The award-winning East London design and craft studio Gareth Neal holds process at the heart of everything it does. Uniting traditional techniques with modern narratives, the studio works tirelessly to prioritise British craft and hand-finished methods, enriching its select designs with character and meaning. To celebrate the launch of the exclusive GN Table collection at The Conran Shop, we sit down with furniture designer, craftsman, educator and head of the studio Gareth Neal to learn about his commitment to good design that lasts.
1. Please may you tell us a little about you and your artistic practice?
Gareth Neal is a progressive and collaborative East London design and craft studio with quality making at the core. Established in 2006, my studio has since become internationally recognised at the forefront of British furniture design. Craft stretches beyond the learnt techniques; the work harmoniously unites traditional and digital techniques to create uniquely crafted pieces. It is a way of approaching objects with an understanding of the wider impact they create; where something is made, how and by whom.
Before deciding to pursue a specific design, there are many thought processes and things that should be considered. My work is conceptually rigorous and beautifully crafted. The resulting collection is original, visually interesting and thought-provoking whilst being environmentally sound and beautiful.
2. What does the average day look like in your East London studio?
The truth is that every day is different in the studio, as every project has its own rhythm. Usually, the morning starts with some emails and conversations with my Studio Manager, before getting stuck into some design work or making in the workshop. The days vary from having other people in the workshop collaborating with me, to alone time where I can focus solely on the task and project ahead.
3. We’re delighted to launch the exclusive GN Tables at The Conran Shop, and are wondering how the collaboration came about.
Designing for The Conran Shop has been an aspiration for many years, ever since graduation. Therefore, It was a great honour to have the opportunity to design three tables for the iconic retailer! I couldn't wait to get started.
4. What are the inspirations behind the GN collection, and how is each table made?
Sir Terence Conran believed that all designers needed a thorough understanding of materials and processes. Materials are at the heart of our work and consistently inform the designs and creations. Each table designed for The Conran Shop explores a different archetype of how furniture is made, and it is simply this exploration that really gives the pieces their character. Whilst all three tables are for dining, each is unique from material choice to construction; for example, the GN1 is supported by a single base, the GN2 has two bases, and the GN4 has four legs.
Tables are often the central piece of furniture in the room, so we had to carefully consider how silhouettes can work to subtly enhance an interior space. With every home being unique, it was essential to ensure the various GN Tables would complement any room they are placed in whilst remaining inspirational and beautiful. Every decision made, from material choice to form, joint design to size, all needed to support The Conran Shop’s ethos that good, accessible design improves the quality of everyday life.
5. Which pieces from The Conran Shop would you choose to complement the GN collection?
6. Finally, what are you most excited about in the near future?
2022 was a great year for the studio, and we wrapped up some fun projects by the end of the year. We are excited to continue pushing our processes and use of materials to create exciting new work in 2023, which will be shown at various art and furniture fairs throughout the year.
Images are courtesy of James Champion, CliQQ Studios and The Conran Shop.