What do you make and why?
Design and production of lighting products, furniture and home accessories…
Will and I started the business straight after graduating from Glasgow School of Art. We, along with our tiny group of product design class-mates formed a culture of care and equality as we wandered through our college days together. We all entered competitions in order to all fill a group fund, discussed environmental and social issues around technological and political developments happening at the time and ended up pretty close. We started the business in order to keep designing things we value, working how we want, caring and being cared for by suppliers customers and other designers. I don’t intend to stop, it’s very enjoyable.
We know your products are great, you know your products are great but how can they know?
They can tell by seeing the aesthetic combination of simplicity and elegance with a touch of the not so ordinary sneaking out. By knowing that the products are produced in solid little batches by small happy manufacturers and that there is as little packaging and transport used to ferry these blighters over to them as possible.
Whereabouts does your manufacturing take place?
The polyethylene lamps and lampshades are produced by a small factory in Irvine, Scotland. They traditionally produce car parts and bins, but when we came up with an idea for risky production of a chair in 1998 (‘Chasm’) they were up for doing billions of prototypes with us. We’ve worked together and been friends ever since.
What is the toughest part of the product development process for you?
New products using unfamiliar methods of production are always the most exciting to develop. The scary part is that they use production methods that I’m not familiar with and sometimes in ways that haven’t been tried before! All manner of things can go wrong while trying to work out how best to use a method of manufacture that is normally used in other ways… but that exploration-risk is the fun of creation. So yes, manufacturing mixing in with the design process is the hardest part of the equation.
What is the most enjoyable part of the process of product development for you?
I love drawing by hand in pencil. Initial drawings are where you can question expectations try something unconventional and express yourself… Try to create a bit of beauty. This is always reined in by the practical limitations of a project, but those challenges, which are normally a little frustrating, bring super satisfaction when they’re overcome.
Do you have any new products/ranges planned for the next year or so?
Yes. Glass products with a small hand-blowing glass company in Scotland. I’m very excited about visiting them for the first few tries…soon.
What products or people have helped to inspire you to create the products that you do?
Most friends are inspiring… through their actions and sentiment, down to their practical advice and feedback on prototypes! Some mentors have also given me superb advice over the years, from my mother Carol, to Norman McNally, to Deyan Sudjic to Ron Arad. They have inspired confidence and honesty as opposed to encouraging specific design or business directions.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know
I play a tiny bit of violin for a between-jobs-rest most days while working… that or I do some SANDING.
What do you wish we had asked you?
About my magic tricks…
MTL – What? We definitely need more information on that topic.
Which light or lampshade in your range do you personally use the most and why?
I have Ethel Lampshades (and the inverse version) all over the house as do all of our siblings and parents… and friends. They seem to go with everything and bring a little serenity to all of our lives.
Why did you name your products as you have?
I like to name products in a way which either reflects their form, use, or helps to understand the way they’re made. Polyethylene is the material used to make the ‘Polly’ and the ‘Ethel’, and I think there’s always room to mention more female names in our lovely masculine world.
MTL – Thank you for your time Katty, it has been great to learn some more about you and your approach to design and manufacture. For those interested parties please view the full One Foot Taller lighting collection here.