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New Designers 2021: Meet Callum Wardle

Appreciating cork in its most organic form while elevating it, new designer Callum Wardle masterminded the ingenious Quercus collection of furniture; discover more about his sustainable design and his next steps below.

1. Congratulations on being shortlisted for The Conran Shop and The Marandi Foundation's Designer of the Future Award 2021; how do you feel, and what does this award mean for your future and practice?

It’s a huge honour to be shortlisted for such a prestigious prize. Winning the award would help me greatly as I venture into the design world, I hope one day to have my own studio and be able to design and make furniture as a living.

2. Are you familiar with the work we do at The Conran Shop and of Sir Terence's legacy? Did it have any influence on your work?

The work Sir Terrance did throughout his life for the design world has definitely had an impact on my work, from redefining contemporary furniture and interiors to designing for a new generation, Conran did it all. Quercus embodies the values he set out of high-quality production and unique designs brought into the home.

3. Please tell us more about who you are and your project.

My name is Callum Wardle, I am 23, I live in Kingston Upon Thames. I am a recent graduate of the BA Product and Furniture course at Kingston School of Art.

Quercus is the result of a 5-month long material exploration into Cork. Starting with the highly processed material we all know from the corkboard I worked backwards up the supply chain, trying to find composites that really celebrated the materiality of the natural material, instead of the bland surfaces we all know. Each composite had varying properties from lightweight low-density insulation boards to the high-density large granule cork present in the final pieces.

This material coupled with the European oak really helps to elevate cork as a natural material we should value in our homes and a material whose uses really are limitless (well almost).

4. As to your work, who inspires it and do you have a particular process that drives your craft?

I like to tackle projects by reducing them down to the basic core, removing any extra parts until I am left with a very simple, almost one-word brief. here I like to expand out, with research, ideas and physical experiments that are as wide-ranging as they are many, continually improving on the brief until the outcome becomes visible through my process. In terms of any one person, Daniel Schofield has been a big influence of mine for a long time.

5. How important do you think something like New Designers is for emerging designers?

I have been coming to New Designers since being at school, I first visited aged 16 and whilst standing in that huge exhibition hall, I realised, I wanted to study design. Every year I would visit hunting out the new designs and researching the different options for university and that’s where I found the BA Product and Furniture Design course at Kingston. New designers play a huge role in the start of so many careers and is a great platform, I’m so excited to be a part of it.

6. Looking around, did you see any emerging trends/shared concerns/materials with your fellow designers?

I can’t wait for the show to go live so I can see the work from all the different universities, but specifically from Kingston I feel as though there was a huge shift towards projects that are trying to tackle sustainable design, not only as an after thought but from the outset. My other project was called the Ocean Bucket, working in collaboration with Plastic Free Torridge, I designed and made the first beach bucket and spade set made from 100% beach waste collected from North Devon’s shores.

7. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing emerging designers? Did the pandemic impact your work in any way, and how was it working through New Designers virtually?

I think the biggest impact currently will be in lost skills and teaching as a result of the pandemic. So many courses depend on a practical skills-based education that simply cannot be delivered effectively online. But equally the pandemic has definitely meant I have improved greatly on my CAD and rendering skills. I think as always there will be winners and losers but as designers our job is to make the tomorrow better so lessons will be learnt, and we will come out stronger. 

8. What, in your opinion, makes a design timeless?

For me it is about having the right materials and simplicity and I feel as though people will always value good craft.

9. What are your ambitions for the next ten years?

Long-term the dream would be to have my own studio, based in the countryside with good access to natural materials and a workshop, however, in the shorter term, I would love to gain some experience at a small design studio where I have an active role in discussions and decisions.

10. Lastly, which is your favourite piece of design history and who is your best-loved designer? 

It’s probably a little unconventional to say but this would have to be Victor Papanek for his work on Design for the Real World, he was truly ahead of his time in describing all the wrongs of the world and made a fierce call for us to step up as designers and start to design for good.

Click here to discover more about our involvement with New Designers and to meet the rest of the 2021 shortlist; plus, be sure to follow Callum here.

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