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Tom Raffield is an artist and designer maker who has gained a reputation for his handmade steam bent lighting and furniture ranges that are sustainably crafted in Cornwall. We sit down with him to find out more about his studio, his design process and his top tips for achieving a stylish industrial look in your home.
What is your background and what do you specialise in?
I studied 3D Design for Sustainability at Falmouth University and I was eager to discover and explore as many different design philosophies and processes while I had the chance. It was here my obsession with innovative design, sustainably sourced wood and the eco-friendly process of steam bending began.
The method, traditionally associated with boat building and making musical instruments, involves a lot of skill and an understanding of the variables to allow you to create the perfect bend. After a while I developed my own techniques for bending wood which brought many of my ideas to life. Once you master these steam bending skills it becomes a fast and high-octane process that is highly addictive. I can’t get enough of it!
Tell us about your business and how you got started?
We handcraft steam bent furniture, lighting and spaces from our studios based in Cornwall. We have a curated range of products but also sometimes take on bespoke commissions and projects. The business literally started in my mum's garage a long time ago. I then got my own studio space, workshop and it’s grown from there really.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
There aren’t many ‘typical’ days for me. I always like to get up early and start the day with some exercise. Then I spend a bit of time in the workshop, coming up with ideas and playing around with different designs. Then its into the office for meetings and catching up with emails.
What can you tell us about your workshop in Cornwall and the team that works there?
We’ve recently moved location to am much larger space in Falmouth (about 20 minutes from where we were in the woods) which is amazing – there’s so much more opportunity and scope for bigger projects. Our team is ever growing but there still remains a tight, family feel to our business, which we really cherish and want to maintain.
“Our new designs produce cascading shadows and sweeping lighting effects that pay homage to one of nature’s most empowering elements, and one that never fails to inspire our work. We sought to create a lighting range that brought a piece of the Cornish coastline into people’s homes.”
Can you tell us more about your collections and the design process?
Before our workshop team can bring to life any new product ranges, they have to go through a series of design stages. This initial design conception is lead by Danie and I, we find inspiration in everything from the natural environment around our woodland home to the nearby Cornish coastline. I often sketch ideas first and, once I have a few potential designs in mind, begin experimenting in the workshop with wood and other mixed mediums to create fluid, dynamic shapes. Each concept in the design journey is captured: the shapes that work, the ones with flaws and products that need to go back to the drawing board are all recorded. It’s a long process but very worthwhile in the end.
You have just launched the Comber Range of steam bent lighting. What inspired this collection?
The Comber Lighting Range explores our relationship with the sea - the fluid organic shapes and the emotions it conveys. Our new designs produce cascading shadows and sweeping lighting effects that pay homage to one of nature’s most empowering elements, and one that never fails to inspire our work. We sought to create a lighting range that brought a piece of the Cornish coastline into people’s homes.
What are your best-selling items? And which design is your personal favourite?
Probably our No.1 Pendant – the first light we ever created – and our Skipper pendant. Our furniture range is also growing in popularity, which is brilliant, key pieces like the Arbor Armchair are going down really well.
Over 60 metres of steam bent timber endlessly weave to envelop the light in the Number 1 Pendant Giant.
You recently published a guide for achieving a stylish industrial look in your home. What is your top tip?
One of the best things about the industrial design trend is that you can spend as little (or as much) as you like to achieve it. The upcycling or reclamation of existing furnishings is a great option if you want to cut the cost on your interior design project and simultaneously cut down on waste.
Here at Tom Raffield we strive for longevity in our designs and kicking back at modern throwaway culture, which is why we’re fully supportive of the upcycling movement. Things like exposing existing brickwork or painting a wall make a huge difference.
What exciting developments can we expect to see from Tom Raffield in the next year?
We’re about to launch another new lighting collection – the cluster range – launching 27.09 and after that we’re currently developing a new range for SS20. Watch this space!
We would like to thank Tom for taking the time to talk to Warehouse Home. For more information, visit his website.
The Kern redefines the chandelier with its steam bent hoop of solid suspended oak and bare filament bulbs.