we got they sell really well.

Chris B: You see where you said you sold 60 was that each one you carved yourself or did you get a guy who…..

Jake P: No I got a guy who makes them for me…

Chris B: Oh ok…

Jake P: So again its getting on that phone and say right got an order, and that works quite well umm in terms of logistics, but price wise you know it’s going to bring the price to the client in the end of the day, practically if it’s been made in the UK, but saying that you know there umm, there are a lot of manufacturing now coming back to the UK, because there really producing stuff, umm similar cost to China. The labour is the problem.

Chris B: Yeah just paying the persons to do the job for you…

Jake P: Yeah that’s right exactly. I don’t think were allowed to pay person a dollar an hour (laughs).

Chris B: Can you explain the design process involved to manufacture and make any item?

Jake P: Umm, well first and for most its concepts coming up with an idea, and it’s probably the most important thing because umm, you can come up with you know lots and lots of designs but ultimately at the end of the day if you selling and it’s not a really good idea it’s not going to sell. So I spend a lot of time coming up with a design and I do a lot of things that are rejected, umm design that never see the light of day and just on sketches, but I kind of worked out that actually that’s not really that exciting. Umm once I got the concept, I then go research to make sure that no one’s done anything similar, cause it’s amazing how many times you come up with an idea and you get to the manufacturing stage and you realise someone has already done it.

Chris B: That’s one thing they say to us all the time, research, research, research, and before we started I didn’t realise how important research was. Like even with uplighter we had to research just find out about the components that fit in it. You have to spend hours……

Jake P: Absolutely, And also it helps you formulate the design as well if you got an Idea seeing what people have done it can give you some possible avenues to manufacture, umm but yeah it really saves you a lot of time and frustration if you come up with something and someone’s already done it. Also if you do come up and find something that people have done that reasonably similar you can then ok we can go the opposite end of the spectrum and do something totally different or maybe you know try something different. But research really important and once that’s all done, I tend to make umm prototypes, umm some peoples spend a lot of time on the computer. Umm I go to a prototype stage really early on and just because they help develop the design in my mind far quicker than doing on the computer. Computers great for visualizing an idea, umm but until you got it in your hands it’s very difficult to understand. Some of these mirrors are great examples they look fine on computer rendering, but until you walk around them and seen the proportions. I prototype myself because it’s cheaper, Umm yeah so we make a prototype then once the prototype is design and you worked out all the proportions which is a very difficult thing to judge on a computer, I then take it to a umm back to the computer and redraw it up to some serious detail, and then we try either start doing dimensional drawings to get it manufactured or try picture it to a manufacture…..

Chris B: You see with the chair, did you do the same process or did you make it different?

Jake P: Yeah exactly the same, I prototyped and prototyped and umm, I actually, I didn’t really know how to get it produced. I'd seen lots of companies that I really liked, and I was a bit cheeky and at the Milan festival faire which is, I don’t know if you heard of it but it’s a massive, massive faire, it’s the big one every year and that’s in April and I took the prototype to the faire and I showed um I showed a company and they really liked it and they wanted to manufacture it…

Chris B: Oh so you just chanced it really…?

Jake P: I chanced it and that really, to be honest doesn’t usually work, but yeah umm I showed them images and they liked it, I arranged out a meeting and brought the chair with me, but yeah it’s very difficult getting a foot in door with these manufactures because they got so many people trying to get things produced, all doing exactly the same thing umm, and its unfortunate nowadays that these bigger companies, practically lately they are keeping designers they’ve used before umm to just continuously design products, which is fine, usually you got to you know pick up great designers, umm it doesn’t really open the door for, it makes it harder for new designers.

Chris B: Can you explain why chose specific materials for certain products? like obviously for the oak bench, it was out door, but like with the chair for instants it was, was it wood underneath and then a laminate.

