Following a placement year in a ceramics studio, new designer Darcy Eloise Hill became infatuated with pottery and adapted a ‘design through making’ practice, resulting in her considered Potters Chair. Learn more about Darcy's state-of-the-art design and her ambitions 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?
I am absolutely honoured to have been shortlisted for The Conran Shop Award. My projects have always been led by a personal connection to the narrative and this being recognised and commended by such a renowned design company is the ultimate accolade.
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?
I am very familiar with The Conran Shop’s work and was hugely inspired by Sir Terrence Conran’s main aesthetics being both simple and useful whilst attempting to create designs that are timeless. The simplicity within my design was also influenced by looking into Japanese design values and the subtlety and humbleness in their craftmanship which allows the product to be of benefit to society whilst highlighting the beauty of the natural material.
3. Please tell us more about who you are and your project.
I became obsessed with ceramics during my placement year spent in a ceramics studio and throughout lockdown decided to purchase my own wheel, this resulted in months spent teaching myself to throw. I then found it very difficult coming back to design furniture in my final year of university, until I combined both disciplines I had learnt. I would now consider myself to be a multi-disciplinary designer, incredibly passionate about having a connection to the material that I am working with. It is important for me to have a close connection to the narrative of any project that I work on. For the designs, I produce to be simple yet beautifully crafted and for each element not to overpower, but to work harmoniously together to create functional yet elegant products and pieces of furniture.
The Potters Chair is ultimately “a chair for makers, designed by a maker”. By combining two disciplines that I have learnt, I was able to design and create a beautifully crafted chair. The principal purpose of this chair is to work alongside a potter’s wheel, the seat and frame are not connected which enables the seat to be positioned on different tilts which allows the potter to sit in a better position when throwing. Designed for utilitarian use, every element is considered and serves the motive. The entire seat is handcrafted from Oak, each strut of the frame is turned, the backrest is laminated, with small brass features and a ceramic coin which allows the potter to stamp their own makers mark on the chair. The organic-shaped seat has been cut on the CNC and it is all finished with white oil which brings out the grain in a beautifully subtle way.
4. As to your work, who inspires it and do you have a particular process that drives your craft?
My designs evolve using research through design, this process involves a hands-on, practice-led approach. Using this approach allows the project to be solely focused on the physical connection that the user has with the product. Ergonomics is essential to consider when designing any piece of furniture, and true ergonomic research can only be carried out by testing on the human form, being playful and allowing the body to tell you what works, and this design method results in a thoughtful and considered outcome.
My work has always been influenced by those who have excitement and adoration for their craft, whether furniture or not, it is when designers talk about the devotion that they have to their working process that is ultimately what inspires me.
5. How important do you think something like New Designers is for emerging designers?
New Designers is pivotal in giving emerging designers recognition for the many years spent learning and evolving as a designer, it gives us the opportunity to communicate and demonstrate our passion to a wide audience of respected industry professionals.
6. Looking around, did you see any emerging trends/shared concerns/materials with your fellow designers?
Current design trends are focused on working alongside the environment and understanding the impact that our products have. This has largely influenced the materials and processes that young designers are now using, no matter how beautiful or innovative a product is, it is the complete lifecycle that needs to be paramount in any design.
A current trend that I have also noticed circulating has risen from the Coronavirus pandemic, designs are largely focussing on making working from home more accessible and enjoyable by creating products that help to improve and provide better and more engaging home environments.
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?
Creating products that are both affordable and accessible for the wider community, while being aware of the environmental impact is likely to be the largest challenge for emerging designers.
I think that the pandemic has encouraged design students to ultimately be true to who they are as a designer, as so much time was spent alone this year there was less influence by their peers, and this has resulted in an incredibly diverse and eclectic range of products being showcased.
Personally, the pandemic positively impacted my work as the time spent in lockdown throwing at my wheel, was later used to build the foundations for The Potters Chair.
8. What, in your opinion, makes a design timeless?
Simplicity and function are what in my opinion allows a design to withstand the test of time.
9. What are your ambitions for the next ten years?
Within the next ten years, I aim to set up my own studio space, utilising my skills in woodworking and ceramics to create thoughtful designs, continuously expanding my understanding in these areas, and developing skills in new areas of craft - constantly learning, evolving, and growing as a creative.
10. Lastly, which is your favourite piece of design history and who is your best-loved designer?
The Scandinavian design movement has forever been my favourite movement, clearly distinguished by its simplicity and functionality having in my opinion some of the most spectacular designs to date.