1. Where were you born and where are you from ?
My home town is Newcastle—upon—Tyne in the far North East of England.
2. What is your first memory connected to the art world ?
My dad, a keen amateur painter, collected biographic magazines through the 70’s and 80’s, each one focussing on the work of an old master. I remember discovering these as a child in a dusty attic, and obsessively flicking through dozens of issues. I remember my dad, a metalworker, introducing me to Van Gogh, Cézanne and Turner, and seeing his eyes light up whilst teaching me about impressionism.
3. Have you always worked in the art/design field ?
Yes, I was lucky enough to know what I wanted to do from a very young age.
4. What led you to the design creation ?
I grew up amongst a family of metalworkers and a strong tradition of making, spanning back through many generations of ship builders on my father’s side.
Spending school holidays earning pocket money in our family’s small fabrication business, I inherited a natural affinity for working with steel, and an interest in preserving this tradition.
This was however the mid 00’s, and university was the flavour of the day. I decided to pursue my other long-held passion and went off to study architecture.
Ten years later I found myself working as an architect in London’s luxury interiors industry. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but my career felt disparate from the traditional family fabrication business I once knew.
The light bulb moment came one day whilst designing bespoke metalwork for a villa in Switzerland. We could simply repurpose the tradition, craft and skills available back in my hometown to suit the interiors market which I had grown to love. It was the perfect way to fuse my two passions, to continue a family tradition with my own slant. NOVOCASTRIAN was born.
5. How would you describe your creative process and it influences ?
My process, internally anyway, is sporadic. It flicks between elation and despair, often from hour to hour. I generally begin with a confident smugness at the source of the initial inspiration, then descend into questioning my very existence, before eventually reaching a calm state of tentative optimism once the design is released into the world.
I must admit that I rarely enjoy the process. What I do enjoy is seeing the result, the product, then reviewing the journey and finding peace with it. I’ve come to understand that there needs to be some difficulty in the process!
Finding inspiration is much easier for me. I’m hugely inspired by the industrial heritage of our hometown, the Victorian relics which are both functional and beautifully-detailed. I love the railways, the rhythmic repetition. I’m a contextualist at heart and so will always seek meaning and
grounding, and am also of course a product of all of the places I’ve worked and studied.
6. Could you describe a typical day of your work ?
My days vary quite considerably, depending on where I am. I split my time between our workshop in North-East England and our studio in London. We’re fortunate to have a talented of makers, designers and engineers with who I’ll be in constant dialogue each day, working through the finer details on bespoke commissions or sparring on the design of new products.
If I’m in our workshop, I’ll spend time on the shop floor excitedly discussing new ideas with our makers. If I’m in London I’ll often visit customers to present our new products and finishes.
7. Why did you choose the specific materials you work with ?
My home region of North-East England was built on two things, coal and steel. Growing up during a period of fading industrial might, I was acutely aware of the area’s recent history of closing coal mines and ship yards.
My own family worked in the Tyne’s famous yards for many generations, building steel-hulled battle ships for the world’s navies. As the yards closed, my family moved into industrial steel fabrication, and I was luckily to spend my summer holidays in a metal workshop.
As such, raw mild steel was always going to be the go-to material to start with. I appreciate its simplicity, and enjoy elevating humble materials to create something special. We also work commonly with Cumbrian slate in the same way.
8. What are the technical particularities of your creations ?
Almost all of our pieces start life very simply as either flat sheets or extruded profiles. The technicalities are very much in how we cut, fold, weld, dress and finish these materials to create our pieces.
9. What advices could you give to beginning artists who would like to create sculptural design works ?
Find something that inspires you then jump into it. Fully commit. Experiment, and make as many mistakes as you can. All of us have good ideas from time to time, but very few materialise them. Get what you have in your head out into the world. Often it will be wrong, you may even dislike what you create, but don’t stop, learn a lesson, tweak, and then do it again. Keep refining. Eventually you will find your own rhythm, you will stand back and the journey will make sense.
10. If your works had to belong to a design movement, in which one would you define it ?
It’s tricky to say which, if any, movement our work belongs to, but I’m very much inspired by Art Deco and Art Nouveau detailing, although my own designs tend to take a more reductionist interpretation. I’m also a staunch contextualist, which I guess comes from my architectural background.
11. What designers have influenced you ?
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Peter Zumthor,, Anouska Hempel, Carlo Scarpa, Geoffrey Bawa
12. What contemporary designers do you appreciate ?
Vincenzo Di Cotiis, Studio Mumbai, Olson Kundig, Studio KO
13. What contemporary artists (in any kind of art) have you been inspired by ?
Antony Gormley, Norman Ackroyd,
14. If you had to summarize your creations in one word or sentence, what would it be ?
Honest, humble, meaningful and timeless (hopefully)
Proust Questionnaire with very short answers (one or a few words) :
(The Proust Questionnaire is a set of questions answered by the French writer Marcel Proust. Other historical figures who have answered confession albums are Oscar Wilde, Karl Marx, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Cézanne…)
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
2. What is your greatest fear?
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
5. Which living person do you most admire?
6. What is your greatest extravagance?
Fancy food and drink
7. What is your current state of mind?
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
I’m struggling to disagree with Aristotle on any of them…
9. What is the quality you most like in a man ?
10. What is the quality you most like in a woman ?
11. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
12. Which talent would you most like to have?
13. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
To stop procrastinating as much as I do
14. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
15. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
16. Where would you most like to live?
In the present
17. What is your most treasured possession?
18. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To lose hope
19. What is your favorite occupation?
Architecture, of course
20. What is your most marked characteristic?
Stoicism, at least outwardly
21. What do you most value in your friends?
22. Who are your favorite writers?
23. Who is your hero of fiction?
24. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
25. Who are your heroes in real life?
Those who give without expecting to receive
26. What are your favorite names?
Rosalind, my mother’s
27. What is it that you most dislike?
28. What is your greatest regret?
I try (very hard) not to hold regret
29. How would you like to die?
30. What is your motto?
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good