Australian designer Suzie Stanford creates unique products using old, quirky materials. Think club chairs reupholstered in vintage tea towels and chandeliers made of souvenir teaspoons. In town to introduce her Hide and Seek furniture range at Lane Crawford Home Store, Stanford discusses her obsession with one-off designs.
How do you approach your work? "I would describe myself as a designer and 'finder'. It's all about finding beautiful old things and using them in a fresh way. I have a low boredom threshold so making one-off things suits me. The nostalgia I feel for a piece is what is important. It is like buying a little bit of a memory, about loving a piece and wanting it to last forever. In London, this mentality is found in places such as Savile Row, where handmade shirts are taken back to the tailor to have the collars and cuffs turned when they start to fray. It's part of the charm. My work is unique and there is usually humour involved."
What comes first: the material or the idea? "It's always material-led. That is when I'm at my most creative: when I touch a material I immediately get a clear idea of what I want to do with it and who I am making it for. It is a strong feeling and I think that is why I only do one-offs. Everything I use is 'found' - I like the idea of using things in a respectful way. It's important to know when to stop."
Which project has given you the most satisfaction? "I designed a chair for a family where the father had died after a long illness. Each day when his two young children went to visit him in hospital he would give them a little gift - something small to make them happy. So I reworked the children's favourite pieces from that collection into chairs that would bring them a sense of happiness while literally embracing them. I sewed each piece in so that the shapes and placement would really engage with the children, with soft pieces where they would rest their heads. That project was a privilege to do."
Who would you like to design something for? "The Queen! I think she needs something that would be comfortable and make her smile. I am quite patriotic. Poor lamb: I think she needs one of my chairs."
What other designers or artists inspire you? "What I like is not necessarily similar to what I do. I want inspiration from something else, like Anish Kapoor. Even though his work is very different to mine in terms of scale and form, we both create work that is emotional - although mine is through humour and colour."
Do you collaborate with other artists? "Yes, I often have to learn a skill to apply to my work - I may suddenly find myself learning to weld. I enjoy working with craftsmen. If I couldn't make things myself, I'd like to help others do it, perhaps volunteer to teach making things as a therapy - it is quite healing."
What are you working on at the moment? "I like to work on multiple projects at a time. I'm currently working on designing door handles; they are a lovely product - much like a handshake. Actually, I am always making things: I even work on things in my car when I have to stop at traffic lights. I love my work; it recharges me."