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London Design Festival: Mac Collins at Oliver Spencer

Sep 10, 2019

As part of London Design Week we are exhibiting the work of furniture designer, Mac Collins in our Shoreditch store. Ahead of his exhibition opening on the 14th September we caught up with him in his workshop in Newcastle. 

Mac's work will be on show from the 14th - 22nd September. 

Hi Mac, how’s things? I hope all is well. As part of this year’s Shoreditch Design Triangle you are exhibiting at the Oliver Spencer store in Shoreditch. Can you tell us a little bit about your presentation?

I’m presenting my Iklwa chair with a few other objects I’ve designed, alongside some relics, including maquettes and sketches, which relate to my design process.

You graduated last year from Northumbria University. What did you study and what have you been up to since you graduated?

The course was titled 3D Design and offered the foundations for a future in both craft and more commercial design. I specialised in furniture making. Since graduating, I have had a busy year trying to decide who I want to be within this industry. I have been getting to know people and broadening my understanding of design and craft. In the past months, I have travelled to Cologne, Hong Kong and New York, exhibiting work, meeting designers and visiting workshops. I also currently have a residency at the university where I still have a studio space and access to workshops. From this position, I have been working on a number of other projects.

Tell us a little bit about your research process. What are the inspirations that influence your designs and your ideas?

Although my inspirations will inevitably evolve and change, recently I have been looking at aspects of my heritage and exploring how this can transpire into furniture. I have been taking inspiration from the people around me, and particular stories from my family members and responding to those. I also take a lot of inspiration from existing creatives - painters, sculptors, photographers and, of course, furniture makers.

You use a lot of wood in your work. Is that a conscious decision based on your ideas?

It is a conscious decision; it’s still the most satisfying and interesting material in my opinion, despite how frustrating it can be to work with - being a material that can warp, twist and change. There is something rewarding about going along with these changes and working with them. Timber is an age-old material; you feel connected to craftspeople throughout history, in a way, through that. I appreciate the fact that aspects of woodworking haven’t changed a great deal in thousands of years but yet there is always something new you can do with it. Although the tree was not felled by myself, you can often trace the origin of the timber and you have a better understanding of the origin of the material that you are working with. Sometimes with metals and plastics you can be so detached from the extraction of that material that you never really know what processes have gone into making it. With timber you know, and can make moves to be as responsible as possible.

Your final project piece at university was the Iklwa chair you mentioned earlier. Where does the name come from and why did you decide to call it that?

The name comes from a traditional southern African spear used during a particular stand against European colonialist interest in Africa. The armrests of the chair - which embrace and protect the sitter -took their form from this spear so it seemed fitting to name it after this. The chair itself has been designed to empower the user in the face of oppression so the name seemed relevant in this sense also.

What are your hopes for the future of design?

I hope the industry continues to diversify and more and more people from various backgrounds begin to take ever more present and major roles in design and craft. I hope that, despite the post-referendum climate of intolerance, people of underrepresented groups begin to get the representation they deserve. I also hope design becomes more sustainable and responsible. This is something I personally hope to get better at, for the longevity of the planet and the kind of lives we lead. I hope people continue to realise the fragility of the world and continue to respond to it.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a project with British furniture makers Benchmark. We are working on a collaborative range of furniture which we hope will begin to take shape soon. I am also in discussions about another collaboration and have a new personal project taking shape; the details of these will be out soon. Alongside these projects, I plan to spend some more time abroad, visiting makers and finding new inspiration. I need to learn as much as possible.

You can see Mac's work, including the 'Iklwa' chair from the 14th - 22nd of September in our Shoreditch store as part of Shoreditch Design Triangle. You can read more on the Shoreditch Design Triangle website here.

We will also be hosting an in-store event with Mac on Thursday 19th September where you can hear him talk about his work and processes. RSVP -

Mac Collins - Designer and Maker

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