Simply speaking

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 June, 2010, 12:00am

'CHILDHOOD INEVITABLY has a big influence. I am not sure how mine did apart from the fact that I had to fight to do what I'm doing now, and so refuse to do anything I don't want to do in my work. That could be seen as integrity but I know in me it is stubbornness.

The industry has changed over the years. In Britain and in Europe in general, the design industry has become too focused on style, fashion and personalities. This is a global trend in all areas of creativity, industry and also politics. It is a trend I strongly dislike and am suspicious of. It is absolutely not a stimulus to creativity and we need to be creative in all areas of our activities right now.

If we all become interested merely in the superficial aspects of life, then no one will take big steps to improve our lives and the lives of people less fortunate than us. I hope that this trend will soon change, and I believe that it is changing.

The first piece I designed for real production was a cast aluminium candlestick. I am inspired by artists and architects, photographers, musicians and by ordinariness - ordinary everyday things and solutions people find, to the difficulties they encounter.

I feel an affinity with the artists of the Arte Povera movement of the late 1950s through to the 1970s. I also love the work of Pier Luigi Nervi and Oscar Niemeyer, Ben Nicholson and James Turrell.

I travel a lot and I take photographs constantly when travelling; all cultures inspire but I find the Far East most different and challenging to my own culture. I love Japan, India, China and Vietnam. I love the food and colour of Thailand, and the colour and contrasts of India. Just being in a different environment is a fantastic way to open up one's eyes and see ordinary things in a clear way; it teaches me the importance of seeing beauty in ordinariness.

I am working a lot with solid timber at the moment. There are a few reasons for this: first, people like wood in their houses; secondly, wood is a renewable material and can actually be a positive benefit to the environment in a number of ways when forested responsibly; and thirdly, I have a collaboration with one of the best, if not the best manufacturer of timber products. De la Espada is a company of truly expert crafts people; they have tens if not hundreds of years of experience and a real desire to forge modern techniques of manufacture.

There are two things which continue to be a source of inspiration to me. First, the work of Richard Sapper; in particular, the very out of fashion Tizio Light for Artemide, and also his espresso coffee maker for Allessi. Then, a church in San Francisco called Saint Mary's Cathedral, built in 1967 I think; by Nervi, who also worked on the Pirelli Tower in Milan with Gio Ponti. Nervi is more structural engineer than architect and I think an unsung hero of modern architecture. Architects know of him, of course, but he is little known by the public. The church is cast concrete, with an incredible swooping roof with great cross slashes slicing it into four quarters with stained glass in between. A massive concrete cave seems to be supported on four small legs and the spaces left are glazed. It has enormous power and expression of weight bearing down as one enters, then swooping curves uplift and allow you to take a breath. It is one of the most incredible buildings I ever experienced.

I think and hope we will see the end of the obsession with personalities and celebrity soon, and we will go back to designing things which help in some way. Beauty helps, of course, but we obviously need to address some serious issues around the environment and consumption. My attempt to take these issues on in my own work is to make beautiful, long-lasting things from materials which are sourced in a way that doesn't harm our environment.

For me the first considerations in a design are ergonomics, manufacture, beauty and cost. I think of sustainability as a given. We mostly use timber and as long as the timber source is sustainable and can be trusted, I do not need to be constantly considering that aspect.'