Sebastian Blakeley on perfectionism

Conduit of creativity


Crafting furniture is an extremely intimate experience, as these items set the mood in our most personal spaces. Stephen Penn spoke to Sebastian Blakeley about perfectionism and the importance he places on solid client relationships

Looking back at your career what are the stand out moments?

Early in my career I had trained as a highly skilled cabinet maker, undertaking a plethora of commissioned bespoke pieces for di­fferent clients in many di­fferent countries. It was while living in Tuscany, through serendipitous meetings, that I learnt and mastered a lot of new craft skills and augmented my knowledge of many di­fferent materials. It was in Italy that I started designing, prototyping and marketing my own designs rather than working on commissioned pieces.

This period really stands out as a time of opening up and expanding my personal creative horizons. My first prototypes were in fact fully made from tubular steel. They’re design’s I plan to revisit soon.

I’m always on the lookout for new materials, technology and to increase my understanding of the relationship between form and function.

Many of your pieces are quite animalistic, where do you get your inspiration from?

My Antilope, Toro and Mantide chairs are inspired by early cave paintings, where a simple linear form catches the dynamics of a particular animal.

This evolved into a completely experimental play on form, resulting for example in my Parlare, Riunione and Cavalcione chairs.

How much time do you spend discussing commissions with clients?

A sense of what the client is looking for is fundamental. It’s then also very important to see the interior, the architecture and the environment that the client lives in. Relationships are very important in my design process and rapport really directs the process. I want the design to come from the client, I’m just the ‘conduit’ between them and the finished article.

What’s your favourite material to work with?

For many years it was timber, but now I could honestly say that no one material stands out from the crowd. I feel it’s important to stay open to new ideas. I always look for harmony in the relationship between the materials I use.

What’s the hardest part of furniture design and build?

I’m working very closely with the development, evolution and production of the piece of furniture. I’m therefore looking at it totally subjectively. I see every possible defect, weakness or misbalance of harmony. More often than not, I don’t particularly like a piece when I’ve finished it. It’s only when I return after a certain time period and see the piece objectively that I can really appreciate it. The hardest part of furniture design is being objective.

What piece of advice would you impart to our readers?

Keep broadening your knowledge of materials, equipment and techniques. Keep doors wide open to new experiences, perspectives and concepts. Above all, don’t be complacent.

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