Faye Toogood — The Interview

CONTEMPORARY STANDARD (online) November 2013

Faye Toogood is one of the most interesting designers in the UK panorama. With her mix between craft and sculpture she elaborates an elegant design with high sense of materiality and narrative.
During the last London Design Festival she was invited to the prestigious V&A to participate with another 14 designers at the exhibition God is in the Details, where each designer selected an object from the gallery’s extensive collections, forming a multi-site display throughout the V&A galleries.

Eleonora Usseglio Prinsi) What do you think is the key of the success of British design?

Faye Toogood) The UK, both in terms of furniture and fashion has always had the ability to lead when it comes to design. I generally think that British design is not afraid to be individual or free. We have a unique and underlying sense of humor, thirst for subculture and a desire for experimentation, which is perhaps more potent that other countries. I think at the moment we are witnessing a turning point in British Design. Designers are learning how to self-make (craft) but also how to manufacture and industrilis craftsmanship on our doorstep again. This will bring great change to British Design.

Eleonora) You are close to craftsmanship. How do you find the right balance between handmade production and contemporary technologies?

Faye) I think the resurgence of the individual and small collectives applying their own skills to produce, make, manufacture and sell direct is the way forward.

Limited Edition pieces that are handcrafted enable an Industrial, Product or Furniture designer – much like a Fashion designer working in the world of Couture – to be experimental, to be radical and to be free of commercial shackles. For a designer to have the opportunity to work with materials that would ordinarily be prohibitive on a mass-produced market or to create something that questions our notions of what is function, is very important to the history of design. Somehow in Art and in Fashion there is an acceptance of this – but for Industrial, Product and Furniture designers it has almost been frowned upon to be working in this way. The design world needs Limited Editions to question, to move things on, to explore new technologies and even rediscover old methods of working. It is not just about feeding the pockets of the rich and merely providing works for a market – it is one of the ways we define our decade, our history and in the end influences how we all experience design.

Mass Produced design in my opinion is increasingly becoming irrelevant. I feel I need to shout up for designers in this moment – it is tough out there to make a living from furniture and design. Designers have to either take opportunities that arise within the industry and suffer financially at the mercy of big brands who implement unfeasibly small royalties or attempt to make their own way. I think designers – much like the farmers in this country – can take back some control. This September, for London Design Festival I will be celebrating the ‘post-industrial’ era – the resurgence of individuals and small collectives applying their own skills within the urban city to produce, make, manufacture and sell direct. I will be launching BATCH. By making small batch runs, I have sought to make more accessible some of my work that has previously only been available as one-off, limited edition pieces. Whilst retaining the rights to my own work, by using British Manufacturing and by in part selling direct this is a way that can work for everyone.

Eleonora) You are working in fashion and furniture design. Which is the link between the two?


Eleonora) At the point of your career, how do you research and develop your projects?

Faye) I believe in being instinctual and spontaneous. I seek to be free from preconceptions and to have an understanding of history and culture. We always try to work away from the computers as much as possible – it is too easy to get locked into a computer and emails so we try to keep the meetings and workshops very social and inclusive.
Sources of inspiration come from everything around me daily – that can be a rock on the floor or a new piece of architecture – anything.
In terms of the history of Interior Decoration I am particularly inspired by the Bloomsbury period in the 1930’s where everything was made by hand and covered in pattern. I am also really inspired by the English decorator from the fifties John Fowler and the private apartments of Yves Saint Laurent.
Brancusi, Barbara Hepworth, Louise Bourgeois, Picasso and Pierre Soulages are all artists who continue to inspire my work.
I am not a reader of fiction, I read non-fiction. Most recently I read the biography of Lucie Rie and a book on Heinz Mack.