MARTYN THOMPSON

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Australian photographer Martyn Thompson is well known for his enigmatic imagery which has appeared in style bibles including Elle Decoration, Vogue and Architectural Digest. Now a native New Yorker, he has turned his eye to designing esoteric fabrics for the home. We go behind the lens to see what makes him tick...

BY DEE IVA

What prompted you to start designing textiles?
I’ve always loved textiles. Thirty years ago I was painting fabrics, making them into clothes and selling them in a small shop in Sydney. I began taking pictures of them and my photography career was born out of that – it took over. So coming back to fabric isn't a total stretch. I had started exploring new ways to reproduce my photos and discovered the digitised jacquard loom. Although a little suspicious of the first results I soon fell in love – there’s a depth to the tapestry-like weave that speaks to the tactility I search for in my photos. I realised the potential for interior fabrics and began to develop the idea.

Tell us about your new 'Rock Pool' textile collection.
I was in Limeni on the Mani Peninsula of Greece on an editorial assignment. Standing at the end of a jetty staring at the rocks in the water below, I saw all these colours – amazing – like a painter's palette – dancing on the surface. I took a small cart load of photos and these became the basis for the 'Rock Pool' collection.

ABOVE AND ABOVE RIGHT: Martyn Thompson in his Manhattan studio
BELOW FROM TOP: Thompson's watery 'Rock Pool' design can be used to upholster walls as well as furniture. The chair is covered in a mix of 'Whitewash' and 'Painted Galaxy'; A range of Thompson's earlier designs including 'The Accidental Expressionist' and 'Melting' are used to cover these cushions; 'Ripple' from the 'Rock Pool' collection covers the wall, the small sofa is upholstered in 'Blotch' from the 'Accidental Expressionist' collection

Does your photography inform your designs?
It’s very literally an extension of it. Each of the fabrics begins as one of my photographs before we edit and develop the image into a repeat pattern. My photography has always been very much about a certain quality of light and a particular muted colour palette. Happily these qualities translate beautifully to the jacquard loom process.

ABOVE: The 'Green Buterflie' scarf from Martyn Thompson's first accessories collection is printed on silk and uses designs from his interiors collections

We hear you were quite the club kid in the Eighties…
Ahhh... that was the early Eighties. A lifestyle choice that didn't bode well for my university studies! I always loved dressing up and was a real show off on the dance floor. I started making my clothes when I was quite young and was totally enamoured of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. I didn't really think anything could get better than New Romanticism, but when their Buffalo Girls collection came out I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It’s still my fave fashion moment ever. I guess music was my first great love – and I admired performers like Siouxsie and the Banshees as much for how they looked as for their sound – though the music was fabulous too of course.

That period was an incredibly creative time, is there anyone who particularly inspired you?
There was a general spirit of getting on with stuff to just do it. For me, a young queer kid, this felt like a time outside of boundaries and prejudice. Boy George, Marilyn, Jimmy Somerville and other 'out' singers were a total inspiration. Homosexuality was still illegal where I grew up and I think these people gave me permission to exist.

What are your favourite design hotspots in the Big Apple?
The Future Perfect design store (below left) – David Alhadeff is a total advocate of what is new and is helping many new designers build their careers. I’ve always really admired Paula Rubinstein for her quirky take on vintage objects and textiles. Other favourites are Federico de Vera on Crosby Street – he has a really beautiful vision – and I love the new Oliver Gustav shop on Howard Street (below right).

Do you have any design heroes?
Yes plenty… to name a few, Gio Ponti, Mariano Fortuny, Vivienne Westwood, Susie Cooper.

Where's on your travel wish list and why?
Well, I'm crazy about Iceland. I love that there is still a sense of the unexplored and the impenetrable. It’s so ancient looking and can get really remote, really fast and you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere with no one – not a sensation that's commonly achieved where I live in Manhattan!

What's your social media of choice?
I have an Instagram account but I'm disappointed that it has become such a commercial medium. I think that Tumblr can be really beautiful, especially the 'pin up' board format – that's my favourite.
martynthompsonstudio.com 

Pictures: Lauren Coleman (The Future Perfect)

PATRIZIA MOROSO – Moroso Part 2

Patrizia Moroso is art director of Italian furniture brand Moroso, the influential company started by her father Agostino in 1952. Moroso is known as one of the most daring, dynamic and ultra-contemporary design brands in the world, championing new and established talents. In Part 2 of our Q&A, we discover what makes its feisty figurehead tick…

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What were your highlights from Moroso’s Milan Furniture Fair launch in April?
I loved launching the ‘Triclinium’ sofa by Front in Milan, and Doshi Levien’s ‘Armada’ seating collection, inspired by 17th-century sailing boats, was fantastic. Also the striking ‘Belt’ sofa – Patricia Urquiola wanted to refresh the idea of a sofa, to create an object that wasn’t compact, solid and precise, but was fresh, soft and sustainable. It’s suspended on an aluminium structure, and you can change the cushions on it like the duvet on your bed. You keep the shape together using belts.

