10?’s with designer, Michael Marriott
The ‘things’ that Michael Marriott makes in his Dalston workshop are quite special. Self-categorised into wood, metal or plastic, they’re imaginative, fun and visually striking. Eliciting a feeling of well-made industrial-ness but still warm and friendly with bright colours and soft tones; they’re sort of things that you’d really want to have in your home. His work spans furniture, kitchen accessories, shelves, brooms and more. We chatted with him to find out more about these things, how they come about and what’s to come.
We’re big fans of what you do, Michael, especially the things that come in bright orange. Your approach to design is fascinating so we’d love to find out a bit more...
Your work and shop woodmetalplastic.com is categorised into being made of either Wood, Metal or Plastic. Can you order them in order of preference and why?
In some ways it’s just a stupid idea for a webshop name, that I liked, but it does reflect my interest in material. I like all materials actually, wood, metal and plastic being the ones I use most. And I guess wood is at the top, as it’s the only one that’s renewable, it provides us with oxygen whilst it’s getting ready, and does loads of good stuff for our well-being and natural habitats, etc.
But it’s also beautiful stuff, with incredible and varied properties, colours, characters, and smells even. And It is nice to work with too.
A good portion of your work and what you make is a form of reappropriating existing objects into new things, giving them new meaning, kinda like a readymade. A bucket into a lamp or a vacuum into a side table – the second one reminds me a lot of Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel from 1913.
Do you think this is a fair comparison or do you see it differently?
Duchamp and readymades are definitely a thing for me.
There’s a lot to love about them, and a lot to learn from them I think. It’s at the heart of resourcefulness, which directly relates to observation and curiosity, which feel increasingly like important things to note and care for.
We’re lucky enough to work around the corner from you in Dalston in London, we’re just off Gillett Square. What’s your favourite thing about Dalston?
Fantastic bread, and pastries etc. too. It’s got a social enterprise aspect to it as well. As if it needed a bonus!
Your products have great names with some having an obvious inspiration: Erno, some being literal: Book Stand and some less obvious: Lobo. How do you decide the name of something you’ve made?
It’s funny, some just fall into place, and some take a bit of time to figure out. Since starting WoodMetalPlastic, I’ve launched more small products and hence name more things, which has made me more conscious of it.
I think my favourite is Fiat. It’s the name of a door/drawer handle, which came from the form of the letters kind of reflecting the form of the handle, but also recognising that it related to the engineering of the Fiat cars that I grew up with and really love.
What in your opinion, is the greatest ever invented product? Physical, that is.
The bicycle. Hands down, unbeatable overall winner. Nothing else comes close?
Have you ever designed something that you loved but have never managed to produce on a large scale? Does that hurt?
I guess there’s a few, but I think I just let them go. You gotta move on, eh? And actually WoodMetalPlastic has become a route for getting things produced (often from other projects), that otherwise wouldn’t get out there.
Lots of your pieces are orange. Like, really bright orange. It’s a common theme that designers like orange; Ben Kelly, Aaron Draplin. Us… Why do you think designers love the colour orange so much?
We all love colour I think, it’s just human, and bright colours have a higher happiness index? Orange is brilliantly bright, it’s the reason that life jackets and road cones etc. are mostly orange, because it retains it’s brightness in dimmer light conditions and against the backdrop of landscapes, whether ocean, fields, desert, mountain.
So there’s also a utilitarian aspect to it, which is compelling and delightful.
If you weren’t a furniture/exhibition/interior/product designer, what you want to do?
Maybe a repairman?
Do you think the world will ever drop centimetres (and imperial measurements…) and embrace the power of millimetres?
I doubt it, unfortunately! There are so many fundamental things that are just wrong in the world, and that need changing before centimetres.
Brexit and Boris Johnson both seemed like dumb ideas and yet they both got voted for, so I’m not holding my breath for losing centimetres. It’s a shame, eh?
And to end, is there anything exciting that you’re working on that you can tell us about?
Right now, I’m working on a kind of pop-up WoodMetalPlastic installation for the new Paul Smith store in Borough Market, and I’ll be launching a couple of new products, including a folding (cook) book stand.
And I’m also working on an exhibition design for a show of around 200 hats, from possibly the world’s most important hat collection, in Luton!
Michael Marriott is often cited as one of Britain’s most highly regarded designers having produced numerous covetable and functional designs that have proven pivotal in the renaissance of contemporary British design. His work is engaging, intelligent and problem-solving. He has designed for both SCP and VG&P in recent years as well as producing his own designs. You can buy a selection of his work from his shop woodmetalplastic.com.