This year, five judges from The Conran Shop’s senior team headed to New Designers 2019 to grant one lucky winner the award of a lifetime. On the hunt for a design that demonstrates both growth potential within the design industry and reflects Sir Terence Conran’s design ethos, our judges selected Huw Evans for his innovative Concertina collection.
We sat down with Huw and the other nine designers shortlisted for the award to find out more about the story behind their designs.
Congratulations on winning the inaugural The Conran Shop Design Award, how do you feel?
I'm unbelievably excited about my design career.
How has the work of Sir Terence Conran influenced your work?
I share a similar belief to Sir Terence in that designers, particularly furniture designers, should not only have an in-depth understanding of the processes but additional knowledge and experience working with the materials.
When did you first get involved in furniture design and how has it lead you here?
My passion for 3D Design began whilst studying at school in the North West, from there I went on to study on the 3D Design: Designer Maker degree at the University of Plymouth. Whilst at university I chose to specialise as a Designer Maker as I believed gaining first-hand experience working with materials would later help to inform my design process. This has paid off and working directly with materials has also helped me to understand the full manufacturing process.
Which is your favourite piece from design history?
Despite the fact we both use very different materials, I’ve always been drawn towards the work Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and most significantly his working ethos. Mies van der Rohe was not the first to practice simplicity in design, but he carried the ideals of minimalism to new levels.
What makes a timeless design?
Simple forms, subtle detailing and great materials.
Tell us a bit more about your work and the process behind it?
Each chair, table and lighting design in the Concertina collection is created by methodically processing single pieces of English ash and American black cherry wood. Cutting the wood systematically allows me to stretch it and manipulate it, adding a sense of fluidity to the design.
A feature I’ve emphasised in the collection are the bandsaw marks, which are the lacerations left by the bandsaw blades. They’re a typically frowned-upon feature that you’d normally sand away, but I’ve emphasised them by finishing only the exterior of the timber. This manipulation of the wood enhances not only the material but also the woodworking process.
Looking around, did you see any emerging trends among the other designers?
I felt there was a greater appreciation of designs which highlighted the material rather than just using it as a building block. This seemed to be the case for both the emerging designers as well as the judges.
Whilst Huw's Concertina collection triumphed overall, we shortlisted nine other New Designers for the their outstanding designs. Find out more about the innovative pieces below.
By Jan Farn Chi
Nottingham Trent University
"The inspiration behind ELAPS was the sort of serendipity I see every day. It is generated by the natural light and shadows. I wanted to recreate and share this spectacular magic with the audience. This image performs like a response to the nature of the Earth that stimulates me every day. Through my daily meditations and experimentation, I set out to record the changing atmosphere and surroundings at home while time passes and light crosses naturally along the day."
Contemporary Windsor Stick Chair
By Matthew Hensby
Building Crafts College
"I make contemporary wooden furniture using traditional methods with a particular interest in vernacular forms. My aim is to connect the tree and hand into a finished piece of furniture. Often my furniture celebrates the textures left by the hand tools that are used to make them; I want my furniture to tell a story about how it was made."
"What I most admire about Sir Terence is his emphasis on craftsmanship, materials and process. These aspects of furniture making are also fundamentally important to me and how I approach my work."
To Speak of Light as Soft
By Elena Samms
University of Brighton
"My current collection, To Speak of Light as Soft, began with a book I was reading as research for my dissertation, titled ‘A Sense of Self in Architectural Space’. Here I found design theorists such as Juhani Pallasmaa and Peter Zumthor. They opened up a world of spatial understanding on a minute scale, with a major focus on the role our senses play in taking in our environments. Here began my interest in how the language we use to describe light offers a direct example of how our senses lean on each other when taking in the world. Particularly with ‘soft’ light, we use our memories of softness to explain an orbital experience – seeing light. My aim for the past year has been to place this theory around softness onto the surface of a ceramic form."
Sy-Kloné Electric Fan
By Dan Alarcon
Birmingham City University
Sy-Kloné Electric Fan offers a new approach to electric fans. Providing cool air anywhere at any time without costing the earth, this mini sustainable desk fan has been specially designed to maximise airflow thanks to its precision curved aero-ply form. Using little energy whilst providing a powerful airstream, the fan’s quiet operation means it is ideal for office environments.
By Martin Walsh
"After spending six months on placement in Hong Kong and visiting many factories in China, I thought I could add value to products by challenging the uniformity intrinsic to mass manufacture. I developed a process involving draping thin sheets of porcelain over moulds and allowing it to fall into a unique composition of folds and wrinkles. To create a one of a kind decorative light every time."
"As designers, we have a responsibility to create products that are sustainable, ethical and not disposable. This makes being a responsible designer more challenging, but also more fulfilling."
By Tristan Hibberd
Kingston School of Art
"I believe strongly that before a designer can use a material successfully they must understand how it works. I am inspired by clever uses of materials and designs that incorporate features that could not have been discovered in a sketchbook. Designers such as Tom Raffield who has pushed forward the possibilities of steam bending and Max Lamb who allows the material to guide the decision making process inspire the way I think."
By Tabassum Aktar
Kingston School of Art
"I recently learnt of Sir Terence Conran’s love for simple and useful products that grow with people overtime. My product is simple. I designed it for a behaviour people already have, so it fits into the daily landscape of life. Also, the cast iron was used because it’s a timeless material that has a long life. Although Conran wasn’t in my head when I was designing this, it fits into the design philosophy that was established by the founder himself."
Contemporary Coat Stand
By Helen Yicong Huang
Kingston School Of Art
"This particular project started with me just cutting through a piece of dowel in the workshop. The “leaves” on the stand slide out. The analogue nature of it connects people emotionally with the item as they feel like they are moulding the piece of wood themselves when they slide it out. The motifs of nature within this “tree” form adds to the connection between user and object. It was designed to be ready to take from the store to the house with minimal effort, so it is lightweight and easy to handle."
The Northern Powerhouse Collection
By Tom Jones
"The Northern Powerhouse Collection is a set of non-descript display ware inspired by architectural qualities of cities within the North of England. I wanted to capture the atmosphere of a place within an object. I quickly turned to my own surroundings, Newcastle. Began exploring, trying to find what I felt to be a true representation of Newcastle. After doing the same with Manchester and Liverpool I chose one single architectural detail from each location to develop. The majority of the project was about testing and iteration, finding what felt right. The pieces are cast out of Jesmonite, mixed with sandstone, brick, marble and many other ingredients to make each piece look as close to the architecture as possible."
We can't wait to find out what The Conran Shop Design Award 2019 winner, Huw Evans, and the nine Shortlisted designers do next - we expect to see great things from these emerging talents.