Boasting a harmonious design partnership spanning over five decades, for Sebastian Blakeley, well nurtured relationships will always be key to successful design. By James Matthews

For Sebastian Blakeley, successful partnerships can only truly thrive with a finely-tuned combination of complementary skills and personality traits. In the case of his creative collaboration with fellow designer, Marianna Lasalle – it’s an enriching journey that has delivered a host of award-winning design and build commissioned works and limited edition furniture not to mention a growing roll call of clients from across the globe.

Understanding the driving force behind the partnership isn’t an altogether difficult concept to grasp, given that both individuals come from a long line of home-grown artistic talent. “Being exposed to various different creative influences was a huge part of our childhoods,” explains Sebastian. “Art books, exhibitions and critical discussion characterised much of our formative years. It’s an environment that sowed the seeds of understanding of design in all its linear beauty, but it also instilled a deep-rooted appreciation and respect for the materials that we work with.”

For Sebastian however, the creative ethos he adheres to today could have so easily panned out differently. During his training as a master craftsman in Italy, he recalls shying away from the “artist” label and approaching his studies from a much more practical stand-point. “It wasn’t until I felt competent with my manual skills that I felt ready to explore my artistic side,” he adds. “Living in Tuscany which is awash with art, history and fashion, certainly helped shape this journey of aesthetic appreciation. I began to conceive in my mind’s eye, two dimensional linear forms. Chairs became something of a design and build passion. I learned to let the linear form reveal itself rather than pushing for specific creative design concepts. In fact, it’s a ‘technique’ that I use to this day both with private commissions and production designs. My current portfolio of chair designs is testament to that.”

While Sebastian’s design journey has arguably embraced the interrelationship between form and function, partner Marianna Lassalle’s experiences have led her down a more aesthetically-focused route. Born and raised in an “eclectic household” decked with oak furniture, antique carpets and tapestries, she graduated in performing arts whilst at the same time undertaking an apprenticeship in the fabric department of her father’s interior design business. A talented artist in her own right, she readily admits to having a strong affinity with her paternal grandfather, Henri Valansi and his love and understanding of colour, and keen eye for material finish, fabrics and upholstery.

As to combining their creative influences: “Once the design of an item of furniture is conceived - its functionality has to be rigorously studied and tested,” adds Sebastian. “Comfort, posture, strength, practicality and longevity are all critical in the process, as are choice and selection of materials. Choose the right materials and the dynamics of the finished piece flow well. It’s this handcrafted relationship between us as artisans and the finished product that brings the design to life.”

Sebastian clearly views successful creative output as one that’s “relationship led”: “The commission process, interaction with the client, the design journey all the way through to the essential finishing touches - they all feed into the creative process.”

He adds: “I guess you could say that the best artistic outcomes transcend time and trends. Crafting heirlooms for generations to come – now that’s an exhilarating aspiration to work to.”

For more information visit www.sebastianblakeley.com 

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