Jake P: Plywood underneath, I have a rough idea of what materials I use from the concepts but the materials are really govern by the design, umm I mean we used plywood for that chair because it’s very thin and very strong, umm for this light because there are a lot of components so injection moulding is the way to go, for the oak bench because it’s a very natural looking piece and because its outdoors, its solid wood. And those lights they sell really well and again going back to the umm, concepts, that light was pretty much designed and prototype and made in a space of a month because it was so instant… again I done research, I was, it was actually for a for a competition design for uniquely British products and I literally wrote twenty things on a list what I thought were unique British. I hadn’t designed a light before so I thought let’s try a light and so a bowler hat came up as one so I done research on bowler hats and lighting and it was very, very quick.. i first put it into production, umm because again I was a little bit wary of how well it would sell and yeah I think I sold about 500 in the first 3-4 months, but the price still pretty expensive because I was making it here in the UK and this lighting company took it on and the cost came down because they were been made in china and umm yeah it’s still sells like hot cakes.

Chris B: It’s quite like a quirky product….

Jake P: Yeah you need something that’s original, it’s all very well designing a piece that looks great but you got to make it stand out from the crowd. Don’t be too off the wall because its got to work, but that again touch on a British trend which people cant get enough off, not just but all over the world. The sell all around the world Australia, America and its been copied really badly in china, I mean really bad copies,

Chris B: So what happen something like that happens?

Jake P: You cant really do anything unless they are being sold in Europe in your name, umm there’s a company in Australia that are selling them with my name but there having replica written in front of it. In Australia if your telling people it’s a replica than you can get away with it although herman miller has won court settlement with them, so I think things may change, we will have to see. But the best thing above all is to design a product that is as cheap as it can be made without losing the essence of the piece because a lot of these companies who copy look it at it and go can we make this a lot cheaper, yes. Umm I think what’s reasonably good bout these design is because their so bad people really can tell the difference between the original and the fake, its when people cant tell the difference that’s when it’s a problem.

Chris B: Do you always do 1:1 scales or do you try do little ones?

Jake P: I mean yeah it depends on the piece, if its quite a large piece then yeah I make sort of scale models, generally if I’m trying, if its about proportion than I make scale 1:1, because yeah, prototypes are made, things like try learn from are, how its going to be made, umm how it looks, umm and how we can then put it into the computer, because if you design something on a computer and actually when your making a prototype you realise a few things are so much easier. Computer skills are absolutely essential, practically if your trying to get a job in design you got to be really good on the computer but as terms of designing umm I use them just to iron out the details, but some people love it. I’m much more hands on.

Chris: What manufacturing technologies from the last five to ten years have made a real difference in the way you design?

Jake: well I trained as a cabinet maker so originally I was just taught in wood, and from that I learnt about CNC use and then on to laser cutting and now the piece I’m working on is injection molded and that’s what I’m using at the moment but every new product brings a new technology that I haven’t encountered before. Which is something I like trying to push myself as a designer knowing that you can come up with a concept but if you cant get it made there’s no point, now I tend to come up with concepts that I know how they would be manufactured before I even go to a prototype level, Injection molding is pretty cool you can do the most incredible stuff with it but there is a lot of money on tooling you know you can knock out a part for pence but the tooling is the expensive thing.

Chris: Actually getting in there and using the machinery?

Jake: Well getting a machine that you then pumps all the plastic into, that mold is ridicules, I mean for a light alone I’m looking at about 12-14 thousand pounds and that’s before you even produced a part.

Chris: I didn’t realize that it would be that much.

Jake: yeah, hell yeah. It is expensive but when you produce the part, your producing a light for eight quid but its getting you to that point and that, that’s a hole new way of designing, so you almost want to get orders before you start.

Chris: Actually putting the money up yourself insist it, because it’s a risk.

Jake: Yeah it’s a real risk, I’m hoping as I get older and wiser as a designer I begin to understand what’s a risky product and what is a fairly safe product erm there have been some pieces that I have done that haven’t sold and others that have sold quite well. I’m quite new, I’ve only been designing for manufacture for five years, I’m still relatively knew to it all.

Chris: Do you feel like your learning all the time?

Jake: well yeah that’s the great thing about it, every new piece brings up new challenges and you’ve got to get round those challenges. That’s what I really love about designing. Everything everyday is different there’s something new and your always learning about how things are done and injection molding is incredibly complicated but it’s a really cool way of getting together designs that you never thought possible.

Chris: Cause you do quite different stuff, in the sense that you don’t just do furniture also lighting?

