Barnaby Reynolds Talks Making

Barnaby Reynolds is an award-winning designer whose work is playfully simplistic. With its effortlessness, you can’t help but wish you had come up with it yourself. We sat down with the BloQs member to discuss how he got started, the values behind his work and the future of making.

Did you always know you wanted to be a maker?

For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved making things. I was all about LEGO as a kid – there was something about the unlimited possibilities which could be derived from those simple shapes and a simple set of rules. I went to a Steiner School which had a strong hand-made culture, my Grandad was a famous sculptor, and my Dad was an industrial designer, in fact, most of my relatives are artists, so I was never really going to do anything else.

Would you say you’re approach to making is collaborative?

Definitely. I sit down with clients and they’ll tell me the brief, it’s my job to expand that brief. I love finding solutions that they didn’t even know they wanted.

Would you say your design evolves during the process then?

Absolutely, through talking, looking at pictures, fag packet sketches you arrive at a design, this I then refine using AutoCad. By the time you get to the workshop, you have to know what you’re doing, this is a business after all. But with regards to the finished installation you have to leave the door open, it’s a case of hold on tightly and let go lightly... I mean, you can’t get too attached to the vision because sometimes if it just isn’t going to work, you have to be able to let go.

How would you describe your style?

I’d call it a Japanese or Scandinavian simplicity mixed with Italian flair, put together with an English eccentricity. I love the honesty of materials of Scandinavian design, When I was in Denmark, the design just all made sense, loads of thought had gone into simple things. I think I’m very influenced by the Bauhaus movement, the marriage of form and function underpins everything for me, but stylistically it (Bauhaus) can be a bit brutal, I prefer to make things a bit more human, natural.

How do you balance the style of a piece with its efficiency? 

A piece has to be a marriage of form and function, but is part of that function not to be beautiful? pleasant to use? You could sit all the finest minds together and try to design a thing that will mix sugar into coffee and they will all still come up with a teaspoon –a twig would do, but the spoon has remained unchanged for millennia. Or a chair, a classic example, there’s only so much you can change before it either isn’t comfortable, wont last, or is just plain ugly. You have to honour past designs but it’s also vitally important to challenge them and think ‘how can I improve on this?’

What advice do you have for those looking to get involved in making?

Be brave, experiment, try to ‘draw’ with the materials, rather than doing a drawing and trying to make something exactly like it, because you loose the opportunity to have the conversation with materials. Working with materials is like collaborating with a person. They have a personality, they may like to be cut this way, sanded like that, or perhaps when they burn they become something beautiful. Be playful, and experiment.

Where do you think the future of making is going?

We’re dealing with craft values which some could argue are being lost. But I think, in a man-made, mass-produced, generic world, the need for unique personal objects is actually greater than ever. It’s a way to express individuality and to have an involvement in something that’s unique and personal is quite special. 

Bespoke making is seen as a luxury. How can more people achieve a sense of personality and uniqueness with their space and belongings?

If you care about craft then make it yourself. Places like this Building BloQs provide a safe nurturing environment, where tools and guidance are readily available; it’s just a matter of learning how to use the equipment. Or, If you cant make it yourself, make friends with a maker.

Do you ever grow attached to projects you’re working on?

Yeah, I think you have to. You have to fall in love with the space, to see the things which make it special, to really do it justice. You need to really feel something for the materials and how they will manipulated and celebrated. If you are going to be responsible for another dead tree, you have to do something lasting with it. I take that responsibility very seriously, I like to work very closely with the clients, to ensure they are really getting something which they’ll love and care for and in turn I hope these values will provide my practice and me a place in the world, one that is sustainable.

See more of Barnaby's work on his BloQs Directory Profile

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