Saturday, 23 October 2010

Design Less Ordinary - An Interview with Michael Antrobus by Calum Ross

Product and furniture designer Michael Antrobus' curatorial debut 'Design Less Ordinary' featured 30 new works from 11 London based product and furniture designers, including the internationally renowned designer Ryan Frank. Following his success at the Brick Lane Gallery, Michael chats to jotta about stationery, exhibiting and reconsidering the familiar.
Design Less Ordinary was your first curatorial effort, how do you feel it went ?

It all went surprisingly smoothly considering it was our first show. But we owe this to a huge effort on the part of everyone who exhibited. My main advice, as obvious as it may sound is to have everything possible in place well in advance. We were very well prepared and setting up in the gallery only took us half a day. Also, sort out sponsorship first. We underestimated how long this would take and left it too late for this show, but we will be ready for next time.

Would you like to curate more exhibitions?

Design Less Ordinary was the beginning of a run of shows, as those who exhibited intend to re-group annually. However I would jump at the opportunity to put a new show together. I'd also like to show outside of London, in cities Like Milan and New York.

The exhibition showcased designers' personal responses and reconsideration of the familiar, what was your reaction to this brief?

'Hello Stranger' is a collection of public objects that clamp to existing infrastructures; fences, benches, lamp posts and railings. But unlike typical municipal furniture these objects are flexible, tactile and playful. The objects are also open to a degree of interpretation. But wether they are used to 'frame' an impromptu photo opportunity or to create and highlight points of focus in the landscape, the ultimate aim was to get people talking.

How did you go about selecting the other exhibiting designers?

We wanted to display a variety of approaches to design and everyone featured in the show had created work that was subtly subversive. A glass and decanter are used in Remembrance of Things Past by Owen Wells to present a 'future in which scent memory is used as an emotional stimulant'.

How did Ryan Frank become involved?

Myself and Geoff Marsh (co-curator) both completed internships at Mentmore Studios, and it was here that we got to know Ryan. When we were first considering putting a show together we'd initially asked him for his advice. Later, when we had a clear direction we asked Ryan if he'd like to be involved. He was keen on the format and his live collaboration with graffiti collective Secret Wars added an exciting dimension to the show.

Are his values on sustainability something you yourself try to incorporate into your designs?

The use and re-use of sustainable materials is at the heart of Ryan's approach to design and while this is an important and necessary consideration for me too, it is not the main focus of my work.

 Can you tell us more about your stationery project?


'Ground' is a collection of raw industrial tools for the home. Weeks of working with flat steel bar, using self made jigs and press tools. Then continued experimentation with the position of twists, bends, pressing, heating and filing resulted in this first family of stationery objects. Each follows the same logic. The steel is first formed in a fly press, then twisted to create a handle. A blade is then sharpened onto one edge of the steel before being plated and riveted together.

What would be your ideal job or profession?

I have enjoyed the variety of projects that I've worked on both before and since graduating. So I guess my ideal job would be one that allows me to carry this variety forward. Ultimately I want to work in three dimensional design, but a studio which, allows me to switch between designing products, furniture, spaces and installations would be ideal.

What else are you  currently working on?

I am currently working on a collection of Jewelry for a fashion designer at the Royal College and Download Print Fold - A family of downloadable objects, to be printed and folded out of scrap paper. I am also looking for a producer to license 'Ground.'

Finally, if you were a piece of design, what would you be?

I'd like to be Bruno Munari's Cubo Ashtray ash tray, or maybe a mechanical egg whisk.

Originally Published by, 5th November, 2009

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