Jake: yeah well again I’m trying to demonstrate that I am a designer that can do a bit of everything and also I have been going threw a mirrors faze recently and then again maybe next year ill probably be going threw a lighting faze again.
Chris: Yeah I thought the car door was really good.

Jake: Well yeah that’s quite a fun product, it was originally commissioned for a restaurant and then we decided to bring it out. They sell, well they don’t sell brilliantly but they get good press. They’re quite a quirky little product.

Chris: Yeah they are, again it’s like a very British product. Are they from the old school mini?

Jake: Yeah it is. Also there a whole big recycling thing going on as well but again not particularly cheep either.

Chris: They don’t look like a cheap product though. You can see just by looking at it.

Jake: well I’m glad you said that. But yeah going back to learning new manufacturing processes I learn new things every day so it trying to get an understanding of those and then put them into practice.

Chris: Would you say you have learnt more after leaving university more than when you were actually there?

Jake: Yeah absolutely erm there is nothing quite like the real world not just from a design point of view but also from managing a business. I don’t know what you guys are looking to do when you finish but I set up on my own which was possibly a mistake. I had quite a successful end of year show so after instead of looking for a job I went straight into manufacturing well being a cabinetmaker making things myself and I had no business experience what so ever so getting a understanding of how to bring money in and working out prices took me quite a while to get a understanding of that. I mean that wasn’t really taught much.

Chris: I mean yeah that’s like how we feel at the moment there hasn’t been anything like that, I mean for me the idea of working for myself is great in the sense that, that is the goal but it doesn’t really get mentioned.

Jake: Its very very important and it not just making sure you’re bank account has some cash in it, its about designing pieces that are going to make you money also designing pieces that are going get you press exposure because each product will be successful in different ways, I mean that folding chair finically it hasn’t been that successful but in terms on getting my name out and for editorials its been really good, I mean you cant really put a price on that.

Chris: That’s what we were discussing the other day, we weren’t earn any money but the fact that were still in university it’s a great thing.

Jake: Yeah its great for you’re CV, how old are you guys 20s? To have something like that is brilliant. Fingers crossed.

Chris: Was that you’re hole plan to work for yourself, the hole time? I mean obviously after university you did but before.

Jake: I think I was always going to work for myself when I left my college I wasn’t entirely sure what direction I wanted to go in but I knew I wanted to make things and design things, but I’m really happy were I am at now, doing the commission work I was reasonably unhappy with it just because I want being very creative enough.

Chris: Was it the fact that you sent all that time on something and then have to give it to someone else?

Jake: Well there’s that and also because its for them they know what they want and I designed some pretty horrible things but at the end of the day its for them and that’s what they want but I’m serenely not going to advertise them, so yeah in order to be self employed you’ve got to be really driven you have got to have a understanding that this is all on you and that you wont get paid at the end of the month, and if you’re idle about it, its not going to happen.

Chris: I agree that’s the way I try to think that its is down to you so if you don’t bother doing it, well no ones going to do it for you.

Jake: Yeah, that’s the attitude you should have and it’s the most rewarding thing in the world.

Chris: So how did you build up your client base in regards to cabinet making and that side of things?

Jake: Well that was all word of mouth so literally I got a good repetition for designing dinning tables actually and that swanned a hole load of other things but one job tended to sell another two on average and it was always people ringing me up and saying “oh I saw you’re table for such and such” and then of Corse the marketing I’m doing now its nothing like word of mouth its exposure and being in magazine’s, getting on blogs and putting adds out. I mean I don’t have a huge advertising budget it’s mostly relying on the Internet and getting free press.

Chris: I mean the Internet is a great tool for that, I mean Jamal actually found you on there. What would you say your responsibility’s are as a designer now and in the future?

Jake: Well I personally I try not to design tat basically try to do things that have longevity to it and people will love and appreciate for years to come, I hate this almost like the fashion industry now that design industry is becoming so quick and regurgitating new products ever year and its kind of depressing I really love stuff that can stand and sit the test of time not just from a aesthetic point of view but a environmentally point of view, as a designer it not even something spoken about now a days you just designing with environmental issues in mind you don’t even consider designing without, its not even a buzz word because its integrated always in you’re design and I really try to come up with something that’s unique and are going to have in there homes for ten fifteen years.

