London Craft Week: In Conversation with Dharma Taylor

As part of the annual London Craft Week, we teamed up with multidisciplinary designer Dharma Taylor to showcase some of her work in our Oliver Spencer Studio store on Lambs Conduit Street. We spoke with the artist to understand more about her what and what motivates her creativity.

Hi Dharma, for anyone in our audience who doesn’t know you, please introduce yourself.

I’m a multidisciplinary designer with a background specialising in textiles and menswear. My work is preoccupied with the notion of separate realities and parallel lands, exploring sources ranging from technology, poetry, ancient civilisations and the dynamic differences in cultures. Since graduating from the London College of Fashion I’ve worked on various design projects. They’ve been shown by a variety of national and international organisations and galleries including the Benaki Museum in Athens, the V&A and Tate Britain. 

Can you tell us a bit about the elements of your work currently in our store?

The hand-crafted woodwork sculptures in the Oliver Spencer store extract shape and negative space from my large-scale ‘Lightbeam’ rug also currently on display. This is a great opportunity to bring new energy into the Oliver Spencer store, and I’m keen to present something disruptive that differs from the norm in the form of these ash wood pieces stemming from my multidisciplinary way of working. I was originally inspired to work with wood in memory of my great grandfather who was a self-taught carpenter in keeping with Oliver’s self-taught ethos and way of working.

What was the process in making the sculptures, rug and chair?

In an exciting development from my use of textiles, I have approached working with wood in an organic way expressed through careful observation and respect of the natural material, paired with traditional carpentry techniques and a ‘why-not’ attitude. As a designer with a background steeped in textile and menswear design, when making the red chair and table I wanted to create pieces that are not expected of me and ultimately create a support for the human form throughout life.

The Lightbeam rug design was inspired by my memories of sunsets in Greenwich as a child, and the way light and colour would reflect on the rooftops and windowpanes of houses. Looking into the architecture and subtracting shapes seen in block colour helped to design the sculptures. The sculptures are very crude on purpose and are assembled with less precision and accuracy than the furniture. This is intentional as they are 'objet' whereas the furniture is made to function for a lifetime.

Are there any projects you’re working on right now?

I am currently working on designing and making a new chair – looking into new softer shapes and completely staining the wood in a deep matte black or perhaps ebonising the ash. I'm currently working with a carpenter friend to learn new skills in the making process and have recently secured funding from the Arts Council to realise this new project. I’m excited to work with ash as a new material and understand how this wood responds and feels.

What is the place that means the most to you?   

As I get older there are lots of little places that hold meaning for different reasons – I’ve recently planted a maple tree in Lewes, Sussex in memory of someone very special so naturally Lewes will always hold meaning to me now as that tree will hopefully out-live all of us. However, London as a whole; seems to be the magnetic centre that I gravitate around and keep coming back to for work and pleasure.

If not a designer/artist, then...   

Garden design absolutely, although technically that would still be a form of design but to be designing natural, live, growing elements really appeals to me. You’d need to be seriously in tune with the seasons and the landscape to work with it rather than against it; there’s something about that which speaks to me.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever received?

To have faith in myself. My mum said this to me and it is by far the best advice ever and applies to all things.

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