Award-winning designer Russell Pinch is a long-time Conran collaborator, undergoing his first apprenticeship at the Conran Group and eventually working directly with our founder Sir Terence Conran as Senior Product Designer. Since then, Pinch has established his own design studio with wife Oona Bannon, which creates pieces with a focus on the ‘purity of a good shape’.
To celebrate #LDF17, The Conran Shop x PINCH have created ‘L’Abattoir’, an unexpected installation taking over our Marylebone store that plays with the idea of ‘true craftsmanship’. We spoke to Russell about what lies behind ‘L’Abattoir’, his design processes and memories of his time at Conran.
What are you hoping to achieve with this installation, what would you like viewers to take away from the experience?
We are hoping that The Conran Shop’s audience will visually enjoy the displays and be able to read our commitment to creativity in the way we design, which we hope translates in the end result. The installation will communicate how we approach ‘making’ our designs and will show how much thought and process goes into each piece. Whilst many of our designs appear simple, there is a huge amount involved to bring that simplicity to life.
How did L’Abattoir come about as an idea and what was the inspiration behind it?
The concept of craft has been adopted and appropriated by so many brands and businesses now who don’t actually make using the skills of true craftsmen and women. ‘Craftsmanship’ has suffered the same fate as ‘organic’, its become devalued by its ubiquity – as a result we are always loathe to bang the drum about our wonderful makers and our own design processes, as that communication has almost become a cliché.
With L’Abbatoir we wanted to play with the idea of the people and processes behind without being so hackneyed. In our studio we hatch and plan and mock up, and rework, and make botched studio prototypes all the time to reach our perfect idea of what a piece should be. We experiment and investigate shapes and finishes all the time, so L’Abattoir seemed like a nice stylised vehicle to bring that exploration to life visually.
What do you think is the most rewarding step in the design and production of furniture?
When the blurred, out of focus idea in your head starts to fill the blank paper with shape and form and it pings into life with potential.
What was the strangest brief you’ve ever received?
We don’t exactly get strange briefs, as the bespoke we do tends to be based on our portfolio designs, but we have some clients who have great collections that they want to store beautifully, rare books, or collectible 60s jazz records, pin hole cameras and so on. We have also had some great addresses for delivery – the one at the North Pole was particularly memorable as we had a very narrow window of time to make the delivery before it became unreachable.
Do you have a favourite memory from your time at Conran or a good Sir Terence anecdote?
As a 20-year-old graduate the whole period was extremely memorable, it was the apprenticeship of a lifetime. Travelling in the cockpit from London to NYC on Concorde when we were doing the redesign project was pretty mega, and I remember distinctly Terence insisting I have my first ever club sandwich in the Bristol in Paris, and encouraging me to enjoy these small moments of pleasure. What he really taught me was to always get into the workshop and work out how things are built and how they should work – no point designing away if you don’t grasp the principles of making. That advice has served me well.
Browse our selection of PINCH designs here, from the iconic Imo stool to new arrivals.
Unfortunately London Design Festival 2017 is now over. However, you can find out more about The Conran Shop’s events and LDF19 activities here.