Show: Embrace. John Green.
Tell: “Embrace is an award winning piece of furniture, designed to store modern media such as DVDs, CDs, books and magazines. This smart piece of furniture naturally forms two, low, modern tables that are then ‘embraced’ together in order to form a storage unit/magazine rack/occasional table. Whilst apart, the small tables also function well as a laptop table, a bench and desk for kids or even as serving tray for breakfast in bed.
“I originally designed Embrace when I was a student. The original brief was to design a modern take on the Isokon Penguin Donkey, a 1939 design classic by Egon Riss and for it to be within 10% of the original’s dimensions. My starting point was to study the Isokon collection in detail and in particular the Penguin Donkey series. As with all the products I design, I wanted to simplify it and I felt that the original product, although very nice, had been over designed, resulting in a harder and longer manufacturing process and ultimately putting a higher price tag on the piece.
“My concept was to simplify, but somehow keep all of the original functions and, if possible, add more. To start with I needed to learn the process of bending plywood and after six months of sleepless nights messing with various veneers, glues and visiting various factories I eventually learnt and refined the process. I was cold pressing the tables with clamps, so that making one would mean putting it in a press over night with about a 12 hours drying time. After that I would transport the blank to be cut on a computer navigated cutter and then bring it back to finish and lacquer it.
“I launched the product at 100% Futures 2009 along with a few other prototypes that I had done in case it was a flop. Before I knew it I was taking some very big orders from some very big retailers, but I soon realised it would take me months to fulfil all the orders. I knew that putting a product into production required money and I didn’t have any, being a fresh graduate.
“A month later, through a combination of bank, family and Prince’s Trust loans I had my first batch of 100 Embraces on their way, allowing me to fulfil all the orders I had taken at the show. Then the worst happened: my first batch arrived with a shocking level of quality. My customers weren’t happy and I lost a big chunk of my initial orders. The experience was hard, but resulted in my biggest learning curve yet.
“Embrace has had a big effect on my practice as this one product has not only gained plenty of press and award attention, it has also made a few of the bent plywood manufacturers sit up and notice my work. This has led to me gaining invitations to design for various manufacturers and new bent plywood products will be launched early 2012….yes…it’s a L—O—-N—G process!
“Embrace has also affected my practice in the sense that I’m not looking to put another product into production under my own brand, as now I know the stresses and financial strains of starting out with a product. Instead I have been designing products for other brands and manufacturers and simply getting royalties as a designer. This allows me to focus on being a designer. Embrace takes up enough of my time as it is and I feel having another product in my range would be too much for me to remain a productive designer.
“My biggest muses are Charles and Ray Eames and Alvar Aalto. I love every piece of their work and I’m sure a lot of what they’ve done does rubs off in my work, however I try my best to not look in too much detail at what has been done before as I think it will only have a negative impact on my design process.”
Info: John Green is an award winning designer, based in York, who designs furniture and lifestyle products for manufacture. Embrace is proudly made in the UK, each unit is numbered, stamped and signed upon completion and is available in Birch, Oak and Walnut
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