DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT: FURNITURE DESIGNER TIM SUMMERS
I'm very excited to be launching a new feature on the blog where I get to chat with designers from the world of interiors. I'm always fascinated to learn more about how designers and makers get started and what motivates them. To kick off I am thrilled to share an interview with furniture designer Tim Summers, winner of this year's Heal's Discovers, who has designed the flip desk exclusively for their Autumn/Winter 2016 collection. Heal's Discovers was launched in 2004 and promotes the innovative work of new and emerging designers.
I met Tim at the Heal's AW16 preview event a few months ago and his flip desk instantly stood out to me. Its such a compact, practical and stylish design perfectly suited to the brief of home office and a great solution for smaller homes in urban areas. Here I ask Tim about the design process and his journey into the industry.
WHAT WAS YOUR ROUTE INTO DESIGN? I initially studied illustration and after a couple of diversions, ended up working for contemporary artists and art galleries fabricating artwork and installing exhibition. It was through this work that I realised that what I really enjoyed was solving problems through making, so I decided to retrain in Furniture and Product Design. The design process gives me the opportunity to combine my love of drawing with my passion for making.
WHERE DO YOU WORK FROM? Up until a couple of weeks ago I was working from a shared workshop in North London. It was shared with a whole range of makers from artists and set designers to a globe maker. Unfortunately I had to move out but I've just moved into a new open access workspace called BlackHorse Workshop in Walthamstow which I'm very excited about. I usually do most of my sketching and CAD at home and then take drawings and plans to the workshop where I start prototyping and developing. Many changes happen along the way so there's a bit of toing and froing until ideas and designs are resolved.
WHAT DO YOU FIND ARE THE MOST CHALLENGING AND THE MOST FUN PARTS OF THE DESIGN PROCESS? Both the most challenging and the most fun part for me is the experimentation stage. This is the most fun bit as it often involves a lot of play and it brings about all sorts of possibilities, whether its trying to manipulate a material in a new way or adapting or inventing a new technique. I find it the most challenging in the sense that positive results often happen late at this stage, so a large amount of faith is put into the process, often causing various anxieties.
HOW MUCH OF THE DESIGN PROCESS IS DONE BY CAD AND DO YOU ENJOY USING IT? CAD is an integral part of the design process. After initial sketches are done and ideas developed slightly, I move into CAD to start figuring out angles and proportions etc. I do really like CAD, it saves a huge amount of time when it comes to manipulating and adapting drawings and transferring files into other formats. There is always something new to learn which keeps it interesting and enjoyable for me.
WHEN DID YOU REALISE THIS IS REALLY WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO? I've always loved making things from a young age. It was when I was working fabricating work for artists that I realised that designing and making furniture was what I wanted to spend my time doing. I loved the making process but it made more sense to me to direct my attentions towards designing and making practical and functional objects.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU THE MOST? I find living in London a great inspiration. I grew up in rural Gloucestershire but I have lived in London for 10 years, it is a place that still constantly surprises me. There's so much going on and so many different cultures converging in one place that there's always something interesting to see or experience. Everyday life in London provides me with endless possibilities for ideas and inspiration.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH HEAL'S DISCOVERS? I was in my second year of study on the BA Furniture and Product Design course at the CASS. Kirsty the Heal's Product and Design Manager came to the CASS and led a live brief with the studio. The brief was to design a piece of furniture that complimented the Heal's Ambrose Range, a range that combines quality with innovation to offer intelligently designed objects for compact urban living spaces. I used my own experience of urban living and designed the 'Flip' desk as a response to the brief. A year later and Kirsty remembered my project and put me forward as a competitor in this years Heal's Discovers competition.
IF YOU WEREN'T A DESIGNER WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING? I would probably still be making things in some capacity, probably still working for artists and art galleries, which I still do from time to time. I'm very glad however that I made the move into design and now have my own creative outlet for making the things that I want to make.
HOW DO YOU RELAX WHEN YOU'RE NOT CREATING? I love cycling, cycling offers a real sense of freedom. I feel totally liberated leaving the city behind and cycling off into the countryside at the weekends. It also gives me the space and time to mull things over and think.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PIECE OF FURNITURE AT HOME? I found a Thonet No.14 chair in the road in Stoke Newington about 2 years ago. The caning was broken and the chair frame had been painted in several layers of black paint. I took it home and took it apart. I stripped it and sanded it back to the original bare wood, refinished it and fixed the seat. They are such simple, timeless and versatile chairs, and also iconic as the first mass produced chair, i love it!
WHAT'S NEXT? I'm currently working on a collaborative kick-starter campaign with 3 other designer makers and guided by designer Peter Marigold, this will hopefully be launched towards the end of the year. i also have a couple of exciting commissions on the horizon which I'm looking forward to getting stuck into in my new workshop.
AND FINALLY WHAT'S YOUR BEST PIECE OF ADVICE FOR SOMEONE JUST STARTING OUT IN THEIR DESIGN CAREER? Don't give up! Its hard starting out, rent is high and work spaces are expensive, but I think its really important to keep active and keep momentum. Keep thinking about making things and design and make things on whatever scale is possible. There are also a lot of people and places that are out there to help, whether its with grants and funding or business advice or other communities of makers, hunt them out and get involved!