Furniture designer and maker Jan Waterston has the Last Word.

Furniture designer and maker, Jan Waterston

Furniture designer and maker, Jan Waterston

I knew I wanted to pursue a career relating to art and design after completing my Foundation Studies in Fine Art as a teenager. At that stage, however, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was I enjoyed about Art and what kind of work I was passionate about producing. I started working as stage crew which involved building exhibitions, and I decided I wanted to do something practical but creative.

It was whilst researching exhibition stand design that I stumbled across furniture and realised this would allow me to feed my desire to create and design whilst having the practical challenge of making the object itself. It is this relationship between the craft and the creative that keeps me so excited by design: the two feed off and influence each other, creating an exciting process.

For young designers starting out, one of the biggest challenges is finding and affording a space to play in. Having a studio space with some basic machinery in which to prototype ideas and experiment with processes is invaluable as the understanding of the mechanics of how an object goes together – as well as the mistakes made along the way - are crucial to design.

It’s difficult to commit to renting a space and signing a contract when starting a business on limited funds as the minimum length of rent is usually long and finding commissions can be difficult. More shared and communal workshop spaces do seem to be popping up all over the country, offering a space to start a business without commercial pressures, and these are also useful in providing a creative environment to gain inspiration and advice on techniques or various business challenges.

In my own space, I’m currently working on designing a freestanding sideboard for a client’s home. The brief is very open, allowing me to play around with some exciting ideas. The client is excited by the idea of using sculptural pattern on the piece, so I’ll be continuing my research into tailoring techniques and upholstery as a source of inspiration. I particularly like pleating as a technique as the folding produces a sculptural layered effect, catching the light and making the cloth three-dimensional. Fashion design as a whole is a huge source of inspiration, as the transformation of the two dimensional fabric into beautiful three dimensional silhouettes, full of varying textures, colour and pattern, inspires how I view materials and their place in design.

If I had to pick one person I admire, Thomas Heatherwick and his studio would be amazing to work with. You can see he has experimented with materials and constantly questioned how different processes could inform a design direction. In terms of a wishlist for me, having been a keen Skateboarder for many years, I’d love to have been part of designing the two kicked skateboard. Having a kick at both ends changed what could be achieved in skateboarding and has led to the invention of countless tricks. It’s an object I look at and can’t imagine how it could be improved – it is made from a material I love using a process I love.


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