Chris: I mean the hole thing of products changing so quickly now I know we had spoken about it but how our phones last us twelve months now maybe even less because the new iPhone came out or something like that.

Jake: well yeah I mean technology and fashion are ridicules but design is getting that way which is kind of, yeah. I mean with a phone the cost is minimal but when your making sofas that people are going to throw out because there out of fashion within two years, and you get hotel chains that change all the time. I mean it’s a vicious circle because I want people to be buying products but I don’t want then to be buying them then throwing them away there next year. It’s an odd situation being in as a designer cause you want to sell but not be discarded in the near future. I mean the ultimate compliment for a designer is to have a piece brought by another designer but to have a piece sit in situ for ten fifteen years and people to still be happy with it.

Chris: I never thought of it like that actually, just to have it sit there forever basically until it breaks but not to get bored of it.

Jake: I think every designer has a desire to leave a mark and the more of a mark you can leave the better.

Chris: we have touched on substantiality but do you ever make choices in regards to this. For instance with the chair using plywood?

Jake: I mean using plywood its from FSC certified timbers but any wood I use I make sure that it is certified, with this light for example trying to make sure we are using recycled polymers. It’s funny how five years ago the recycle tagline was like are you recycling and how are you doing it but now days if a designer isn’t thinking environmentally then they are a bad designer. I mean it’s just the way you should design, its quite interesting that just a couple of years ago people were coming up with environmental products. I think that a lot were just trying to jump on the band wagon of this new buzz word and sell customers the idea of oh this is a environmental product toothbrush but now I think people aren’t stupid and are assuming that the companies have made every effort to make sure it is environmentally as good as possible.

Chris: I believe that it is the way forward, I mean that we have to start thinking this way because of all the years we didn’t think like this its now catching u time. Its something that is very much discussed with us that you do have to think very environmentally friendly when designing now otherwise people just wont buy your products. Do you think that there could be any way you could be more sustainable in you’re design?

Jake: I mean yeah there is always more ways I mean I could be living in a tent in the mountains somewhere. I try I really do try from the way things are made to the way things are packages and also how they are distributed. I try to design things that can be flat packed or assembled but if there not going to be flat packed then they tend to be only sold in small numbers for instance those love seats we only sent them to Europe because of shipping I mean the costs are ridicules down to the weight and its just trying to reduce the carbon footprint. There are a lot of routes to try and do it but I can certainly try to do better, I think dare I say it the more money you have to do it the better you can be at it, that’s just the way the world works unfortunately but I’m sire as my business grows the more sustainable it will become.

Chris: what social political factors have you encountered or do you think will affect your market?

Jake: well recently people not having the amount of money to spend on pieces because of the economical downturn. I mean going back to the Milan fair two years ago it was really a depressing place, manufactures weren’t coming up with new pieces to produce because they didn’t no weather or not they were going to sell and they didn’t want to spend huge amounts on tooling and everyone sort of tightening the purse strings and that ultimately leads to fewer designers getting work out there.

Chris: well you haven’t felt it as such but you have seen what its like to be in the situation?

Jake: yeah yeah it’s very difficult to track how the finical downturn has affected my business but last year I didn’t have a good year at all but this year has been better. I mean as I said I’ve only been selling my stuff for five years so its quite tricky to really get a understanding of how it works for me as I’m still new to the business side but I mean yeah it does effect hugely. I mean the limited edition stuff I do, I done a limited edition mirror that sold really well and then suddenly just didn’t sell for about four or five months and I think that has something to do it. It’s a very difficult thing to do, as I’m not selling in the hundreds of thousands.

Chris: Have you ever thought of trying to go to a big company were they would be able to sell your pieces all over or is a case of getting your foot in the door?

Jake: well you try and pick a company that will sell your pieces in large quantity’s and as far reach as possible but its very difficult, I mean getting a piece designed for Ikea or somewhere like that its incredibly difficult.

Chris: I mean the stuff you do its not that kind of work it is a bit more up market.

Jake: I’m glad you said that, again this concept of perceived value its very important when you design pieces for instance chairs have a perceived value of that you don’t really want to spend more then one hundred pounds for one but if you make someone think oh that’s really good value because it looks expensive that’s a tick in the box in terms of making a sale all these things come together and that’s what makes a successful product.