ABOVE: Swedish design trio Front's 'Triclinium' sofa for Moroso, launched at April's Milan Furniture Fair, was inspired by ancient Roman rituals of reclining, feasting and socialising on a single seat

What's your design philosophy?
I hate the word trend – there are no trends for me. I don’t like to follow a trend, I prefer to follow the thinking of someone, so a designer thinking is interesting, a trend is not interesting. Besides, the big trends of the recent past have all finished, like minimalism or post-modernism, or all those movements that have names. That big wave thinking has now disappeared, leaving many little philosophies, not one main one. Some might find this confusing, but for me it’s freedom.

Where do you get inspiration?
I love people with fantastic brains and creativity. I love music and art, and by artist I mean someone that uses creativity – I love inspired people that give to life. Design, and the history of design, is also inspiring. I remember being wowed when I first visited Milan, and the Salone, with my parents when I was young, coming from a little town in the north-east of Italy. Everything was beautiful, surprising, full of incredible people. That was a strong influence on me.

ABOVE: Doshi Levien's 'Armada' chair collection for Moroso's Milan 2016 collection includes cocooning sides that billow out like boat sails

Who are your design heroes?
For me, it’s Italian design from the Seventies. When I was a teenager, I was very inspired in the Seventies, and my life changed, because the thinking was very radical, and also design and architecture were absolutely radical, so I grew up believing design could change people’s lives. One of the big masters for me was Ettore Sottsass. He didn’t make a lot of things, but he really changed the way of thinking, and that is so important. Alongside Sottsass was Alessandro Mendini – these two people changed everything in interiors and many things from the past disappeared – plop – in one moment. They introduced colour and fun to our lives. I think you need a little bit of irony, love and fun in things you use or put in your home.

What's currently exciting you in design or style?
The freedom. In the Seventies designers were really breaking down a big wall of convention, and after that came a lot of moments of rethinking, and post-modernism, but now we don’t have the walls and the thinking is free. So you can find someone thinking in one way, and someone else in a totally different direction. Production is also incredibly diverse around the world, even just within Italy.

ABOVE: The new 'Belt' sofa by the other Patricia (Urquiola) for Moroso is formed from soft cushions folded over to form back and arm rests, secured by eye-catching belts

Where's on your travel wish list?
Anywhere can be inspiring. For me, it’s going to New York to see art galleries, or London to have fun with music, or Paris to enjoy the museums and see the old art of the past. What’s interesting is humanity. For my happiness, I like to see what great people can do – to see a dancer or painter or scientist discovering something is so joyful. The potential of human beings is the best thing.

What's your social media of choice?
It’s crazy but I don’t really use any social media. I’m a terrible person, I hate Facebook! I think a minimum of privacy is so important in life. I don’t like to be eaten up by someone that wants to know everything! We have a lot of friends, so I don’t need another friend that I don’t know. My children use it, but I prefer my privacy – and if I want to contact someone I call them. I find the telephone such a beautiful, warm media. If possible I go by car to visit people or if it’s too far then the phone reaches everyone, everywhere. Social media is very important for developing ideas and helping people connect in a positive way, but that is not my way. I like a little more humanity.

ABOVE: Tord Boontje's 'O' chair for Milan 2016 was inspired by his daughter's dreamcatcher and Senegalese weaving; Marc Thorpe's 'Baobab' table for the launch also sports vibrant African influences, from tree shapes to patterns.

