Iain Howlett, Product Designer

by Becky Hoh in Bespoke stories

Furniture designer Iain Howlett does whatever it takes to fulfill a brief even if it means going that extra distance to install the final piece to its destination.

‘The most challenging product to date has been the Bronze Age dining table,’ describes Royal College of Art graduate Howlett, ‘The brief was clear enough, a bronze structure with a ‘floating’ carrera marble top, but the resulting table weighed some 600 kilos and required a construction crane to lift it into the building.’

After completing his masters in Product Design at the RCA, Howlett has been producing work since 2010 in his studio in East London, mostly concentrating on furniture and always experimenting with interesting materials and the process of making, often resulting in a design meets art outcome.

‘If someone likes something they have seen from my work, I would of course consider making something else for them.’

‘From a young age I was interested in how things were made and how they worked,’ says Howlett, ‘I made many things when I was a kid too. My work now ends up in both commercial and residential projects, in the homes of some pretty interesting people from art collectors to artists.’

You just need to look at one of his latest collections, Bark, to see why. The Bark hand crafted ash and bronze forms, which include consoles, tables and lighting, display much thought and meaning in both the concept and the process. The pieces aim to reconnect our experience of the wood we see in its natural form in forests, with the wood we normally associate with furniture products. The solid structures are finished with bark from the same tree which has been dried, ground and mixed with paper pulp. The skin of the original tree is returned to the wood, and from afar seems to look like ‘natural’ branches.

While he mostly hand makes and produces his own work, he also has a few projects in production with larger manufacturers, such as the the simple, extending Trestle table with Italian company LAGO.

Other pieces in his own product line include Stellar lighting which are unique glass lamps crafted from combining assorted vintage glass objects with advanced L.E.D light technology, a collaboration with fellow East London product designer Marina Dragomirova. Each lamp is made up of glass elements that have been carefully selected from thrift shops found around Marina and Iain’s Shoreditch studios. Once chosen and arranged, glass elements are illuminated by an advanced L.E.D light system which have the added bonus of low energy consumption and compact size.

While Howlett expresses that he doesn’t do completely ‘made to measure’ he will gladly consider all sorts of modifications to his existing designs.

‘If someone likes something they have seen from my work, I would of course consider making something else for them. For example, I was approached about the Bark project at a show -the person liked the pieces but really wanted something for a hallway, so I suggested a variation with a mirror. Everything is handmade here so we can liaise directly. But mostly it is important that they like what I do and perhaps there is a specific material or process in mind, but beyond that, involvement isn’t necessary. I do like to show the process and share the journey though.’

Bark is still keeping him busy since it’s launch in September but work this year will include more glasswork and lighting as well as some dining tables, benches and cabinets crafted in solid wood with metal legs. We look forward to seeing more of his thoughtful and artistic furniture.

Iain Howlett – iainhowlett.com

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