I discovered the colourfully unique work of furniture designer and ‘jumped-up joiner‘ Anthony Hartley at Tent London back in September 2011. In this catch up interview I discover how the Yorkshire based artisan has developed his style over the years, from early training on the job to a university degree in design in the year 2000.
Anthony Hartley Edna drawer unit.
You launched your latest colourful range at Tent London in 2011, what was the response and what have you been up to since then?
The response I got at tent was slightly overwhelming to be honest, the reactions and comments were all very positive. The thing I liked the most about Tent London was the different crowds over the four days, but the best was the students’ day; the genuine reaction of the enthusiastic and relatively non-cynical youth just can’t be matched.
Anthony Hartley Edna close up.
You describe yourself as a ‘jumped-up joiner‘ which is a pretty fabulous term. Where did you grow up and how did you learn to design furniture? Was it something that fascinated you from a young age and if so why?
The ‘jumped-up joiner’ thing comes from the mixed feelings of pride and yet utter frustration at being a joiner fitting kitchens and laying floors while yearning to have my own workshop and make the furniture that I had been creating in my head for years. After mentioning this in a conversation to a group of site workmen one particularly sarcastic sparky turned round and said ‘Who does he think he is, the bloody jumped-up joiner?‘ I think it was very soon after that when I started my three years at Leeds College of Art and Design where I had the time a resources to explore my ideas.
Anthony Hartley Frank and Mrs Frank.
You only went to art college in 2000, many years after starting to design furniture, how has this influenced your design process since and what did you do in the intervening years before launching your own range in 2010?
From leaving college to getting the workshop took almost another 7 years joinery work to achieve and is still an ongoing thing as I am currently on the the move again to the third (and hopefully final) workshop in 4 years. The choice of machinery (traditional salvaged machines from the mills of the Pennines) comes from the need for reliable, robust yet affordable and easy maintenance pieces of kit that will go on and on for years.
Anthony Hartley Mr Smith the Second chair.
Your signature piece is Mr Smith the Second. which I understand is inspired by the iconic stripes so beloved of Paul Smith. Are you a Paul Smith fan when it comes to dressing? And have you had any response from Paul Smith himself?
Mr Smith was a development of the original Frank chair (inspired by the architect Frank Gehry), the response I got was mainly ‘Is that a Paul Smith chair?‘ so I decided to go with it, you never know, it may get noticed by the man himself and generate a sale at least! As to buying his tailoring?? If only!! I’d need a few more orders for Mr Smith to be able to afford it.
What is the design and making process that goes into your furniture and what inspires your bright and beautiful colour palette?
The design and making process is one of trial and error: models, drawings and full size mock ups. The use of colour is a personal thing and no matter how I try it always comes creeping back in the end. Used in the right way, colour can do wonderful things to a piece of furniture and transform and lift something very mundane into something pretty spectacular, whether it be a single colour or a combination.
Anthony Hartley Sidney shelf.
What can your fans expect in 2012? any exciting new pieces you’d like to unveil?
2012 brings a range of furniture that is very simplistic and more geared towards CNC manufacture than anything I have designed before, prototypes are in place and ready to go as we speak!! So watch this space!!
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- Sir Paul Smith can do no wrong