What's next for Moroso?
We’re planning the collection for next April’s Milan fair. We know Patricia will do a fantastic sofa. Ron Arad, Ross Lovegrove and Tord Boontje are also doing something – that is sort of the group of old friends – and also Jonathan and Nipa from Doshi Levien. Then I always include something new and surprising, by a young designer or someone who doesn’t usually do design. I try to have a recipe for our ‘dinner’ in April so I know that we need good main ingredients, but also the spices, some leaves and maybe a flower.
moroso.it  hubfurniture.com.au

See Moroso's latest limited edition collaborations with Australian fashion designers at Hub's furniture showrooms at 63 Exhibition Street, CBD, Melbourne and 66-72 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills, Sydney, until Christmas 2016, alongside highlights from the collection; for more details see Part 1 of our Q&A with Patrizia Moroso

ABOVE: Dutch duo Scholten & Baijings' neon-bright 2015 'Ottoman' for Moroso; fellow countryman Edward van Vliet expanded his colourful collection of 'Sushi' seating with 2016's 'Ariel' small armchair and 'Juju rendez-vous' bench; Swiss-based, Argentine talent Alfredo Häberli's 2016 'Take a Line For a Walk' chaise longue joins his bold 2003 armchair of the same name

RUSSELL PINCH Pinch

British duo Russell and Oona Pinch of Clapham furniture makers Pinch are mostly known for their slender, light-as-air wooden pieces. At the London Design Festival 2015, their monolithic 'Nim' coffee table at Shoreditch's Rochelle School was quite the head-turner. We talk to Russell about how this radical new direction came about...

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

What was the idea behind the 'Nim' table?
With 'Nim' we wanted to mark the milestone of 11 years in business with an exciting creative project – a gift to ourselves. Instead of a party we decided to invest in a piece we would not ordinarily do, one that required a substantial set-up and explored new materials and tone.

What was it inspired by?
Mood. That particular feeling when things are super-charged and energetic but still appear calm and collected and smooth on the outside. It’s an exploration of texture and form, referencing lava strata, stone and weather. The table captures all the movement, power, potential and beauty of the natural world expressed as a new man-made object. 

ABOVE: Russell and Oona Pinch
ABOVE RIGHT AND BELOW:  The fabulously tactile 'Nim' table makes a virtue of its concrete-like solidity and the contrast between its smooth polished surface and almost-singed, textured base. Airbrushed in inky hues, the table is made from hand-finished Jesmonite, a gypsum/resin composite normally used in building projects, 'floating' on a raised foot

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What is your favourite thing about it?
The transformation from a rough eroded textured side, flowing into a perfectly formed and smooth recessed top. 

How does it reflect your style?
It is serene but feels strong at the same time. In the majority of our work we seek to pare back and back until only the absolutely necessary remains. In this case, we wanted to celebrate and enjoy the mass of the piece, so it’s the opposite of our normal mode, but is still recognisable as our style due to its mood.

What was the reason behind the choice of material?
Our concept led us to use Jesmonite, which has excellent casting properties and can replicate very fine details. Jesmonite is also lighter than stone or concrete, and less invasive to both user and the environment.

What do you consider when working on a new design?
We often set our design briefs by thinking about what we need in our real/imaginary home, alongside how the whole range hangs together. We want it to feel inviting and elegant, but also with a creative aspect and resonance – and always offering a relationship to the materials. Just as our 'Twig' seats and 'Anders' lights brought another tone and perspective to our pieces, with the 'Nim' table we wanted to add a new dimension to our collection. The contrast in material and shape drives its personality.  

ABOVE: The elegant 'Leta' chaise longue is part of Pinch's new look AW15 collection

What part of the process do you like the most?
Experimentation and model making. It’s more like a sculpture workshop at this stage of the process, where we are turning pieces, whittling objects, playing with form, materiality and colour. It’s really like playing but don’t tell anyone.

If you weren't a designer, what might you have been?
A farmer or an economist (I know, don’t ask!).

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ABOVE: The bold 'Twig' bench and seating/side table cubes made from coppiced hazel have become a contemporary design classic

Who or what is exciting you in design right now?
More experimentation. We have opened the floodgates with 'Nim'. Right now, we have more ideas than time and money to bring things to life, but maybe that’s the right way round.  

Your biggest must-have in a home is… A great kitchen with appliances that allow for open flame cooking and good ventilation. Cooking and eating and all they entwine is life for me. It’s the beating heart of my home.

What are you due to work on next?
Another coffee table of equal impact, a new desk and we are just talking about working with a wonderful ceramics company.

What’s your social media of choice?
Ha – topical point, nothing until very recently. I think most of my old college friends must think I’ve died as I’m not personally on Facebook, however, Pinch has just starting on Instagram. How does anyone achieve anything though if you’re doing that all day? 
pinchdesign.com

The 'Nim' table by Pinch, £4,350. Limited edition of 50 numbered pieces


Photographs: James Merrell  jamesmerrell.co.uk 
Portrait: Francesco Guidicini  tumblr.com/tagged/francesco-guidicini