A year ago, Scottish furniture designer Catherine Aitken, a Royal College of Art grad, appeared in our Best Students series with her graduate project, Bundle.
Since then she's won the Time to Design Award for emerging talent, completed a residency at Danish Art Works, and exhibited a new stool, Fade, at the Normann Copenhagen flagship store.
What was your first project?
I made a conscious change of direction a few years back - in part as the result of undertaking a Masters at the Royal College of Art. From that point Bundle was my first design development as well as my first foray into furniture - the beginnings of a body of work from which my practice is currently developing.
Bundle is a collection of seating inspired by actions of organisation - stacking, rolling, laying and bundling. Combining a soft blanketing component, felt or fabric with a core of wooden dowel. This collection plays with repetition of form to create structure. Tactile materials and playful design detail combine to produce forms that retain an openness and fluidity. Encouraging touch and engagement these objects can be gently manipulated.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I'm inspired by many things... always the places I visit and the people I meet along the way. A recent residency at the Danish Art Workshops in Copenhagen was hugely inspiring, but so too are my regular visits to the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. A change of environment always opens my eyes more widely; all the functional objects of day to day life, the textures, material combinations and ways of going about simple tasks that bit differently.
What’s your design process?
Central to my practice is a material-based investigation, working with form and pattern in a very hands-on way. Often this involves taking one form and repeating it to create something that somehow becomes more than the sum of its parts. My practice is not defined by a singular material or process: recently I’ve worked with wood, textile and ceramics, exploring contrasts between hardness and softness, heaviness and lightness, and how these characteristics can enhance a design.
I tend to begin the design process in quite an abstract way, but I find this helps me to remain open minded, and usually leads to more interesting and unexpected outcomes. I aim to produce functional things that hint at a relationship with the environment in which they're situated.
What are you planning to work on next?
I'm working on a collaborative project together with the sculptor David Murphy at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshops. We have been selected to design furniture and ceramics for ESW's new building designed by Sutherland Hussey Architects. The project is supported by the Edward Marshall Trust and the resulting pieces will be installed for use in the building next year.
City of Residence London
Education Glasgow School of Art, Royal College of Art
Motto Do everything as well as you can and enjoy it.
Favourite quote You know more than you think you do! (Benjamin Spock)
Best advice received Keep going!
Best tip for designers Share your difficulties with others, conversation so often solves problems. Don't underestimate the rewards of collaboration.
Three things every designer needs Energy, resilience, commitment - and more hours in the week!
Newest addition to your studio A pneumatic riveter
First design that inspired you There's no one thing that sticks out in my memory but over recent years I've been inspired by the Ruche Sofa designed by Inge Sempe, the work of Suppose Architecture, clothing by Margaret Howell and many of the Bouroullec designs.
Images of Bundle/Hexaform/Two by Two by James Champion, Images of Fade by Morten Nilsson. All images courtesy Catherine Aitken.