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Meet Furniture Designer Philip Clay

7th July 2015

With his mirror recently featured in our Summer issue we caught up with furniture designer Philip Clay to find out more about his bespoke pieces.

Why did you decide to become a furniture designer/maker?

I have grown up always being hands on, at school I really enjoyed Design Technology and that’s where my love for making began. When applying for university, I saw a future for myself in the design industry but I was unsure of what to specialize in. I received an offer to study Furniture Design and Craftsmanship from the British School of Furniture making in High Wycombe, now known as Bucks New University. The course primarily focused on the making, teaching us the skills to become a cabinetmaker, however we also had the freedom to design our own pieces. It was whilst being submerged in the designing and making of bespoke furniture that my passion for it really grew.

With this passion, partnered with the long-standing idea that I wanted to own my own businesses, I started Philip Clay Designs Ltd.

What is your approach to clients and services offered?

I will work closely with my clients in all aspects of the process, from the initial designs, production and finishing through to final delivery. I find it is really important to keep in touch with the client during the making process especially as that is the most exciting part; often clients visit the workshop to see their pieces coming to life.

My work is finished to the very highest standard, using traditional applications and processes alongside current techniques and finishes, produces unique state of the art furniture.H

How does a client commission a piece?

Making the decision to commission a piece of hand crafted bespoke furniture is the beginning of a very exciting journey. Once we have been in touch via phone or email I will visit you at home so we can discuss any ideas you have face to face and so that I can get an understanding of how the piece is going to be used and where it will be positioned.

What has been your most challenging piece?

All my projects come with their own challenges, especially as every piece is a new idea that hasn't yet been created, but having a good knowledge of design and making means these challenges can be overcome.

Who do you admire when it comes to design?

Who and what I admire is continually evolving, when I first became interested in furniture design I admired things that push the boundaries of what can be done. Although I will always admire the likes of Silverlining and Tim Gosling for showing the utter most exquisite furniture and intricate design, I now find my ideas and taste maturing. I find myself admiring more simple yet beautifully consider and crafted pieces of furniture, where the crispness and skill of the craftsman shines out more than the complexity of the piece. I admire the work of interior designers such as Asheleandro, looking at the finished spaces and how everything works together in harmony with the furniture being the subtle showpieces of the rooms.

When it comes to work ethos, which is really important when starting and owning your own company, I admire Richard Branson. His positive attitude, determination, work ethics and what he has managed to achieve whilst remaining a down to earth and nice is guy is inspirational. Throughout his life is he has thoroughly enjoyed what he is doing and has had fun doing it, to me this is such an important part of my work ethos, rather than feeling like it’s a job I view it as an exciting journey that grows and matures as I do.

Where do you find inspiration?

When I am designing bespoke pieces for a client, I take into consideration their home and where the piece will sit within it. Part of journey of creating a piece of furniture is being able to take the initial ideas and needs of the client and be able to transform them into a beautiful piece of furniture using my own design understanding.

When I get the time and need a burst of inspiration I head into London, I visit museums and exhibitions and just get a feel for what is going on and what is trending. Seeing all the beautifully crafted historical pieces at the V&A as well as the more current things in places like the design museum. Otherwise I find inspiration while I am out and about on a day-to-day base. When you're a designer, you cant switch that passion off so I can find inspiration anywhere from a walk in the woods with the dog to visiting a stone yard whilst picking up materials. I also find really important to surround yourself with creative people, so you can bounce ideas of each other and share things that you wouldn't necessarily find yourself.

What advice would you gave someone who is considering commissioning a piece of furniture?

When commissioning a piece of furniture its really important to be able to enjoy and make the most of the whole process. Being able to have something created from either a spark of an idea you have or a piece you can already see in your mind, is a very personally and special journey.

What are your plans for the future?

I love creating bespoke pieces for clients, crafting pieces to such a high standard and working closing with someone to make their ideas reality is a great experience.

I am also working on designing and creating a range the finished pieces will be available to order giving the consumer another option.

I want this range to be a reflection of my personality, I want it to be fun and lighthearted and incorporate a colourful palette along with ethnically sourced solid woods. This will be a contrast to the bespoke pieces but they will have in common the consideration and thought that goes into making them and the very high standard of finish.

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