Chris: how many products do you have for sale at the moment?

Jake: at the moment we have seven but that’s not a huge amount we are hoping to have another three or four next year. I mean I’m very slow in terms of designing it takes me a long time I mean on average it takes about two three years from concept to getting it out. Some pieces are much much quicker, I mean the love seat very quick the Jeeves and Wooster lights were also quick well for me anyway, but the light I’m working on now that’s going to take a while.

Chris: so we wont being seeing that anytime soon. You had another light as well didn’t you I see on your website? That was a render wasn’t it?

Jake: yes that was a render and that has been ongoing for about three years with an Italian manufacture but they basically binned it about two years ago and then decided they wanted to re-make it again. I mean these things happen people go quiet and then come back around. I hope it will see the light of day its just taking a long time.

Chris: What’s it like working with people outside of the UK in a sense of communication?

Jake: Some people are better than others and some countries are better than others but then other countries are better at selling.

Chris: I mean when you do send something off for manufacture you do just send the drawings with measurements and the hopefully they get the idea and understand what you want?

Jake: yeah the better understood the concept is the more likely you are and also the better realized, I mean the folding chair one of the reason why the manufacture took it on was the fact that it was such a final design I had solved all the problems it worked, it was finished and there was not real problem for the company to take it on they knew it works and they just put it into production but it did take a year and a half from the initial meeting for them to start the production. I mean I still don’t know why it takes that long to start. I mean when I put something in production its much quicker but then again it’s my work and I know how to get it produced. When it’s a big company they have many products that they have to do and it might just get left for some time before work starts. Its very seasonal people tend to launch pieces at a particular moment I mean April in Milan that’s always a big fair to launch a new piece, so if you guys get the chance fly over there, you could probably go there and back in a day for a seventy quid flight there and back. I mean its quite a sight its a enormous place but its twenty times the side of 100% design over two floors and its in the city but its huge when I first went there I found it quite scary I thought there’s no way I’m going to get there, there are so many main stream companies that go there and I’m a small fish in a very large pond but once you get a understanding of the industry it’s very exciting a vey cool place to go.

Chris: What is the industry, what would you say?
Jake: I liken it to the film industry in you’re an actor trying to get into a movie you can do a lot of rehearsals and bit parts but unless your with a big manufacture or a big movie director once you’re in their you’re know and people will recognize you oh you designed that product or you were in that movie and then work subsequently follows. Its just getting that first break it’s the same as an actor always say getting you’re big break it’s the same in design really although I think its more two or three big breaks and you need to have a few things that are really well known. I mean the Wooster and Jeeves lights are fairly well known although I do have a love hate relationship with them, I don’t particularly like them but they sell really well so I cant really dislike them too much.

Chris: well its bread and butter isn’t it.

Jake: well exactly bread and butter yeah

Chris: how much do they retail for?

Jake: one five five for the bowler hat and one seventy for the top hat.

Chris: when I looked them up it said that they are lined with gold

Jake: well yeah this ones a prototype.

Jamal: the other is silver isn’t it

Jake: yeah its pressed steal the internal side which again is another process that I didn’t no anything about so I had to do some research on how it works and how its all put together. Well this product is a very good example of a found object that has already been pre designed and you’re putting it into a different medium and that’s probably why it was so quick to get it into production there was no designing of the structure it was just designing how it would work and I think that’s why I don’t partially like it but the concept is fun and interesting but in terms of a design its not my favorite. People are very complimentary about it but I’m quite rude about it.

Chris: yeah but that’s because its yours you did it. You’re never going to like it as much as someone else.

Jake: yeah

Chris: well that’s all the questions we had to ask so thank you for spending this time with us.

Jake: good stuff

Chris: is it ok if we take a few pictures with the chair

Jake: yeah sure
Chris: so its plywood but how is the chair laminated over the top?

Jake: no it’s painted

Chris: oh when I looked it up it said laminated.

Jake: well its laminations of wood. Which is basically a posh way of saying plywood, if I was to put plywood people would think oh god it just a cheep chair but if you say wood laminations.

Chris: oh it’s just that little trick

Jake: yeah exactly. I can send you guy’s proper images if you want and if you have any questions feel free to send me e-mail.

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