We had a chat with our latest exhibitor Planted, to discuss the inspiration behind their collection and the ways they handcraft bespoke and sustainable furniture.
Are you local to the area?
“Yep, we’re local to the area, we grew up here originally and then lived in various places like Birmingham and London and then moved back here when we had children. We’ve been here for 9 years now.”
What do you think of the art scene in Cheltenham?
“I think there are a lot of artists in Cheltenham and there’s not a huge amount going on, although Open Studios is good. There’s definitely scope for other interesting things going on. Especially mixing mediums not just painting and prints, there’s lots of ceramicists and sculptors around. So, there’s definitely scope for that scene to grow.”
Do you work from a studio?
“Yes we have a workshop in Leckhampton, which we moved into in January, just before the first lockdown, so that was fun!"
How long have you had an interest in interior design?
“Straight out of university, where I studied Jewellery and Silversmithing, I worked for a lighting and chandelier design company in London. Soon after I worked as an art director for a food and drink tasting company with immersive theatre and we worked often with artists and different creatives - that was what I found very interesting. Toby had originally trained as a cabinet maker, and was working as a set builder in London before moving to Savior Beds who make upholstered mattresses. At that point, he decided he wanted to be an upholsterer.
Then, when we moved back to Cheltenham, Toby trained with an upholsterer here, and I worked for an Interior Design company. Then with the birth of our second child, we both quit our jobs and started our own company.”
What are you hoping for with this exhibition?
“We want this brand to be a national brand. However, we’re based here and the demographic for our clients is around this area too. We’ve been physically looking into stripped furniture for more than ten years now, and the more we see, the more we realise that the furniture industry does need to shift. The products that are used inside modern sofas, polyurethane foams and chemicals for the fire-retardant treatment that has to go on fabrics are awful.
The fire regulations for the fashion industry are very different to the hoops the furniture industry has to jump through, and so the fashion industry is now way ahead of interiors. I know that now there are some companies trying to look at non-chemical FR treatments, but we basically decided that it doesn’t need to be how it is, we can still comply with all the regulations, but we do it differently.
We use a mixture of traditional methods and materials, but the materials are now made in a slightly more modern way. For example, where they used to use horsehair to plump up the inside of sofas, we use a coconut husk covered in natural latex which comes like sheets – it’s the same kind of principle of stuffing but we use it in a different way.”
Is this your first public gallery exhibition?
“Yes for our own work, I’ve done a fundraising exhibition before but I’m not an artist so this is the first exhibition that I’ve done with our products.”
How have you found it so far?
“It’s been good so far, I think Montpellier is definitely starting to come back to life which is exciting. I’ve invited our clients, designers and press to make appointments. For our clients, and designers being able to see our collection in a gallery setting rather than a workshop makes quite a big difference.”
Do you think you’ll look at other galleries and maybe do more exhibitions?
“I think I’d like to do this once every six months just to remind people that were here! For this exhibition, I’ve curated it with a few others, whose work has the same ethos as ours. For example, the plants are from Junglist and they only work with recycled plastic pots They also have pots that are made out of 3D-printed corn starch which is really cool. They have an ethical background in their company like us. The rings on the wall are made in Copenhagen by and artist who gets offcuts from a furniture manufacturing business. Andy Pilsbury is a photographer who has done a collection of Tulip photos, and Tracey Turner is an artist who paints natural forms. So everything that’s in here has it’s own little story, and they all sit well with our furniture.”
What advice do you have for other artists who are struggling to stay motivated with their craft?
“‘It’s been a hard year or so for creative people. Being self-motivational is also very hard. What a combo! There’s an opportunity here for all creatives to do an exhibition, either as a collective or individually, by having flexible terms at Sixteen Gallery, it’s an ideal set up to have a go.. You should always have a go. And it’s always great to see your work in a professional space. It brings it to life!”
What inspired you to create these pieces?
“Each piece in here has got it’s own little design story. There are a couple of pieces that are similar to styles we’ve made for other people for years and years and years. We’ve just tweaked them to be deeper, taller, slouchier, comfier. Then Toby and I take it in turns to explore our own designs. For example, the art deco styled sofa is mine because I love art deco interiors. I think I wanted to bring that in and it’s quite a good eye-catching piece that people come in and want to sit on. Toby’s is the big blue one where he just wanted something super comfy and cosy. They’re all designed for different things.”
Are you influenced by other artists or designers?
“I look all the time at architecture and interiors so its not necessarily artists. I really like the 1920s and some super modern design too. Toby and I have different ideas of what we like. We are always having design debates in our house, but ultimately it’s about the materials and skill that make something beautiful.”
What is your process of creating a piece of furniture?
“We start by doing lots of drawings and creating shapes. I’ll tell you about the yellow art deco one for example, so making a sofa is quite technical, you have to get the right depth, the right rake which is how far it leans back for the style that you’re trying to create. For this one, I sourced lots of images of different art deco styles to try and get the curves right and then we physically made curves to try and get the right one. Then we lay it as if it's a sofa so that we knew when you sit on it, your arm naturally goes along the curve. It’s not just a design feature, it’s a piece of ergonomic purposeful design. Then we go through and prototype it, having considered cushion lay out and surface finishes too.”
How long does it take to create a piece of furniture?
“About eight weeks. Everything is made to order, and bespoke so it does take a little while.”